• The BBI team was tasked with making recommendations on how existing institutions would be harmonized to deliver on the joint communiqué areas of focus.
• It was to identify the modalities of implementing all they agreed upon.
The BBI committee is about to submit a draft report that synthesises what Kenyans said and wrote in their submissions.
When President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga met on March 9 last year and shook hands, the whole nation breathed with a sigh of relief.
Similar to February 28, 2008, when Kofi Annan said “we have a deal”, the country forged forward after querulous factions between the government-led support and the opposition-led protests.
The two addressed the nation and said Kenya needed to move ahead, and with that, stated nine areas where Kenyans could work on to “build that new Kenya”.
These issues included ethnic antagonism and unhealthy competition, lack of national ethos and corruption, safety and security, lack of inclusivity and shared prosperity, devolution and of course the divisive elections, which made human rights and freedoms violated.
Looking back, and postulating the future, Uhuru and Raila committed to implementing the Joint Communiqué through the Building Bridges Initiative, an advisory task force set up in May 2018 through a Gazette Notice, No 5154.
The 14-member committee mandated with recommending policy proposals, legal and administrative changes and measures aimed at improving on the nine areas.
Further, the BBI was tasked with making recommendations on how existing institutions would be harmonized to deliver on the joint communiqué areas of focus. The BBI was to identify the modalities of implementing all they agreed upon.
From the foregoing, the BBI rolled out is programme based on public participation as envisaged in the Constitution and to undertake sector-wide consultations with experts and the people in all the 47 counties.
After one and a half years, following the voluminous presentations, the BBI was completely engaged.
Kenyans made contributions ranging from the whole spectrum of politics, economics and also social issues, some of which were irrelevant to the mandate assigned.
When Kenyans were asked what they want for the ‘new nation’, a lot of was said, and it will be a difficult task for the BBI, to encompass all that was canvased.
However, there could ways and means in which the BBI could cleverly summarize the matters that were raised, and in a simple way document what they heard. First, the committee needs to focus on the following agendas.
One, after interpreting their mandate, they should summarize it so that Kenyans are not lost as to what the taskforce was set out to do. Two, the report should document or crystalize the nine issues.
Three, the report needs to build a comprehensive annex of the sittings and submissions made to qualify that they actually conducted public participation, lest someone sues. Kenyans, led by the effervescent Okiya Omtatah, have become very litigious, which is not a bad thing.
Four, the BBI team should stick to its mandate to demonstrate it operated within a legal framework to avoid possible litigation.
Five, the report should be based on the canvassed issues, not to record verbatim presentations but a synthesis of the matters, including a diagnosis of the problem, and a prognosis of what the solutions are.
Most of the reports written from the past task forces fail in this dialectic thinking; so let BBI not fail.
On the sixth point, they need not necessarily re-invent any wheel. So many task forces and commissions of inquiry have written many reports but the implementation part is where we fail as a country. There should a keen focus on practical recommendations and cost these to the national and county treasuries.
Seventh, and on the practical aspects above, as the BBI prepares to give Kenyans a report, they should provide an avenue of: we know who does what, when, where, and how among others.
Virtually, the BBI should bestow responsibility on not just the national and county governments but on the people themselves, and their leaders across the political, religious, racial, gender and other divides. We do not need to hear ‘serikali saidia’; yet again.
Eight, BBI members should remain united as they have been to avoid a dysfunctional result.
Such an example is the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission whose voluminous report was contested within the leaders of the commissioners. This was the Achilles heel of the TJRC process and report.
Ninth, as the curtains draws down on the BBI, the only responsibility they have to have their report jointly tabled in the National Assembly and the Senate so that the responsibility of tracking progress is a national agenda through Parliament.
The above would be possible with the ‘invisible hands’ of Uhuru and Raila. They are the ‘generals’, who by leading from the front, could rally support of their own ‘troops’ so that all legislators understand what is at stake. Without their involvement, the BBI report and recommendations would falter.
Finally, as Kenyans await this report, it is prudent not to expect unrealistic recommendations. Many Kenyans submitted sometimes very unrealistic recommendations on what we could do to create that “new nation.” Indeed, some of those submissions bordered on what has been already done through the Constitution.
In the joint communiqué, the two leaders stated as follows: “By faithfully adhering to the Constitution and the law, halting ethnic antagonism and profiling, by promoting inclusivity, by strengthening devolution, by fighting corruption, and caring about safety and security, we will have elections that are not marred by mistrust and conflict.”
Therefore, moving forward, the BBI work was cut out from the very beginning, and hence, their report should reflect these constitutional imperatives. Most of what is raised in the joint communiqué could be resolved through the implementation of the Constitution and fidelity to the rule of law.
It is evident that Kenya should and must move forward to ensure the next electoral period, which unfortunately has made politicians start early campaigns, is free from violence and bloodshed. We cannot afford to fail; yet again as we did in 2007-08 and in 2017-18. Note the coincidence of the decade.
Every Kenyan life is precious and this is not because one comes from a ‘unique or powerful’ ethnic, gender, racial, or any other status or group. Rather, it is because all of us are made in the image of the Almighty God. We should enjoy equal and unchallenged dignity of the human person. The BBI should make this a reality through policy, legal, administrative proposals and such other measures, so that we may slay the dragon of antagonism.
Words of wisdom to the BBI are derived from Professor Olatunde Ojo, a Nigerian political scientist worth of repute, who stated, and I paraphrase: “The argument of ‘we shall discuss the bridge when we come to it’ has been the rallying call in African politics.
However, Ojo argues that the ‘bridge question” should be informed by these very questions: First, what is the bridge? Second, where is the bridge located? Third, what is the length of this bridge? Fourth, how much weight or tonnage could the bridge handle? And finally, what is the other side of the bridge that we are looking forward to?
Once the BBI answers these questions, then we submit that they have been truthful to their mandate. Without these answers, then the BBI will have failed. History will judge them very harshly. Period.
Tom Kagwe, J.P. is a Political Scientist.
DISCLAIMER: The views contained herein are those of the author and are necessarily supposed to generate views from the public on the impending report of the BBI. They are without prejudice and are unsolicited from any quarters.