The BBI saga

It's seen as bringing 'mkate nusu' back and letting women wear the pants

In Summary

• Sgt Makini has a tough time fighting myths around the Building Bridges Initiative


The BBI saga has hit Jiji Ndogo, but I doubt the denizens here understand it quite the same way everyone else in the country does.

Gwendoline, our resident gossip monger, thought up a meeting, set a date and passed the word around, all without my knowledge. Suffice it to say I think a riot is afoot when a horde gathers outside the police post.

“What can I do for you?” I ask.


Tunataka kujua about this BBI,” Gwendoline, now the self-appointed spokesperson, asks.

“I haven't seen it either.”

Lakini wewe ni gava (government),” a voice shouts from the crowd. “You should know.”

“It’s not an official government directive, so I don’t have…”

Ndiyo hiyo,” another voice shouts. “Nasikia BBI wants to add government directors.”

“Not really,” I say. “Prime Minister and deputies.”

Niliwaambiaje?” a young man tells his friends. “Mkate nusu inarudi.


Na hii mkate nusu, is that for every family?” a woman with a baby in her arms asks. “Even those with many kids?”

I raise my hand as more bread queries begin to fly.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I say, “Once I get the details, I’ll call another meeting and we’ll talk about it.”

“I hear they want to remove women reps.” The lady speaker shakes her head. “Hiyo si fair.”

“Ruthy, whether they remove women reps or not,” a young man responds, “it won’t matter.”

“Why, Kimonjo?” Ruthy asks.

“They want to fill all positions with women. It’s a feminism thing, I’m sure.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Yeah? Why do you think it’s called Bibi I, and not Baba I?”

“Are you serious?” says another young man. “You see? This is what happens when you buy mangoes instead of paying your school fees. B-B-I are initials. They stand for Big Boys' Initiative.”

Realising things are getting out of hand, I step in.

“That’s not quite right,” I say.

“No, Mr Policeman. Let him explain.” Kimonjo turns to the earlier speaker. “Odera, what does Big Brother whatever-you-said mean?”

“Initiative,” says Odera. “Like when a boy…  not a girl, they don’t like that anymore. Like when a boy is… let’s say, circumcised. It’s okay to say circumcised in public, right?”

“I believe you’re referring to ‘initiation’,” I correct him.

“That’s it! Big Boy Initiation. It means the country imekomaa since the last constitution and it’s time to circum… time for its initiation.”

“I think you have that wrong, too.”

Kama kuna hii… Prime Minister,” Gwendoline asks, “Who will be the queen?”

“See?” says Kimonjo. “Queen. Female. Feminism.”

“No,” Gwendoline protests. “I’m asking because only countries with queens have prime ministers. England and Japan.”

“Gwendoline, Naruhito is an emperor, and some countries have PMs without constitutional monarchies.”

Tutarudi kwa hiyo consti-whatever. Kwanza, who the hell is Naruhito?”

“The emperor of Japan. I thought you knew that since you brought it up.”

“Sorry. I thought that was another name for the president.”

I turn to the crowd.

“I’m glad you’re all interested in matters that affect our country,” I say, “and I’m glad we’ve started this conversation. I’ll make sure to update you every time I learn something.”

“Yeah, right,” Gwendoline says.

“What’s the matter now, Gwendoline?”

“Like you did with corona?”

“I update you about it all the time.”

“Yeah? First, we were told it was coronavirus, then it became corona, and now Trump keeps calling it Covid-19. Which is which, Mr Policeman?”

“They’re all correct. Wait, how do you know about Trump?” I slap my forehead. “That’s right. It’s all the US election coverage.”

“What US election?” Gwendoline asks. “I’m talking about Mwenda, our village tramp.”