• Kenyans lost faith in Parliament when they realised that their MPs can be bribed with as low as Sh10,000.
• The report has some strict recommendations that may affect the legislators, such as elimination of sitting allowances, wealth declarations made public and not doing business with the government.
For many years, Kenya has been dealing with post-election violence every five years, other than in 2002.
The effect is that investors leave the country, businesses shut down, jobs are lost, politicians escalate divisive speech, and Kenyan lives are endangered and even lost. This becomes a cycle where, as a country, we end up taking five steps forward but 10 steps backward.
The handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga on March 9, 2018 was a pause to this trend.
It was an opportunity to take another political and economical path for this country. It was through the handshake that President Kenyatta formed the Building Bridges Initiative task force, which went across the 47 counties listening to more than 7,000 citizens from various ethnic groups, genders, and social and economic sectors.
On November 26, the task force handed over the BBI report to President Kenyatta and Raila at State House. The two leaders launched the document to the public the following day at the Bomas of Kenya.
As it is right now, a document that was supposed to unite Kenyans seems to be creating a rift, particularly among the political class, who are differing on how to implement the document.
The debate is on whether the BBI should be subjected to a referendum or be taken to Parliament. In my opinion, even if the document will be discussed in both Houses, it should be subjected to a referendum.
The BBI recommendations are aimed at empowering the people economically and ensuring long-lasting unity among them. It is a document for the people by the people aimed at achieving political and economic prosperity for this country. Therefore, Kenyans should read it, internalise it, find out what is good and if need be, recommend improvements.
Kenyans lost faith in Parliament when they realised that their MPs can be bribed with as low as Sh10,000. For instance, there were accusations that MPs had been paid Sh10,000 each in washrooms to shoot down a report on imported sugar that exposed Kenyans to health hazards.
Our MPS are known for receiving "per diem" every weekend to campaign for some individuals who want to ascend to the highest office, yet we are three years away from elections. It’s unfortunate to note how our lawmakers can be reduced to receiving handouts and political quid pro quo to advance the political interests of their bosses.
These are some genuine reasons why we cannot trust the National Assembly and Senate to decide the fate of BBI. It’s worth noting that the report has some strict recommendations that may affect the legislators, such as elimination of sitting allowances, wealth declarations made public and not doing business with the government. They may, therefore, vote against it or expunge those proposals.
There is this argument that a referendum will be costly. That it may cost taxpayers Sh20 billion to Sh30 billion. The question we should be asking ourselves is, is it worth it? The recommendations made on the report will benefit generations and generations to come. These are long term visionary plans for our country.
For example, if those recommendations are implemented to the letter, corruption will be reduced and the corrupt subjected to tough punishments. Also, suggestions such as tax holiday of at least seven years on new and small businesses will empower young people to have more opportunities and income throughout generations.
I think that the BBI should be drafted as a bill by experts and a referendum date set before 2022 so that Kenyans can be given a chance to make a decision on the way forward for this country.
As the saying goes, vox populi vox dei - The voice of the people is the voice of God. Kenyans should be given a chance to air their voice through a referendum.
I beseech to all Kenyans to read the report and get informed to avoid politicians misguiding them. The future of this country is in the citizen’s hands and their decisions today, will determine where the country will be tomorrow.
Gikima is a researcher and communications analyst