• There are certain political and business figures who feel threatened by the BBI and whose interests lie in killing it.
• hey know that if the BBI passes, their power and wealth will be compromised.
While most Kenyans have heard of the ‘Building Bridges Initiative’, few really know what it is about. Ask 10 Kenyans what it is really about, and you will likely get 10 different responses, if not more.
This, of course, is partly understandable. The BBI is a complex and detailed initiative, and we are busy trying to live our own lives. After all, who has time for big political and constitutional questions when you are trying to support a family? It is not easy.
The increasing diversity of the Kenyan media - a positive thing in general – in this case only adds to the confusion. So many different articles, so many outlets, so many different views. It is easy to get lost and confused.
Yet though these factors mean it is natural and understandable for there to be some confusion, they do not explain the extent of the lack of awareness about the true nature of the BBI. In all honesty, to look just at these factors is a little naïve.
For, in reality, there is a less innocent, more sinister, explanation for the confusion. There are certain political and business figures who feel threatened by the BBI and whose interests lie in killing it. They know that if the BBI passes, their power and wealth will be compromised.
They are also aware that the proposals, were they to be widely known and understood, would be immensely popular. After all, who is against greater representation, better allocation of resources, verse government and more power in the hands of the people?
These shadowy interests know full well that if the BBI was truly understood, it would have mass support and win a referendum with a landslide.
So, rather than try and convince the people that the BBI is bad – which is a very difficult argument to make – instead they try to muddy the waters. To spread false information about what the BBI really is.
And over the past few weeks, we have heard all sorts of claims, ranging from the bizarre to the absurd. Some argue it is an elitist plot to keep the same people in power. Others claim it is about protecting certain tribes or excluding others. There have even been those who argue that the whole exercise is unnecessary as if our political system works just fine.
As a cursory glance at the BBI document or website will show, these arguments are so far wide of the mark they barely need refuting. They seem to borrow from former US President Lyndon Johnson’s school of politics.
As the famous story goes, losing in a close race and out of ideas, Johnson instructed his campaign manager to start a rumour campaign about his opponent having intercourse with pigs. The campaign manager complained that “nobody is going to believe a thing like that”, to which Johnson replied, “I know. But I just want to hear him deny it”.
Contrary to these outlandish claims, the BBI’s real purpose is straightforward – to address the number one flaw in Kenyan politics. While the system may work well for those at the top, it does not work for ordinary people. It is closed off and unrepresentative, and lets down regular citizens of all backgrounds, who watch the rich and powerful prosper at their expense. The outcome is corruption, poverty and ultimately violence, as communities are turned against one another.
The BBI, at its core, sets out to reverse this. Developed through literally tens of thousands of meetings and conversations with ordinary people from every tribe, county and background, the BBI is a people-led, grassroots initiative that puts the voice of the people at the heart of our political system. If passed into law, it will transform our political system into an inclusive, open and diverse one, in which normal people – instead of politicians – have the power.
Most importantly, it will create the conditions in which Kenyans from all backgrounds are represented in government, and can flourish.
Amidst all the noise we will hear in the upcoming weeks and months, I urge my fellow citizens to ignore the nonsense and remember what the BBI is really about – giving power back to the people.
MP Igembe North