COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Why Building Bridges Initiative is bound to fall flat

BBI is likely not to happen given the timing and mostly because it is not for the proletariat but the serving political bourgeoisie

In Summary

• It will thus be a herculean task to convince a population that is hungry, anxious and poor to queue up and participate in a referendum that is conspicuously meant to expand the government and create more positions for the elite.

• This is insensitive given the situation we are in.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and other leaders during the BBI launch at the Bomas of Kenya on November 27, 2019.
BBI LAUNCH: President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and other leaders during the BBI launch at the Bomas of Kenya on November 27, 2019.
Image: COURTESY

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Germany lost one its leading politicians.

Finance Minister Thomas Schafer was found dead on a high-speed train line in the town of Hochheim between Frankfurt and Mainz. A suicide note attributed to him was also found.

Close friends and associates had revealed that prior to his suicide, the state minister had confessed to few about the heavy responsibility of steering his country back to normalcy given the results of the pandemic. He felt he had a lot on his shoulders and that Germany would probably not recover from the harsh impacts. 

Back home, we have had our fair share of unfortunate experiences attributed to  the coronavirus: deaths, infections, massive layoffs and the increasingly high cost of living.

Since the first Covid-19 case was reported on March 13, more than 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs and President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that half a million Kenyans are expected to lose their jobs in six months from March.

A recent GeoPoll study indicated 86 per cent of Kenyans are  worried about not having food since the pandemic hit the country.

Businesses have not been spared either. A survey by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance shows 61 per cent of businesses have been hit, while 20 million Kenyans live in abject poverty, according to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census.

Health infrastructure is poor and overwhelmed by the crisis, with only a meagre three per cent having access to insurance, further worsening the handling of this virus, given the high levels of poverty and inaccessibility attached to it.

Several companies in the fledgling private sector have sent employees home and/or shut down altogether. The hotel industry has  so far suffered Sh80 billion losses,  while employees in private schools will have to seek alternative sources of livelihood until reopening in January, if at all the situation will allow.

Unemployment in Kenya is a scourge that existed pre-coronavirus and it has been exacerbated by the pandemic. The youth, who are mostly in the informal sector, are bearing the brunt.

It will thus be a herculean task to convince a population that is hungry, anxious and poor to queue up and participate in a referendum that is conspicuously meant to expand the government and create more positions for the elite. This is insensitive given the situation we are in. 

We are in the information age, where access to information and education is easier and in certain cases immediate. This means a huge population is informed of its rights, freedoms and possibilities.

There is a citizenry that is awakening to this consciousness and is willing to sacrifice the comfort of their preferred political kingpin for good governance. Condemnation of poor governance, corruption and ill characters in office is louder than before.

It would seem implausible, too, that the government would insist on holding a plebiscite at a time of economic uncertainty. We are staring at a global recession, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

As governments re-strategise for better service delivery to their people, it seems President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government will follow the same route. Pressure will be piled on the proponents of the Building Bridges Initiative to either shelve the need for a plebiscite or postpone it.

The issues currently facing the nation far outweigh those which the BBI seeks to solve, albeit attempt to. The false narrative that the creation of several Executive positions will foster inclusion is a lie that needs to be called out.

Service delivery does not depend on positions created for the elite, but rather an understanding and grasp of the issues presented by the people in charge of our coffers.

To add a plebiscite, according to IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, is likely to cost the taxpayer not less than Sh25 billion.  That is money that can be diverted to other more pressing issues.

Importantly, what are the chances that a referendum where voters will have to queue and ignore social distancing regulations will be held?

BBI is likely not to happen given the timing and mostly because it is not for the proletariat but the serving political bourgeoisie who divide the hoi polloi along ethnic lines to evade accountability. Not this time, BBI will fail.

Kabugi comments on political and current affairs