POST-COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Coronavirus will go away, but not BBI

Coronavirus disrupted things, but it is not hard to imagine the BBI train will continue steamrolling to the intended destination

In Summary

• For life after coronavirus, each country will have to regroup from where the pandemic disrupted things.

• In the US, for example, that will be Democrats trying to find which Oxygenarian among them will be sent to remove President Donald Trump from office.

ODM party leader Raila Odinga leading the Mt Kenya BBI rally in Meru
ODM party leader Raila Odinga leading the Mt Kenya BBI rally in Meru
Image: DENNIS DIBONDO

A common refrain from governments and health authorities across the globe concerning the coronavirus pandemic is to stay away from public places and do the necessary to protect yourself, your family and those around you.

Social distancing, the new medical parlance to describe what we all should do, makes sense and must be adhered to by everyone.

This is the first defence against this pandemic, the rest is for governments and health professionals to make happen.

While the fight against Covid-19 goes on, it is important to keep in mind there will be life after the pandemic. Sadly, it will have taken many lives.

For life after coronavirus, each country will have to regroup from where the pandemic disrupted things. In the United States, for example, that will be Democrats trying to find which Oxygenarian among them will be sent to remove President Donald Trump from office.

In Kenya, BBI combatants will rearm and resume their battles. In case you were not following closely, the proponents of the BBI led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, with the acquiesce, President Uhuru Kenyatta, led on both points and on the road—and by quite a margin.

Coronavirus disrupted things, but it is not hard to imagine the BBI train will continue steamrolling to the intended destination — the implementation of its major proposals be it by referendum, or by other means.

Whichever means, one thing is for sure: There’ll be a need to change the Constitution once again, which was expected.

Prof Yash Pal Ghai, an authority on constitutionalism, led the last efforts to revamp our Constitution but even he and the other experts who advised the government in the process will readily admit—and they have as much — that the end product was not exactly what they had in mind. It was far from even near perfect.

They and many of us knew even with the passage of the much-heralded new constitution, there would come a time to address its various flaws.

That time is nigh and the vehicle to do that is BBI.

The question is how to do it. The answer depends on who you ask and where they fall in the political divide between Uhuru/Raila and [Deputy President William] Ruto camps.

The experts are in hiding and may have to put their fingers in the air to decide which side to align with.

On his part, Prof Ghai made an eloquent case in a column appearing in this paper why a non-executive president would be better than what BBI proposes. There’s no space to rebut the good professor but, let’s just say on this one, he has it wrong: Kenya cannot do without an executive president. Put another way, it would not be practical to have a ceremonial president as that position and what it entails is so ingratiated in the psyche of the public, to tamper with it would be futile, if not simply impractical.

What needs to be done, however, is to reintroduce and this time make it part of the Constitution specific mandatory checks and balances on the presidency, not the current weak system any president can manipulate as many despots want.

Once that’s done, let’s re-establish the office of Prime Minister and his or her two deputies, who will also double as the checks and balances on the presidency.

Becoming a prime minister should and must be a function of the electoral outcome in lieu of the president appointing him or her. In other words, the presidential ticket will now comprise of the presidential candidate, deputy president and prime minister as an up or down ticket.

Once elected, both the president-elect and prime minister-elect will each appoint one deputy prime minister. The losing presidential candidate will automatically become an MP and leader of the opposition.

This solution will go a long way in addressing the governance and political woes that have bedeviled the country.

Samuel Omwenga is a legal analyst and political commentator