BBI REPORT LAUNCH

BBI: A new dawn of safeguards for a future Kenya

The position of the official opposition leader in Parliament will help to resolve the constant political bickering.

In Summary

• The BBI report is premised on addressing the country's challenges as outlined in the nine issues of the joint communique.

• The most important recommendation the task force came up with was that of the creation of the position of Prime Minister

Party leaders Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Moses Wetangula (Ford Kenya) with other leaders during the BBI launch at the Bomas of Kenya on Wednesday, November 27, 2019.
Party leaders Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Moses Wetangula (Ford Kenya) with other leaders during the BBI launch at the Bomas of Kenya on Wednesday, November 27, 2019.
Image: PSCU

The Building Bridges Initiative report was launched on Wednesday at the Bomas of Kenya, a day after it was formally handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and Deputy President William Ruto.

There was a lot of political drama, sideshows and hubris at the event, with each politician showing their might and level of control on the framework of things. However, that is a matter for another day.  I want us to focus our imagination on the future of our country since the factory settings of the African nation-state are defective and need constant recalibration.

The BBI report is premised on addressing the country's challenges as outlined in the nine issues of the joint communique — lack of national ethos, rights and responsibilities of citizenship, ethnic antagonism and competition, divisive elections, representation, inclusivity, shared prosperity, corruption, devolution, safety and security.

The most important recommendation the task force came up with was that of the creation of the position of Prime Minister from the majority party or coalition, a position that I presented to the committee at KICC. The one-man-one-vote democratic principle of electing the president that some of us championed has also been upheld.

This combination will in effect create three positions at the top of the country’s leadership to help distribute power. The first runners up in the presidential election will become the leader of the official opposition in the National Assembly with a shadow Cabinet. Further, Cabinet ministers will be both from MPs and technocrats, with ministers of state (Deputy Ministers) being MPs as well. IEBC commissioners shall be appointed from amongst political party nominees and the chairman will have executive authority after the current team has been sent packing.

Essentially, this is exactly the old constitutional order, coupled with the agreements of both the 1997 IPPG between President Daniel Moi and the then opposition parties, and the National Accord of 2008 between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.

The other aspect is devolution, as introduced by the 2010 Constitution as a means of decentralising resources and power with the aim of reducing competition for the prized trophy that is the presidency.

However, this appears not to be the case, because we over-devolved to 47 odd units against the initial 14 in the Bomas Draft. We, therefore, need to critically ask ourselves whether these proposals will help us to truly resolve our shared problems towards shared prosperity.

First, expanding the executive is important as it helps quell the competition of the presidency, especially amongst the big five ethnopolitical formations of Gema, Kalenjin, Luo, Luhya and Kamba, who constitute 88 per cent of voters.

Ministers and their deputies will be distributed in a similar manner. However, due to the politics of patronage, this will weaken the independence of Parliament to effectively oversight the Executive. To cure this, the Senate needs to be made the Upper House to provide for proper checks and balances to the national and county governments to avoid what I call bicameral unicameralism. This is whereby instead of having one Parliament with two Houses, we will have what would look like two parliaments, one for the national and another for county governments.

The other concern is whether the position of the official opposition leader in Parliament will help to resolve the constant political bickering. My take is that though not in full, it is a far much more superior way of dignifying the alternative government rather than the prevailing scenario.

On the proposal that IEBC commissioners be from political parties, we have been here before. In the run-up to the 2007 General Election, President Kibaki appointed ECK commissioners unilaterally against the IPPG agreement that had midwifed the most peaceful general election in 2002.

However, it also took the concession of Uhuru Kenyatta as the first runners up for this to be achieved. There is, therefore, need for a thorough examination of the electoral process to ensure impartiality and safeguards against competing individuals wanting to compromise the system to their advantage as has been witnessed from the primaries to the presidential elections.

A sense of results predictability despite narrow margins is desirable as is the case of Ghana, whereby a candidate wins with less than one percent of the vote and there is no violence.

Finally, we need to agree on a bill that is least acrimonious either through a referendum or preferably through a parliamentary initiative.

The latter will be limited to the expansion of the executive since most of the other issues will require a referendum, including far-reaching reforms such as improving on the implementation of the representation and rights of persons with disabilities. Any of the processes shouldn’t be divisive as was the case in 2005, since doing so will still produce winners and losers.

The ball is now squarely on the nature of the bill that shall be drafted and the pathway for approval, either before or during the 2022 general elections. The struggle for a better Kenya continues.