Why BBI changes would be impossible even with Uhuru, Raila support

Those who opposed the 2010 Constitution must understand no single work can have universal consensus

In Summary

• It is important that we understand our political realities. If we opened BBI to changes, it would open the floodgates to a torrent of unending changes.

• As long as Raila Odinga supports the BBI report, DP Ruto will oppose it. It's best to see BBI as a transitional peace document, not a perfect work.

ODM leader Raila Odinga meets the County Assemblies Forum on November 17 at a Nairobi hotel.
IMPLEMENTING BBI: ODM leader Raila Odinga meets the County Assemblies Forum on November 17 at a Nairobi hotel.

There is a very naïve assumption in the country that it is possible to have one thing on which we can all agree, be it the goodness of BBI, or whether Manchester United’s away kit is plain pink or a shade of mauve!

It is worse when the said item is a constitutional process. The fabled US Constitution has its own amendments, for the simple reason that as we evolve, human needs do, too. Constitutional frameworks evolve with us. It is what makes it hard to understand those who seek consensus before the BBI document goes to the referendum.

Those who opposed the 2010 Constitution must surely understand that no single work can have universal consensus. From the onset, we can be clear on one thing: As long as Raila Odinga supports the BBI report, Deputy President William Ruto will oppose it, even if the document is adjusted to propose the installing of free gold dispensers in every household in Kenya.

It is important that we understand our political realities, if we are to understand how smooth or rough the journey will be. I have listened keenly to the positions the DP takes about the document at public rallies.

The more he speaks, the more you get the impression his knowledge of the report has only been gleaned from newspaper stories.  Beyond that, he doesn’t quite appear to have read it.

His most common rephrasing to his Hustler Nation is that “we will oppose it if poor people’s issues are not in it. " I am yet to hear him list the specific poor man’s issues he wants listed, or which income level he thinks the current document addresses.

The DP’s politics is worryingly 'Trumpian'. It feeds on the ignorance of large portions of the population, who then buy his narratives wholesale, creating the siege mentality that divides the people into dynasties and peasantry.

And like its Trumpian cousin in the US, it ultimately offers no solution to the perceived problems it eloquently lists – or it promises paradise when it comes to power by exploiting these divisions. Its approach to BBI appears to be the same: oppose at whatever cost, no matter what is on the table. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga appear to have grasped this, and are moving on without any further reference to Ruto, as they should. In a sense, they must understand that the motivation from the other side could simply be to drag out the process to a point where the referendum is impossible to hold in the remaining period of time before the 2022 General Election.

It is difficult to tell who, between Uhuru and Raila on one side, and Ruto on the other will be the loser at this juncture. But the contest offers a grand rehearsal in mid-2021, for the election in 2022.


Ruto has to face the uncomfortable prospect of campaigning against his boss, and the state machinery that his boss will roll out.

The second prospect is even more scary, if he loses at the referendum, he will have unwittingly busted the self-created myth of hustler numbers, with just a year left to a life-and-death general election. He will then be left limping towards a painful coronation of someone other than William Ruto  for President in 2022.

Be that as it may, Raila appeared amenable to changes being brought to the document when meeting representatives of pastoralist communities. By the following day, in a meeting with Coast politicians, even he realised the hole he could dig himself into with just one assent to changes.

In the larger scheme of things, pastoralists, regional political groups, the Council of Governors and warembo na somebody or the other, are just a few of millions of possible groups that would spring up as soon as one group got its way.

We can’t tell whether my Legio Maria people were preparing a delegation to come and demand that the burial spot of the sect’s founder be turned into a national monument.

Nothing would have stopped muguka consumers popping up too, to demand a Muguka Board of Kenya, with full rights enjoyed by other cash crops.

The Rastafarian community would love certain methods of worship and not-so-legal plants mainstreamed. If one group can get its way, we would all line up with demands, and the changes sessions will take another few years.

The best possible consensus at this time would appear to be that the document should be passed, then other processes in future would improve areas of concern.

I have previously posited on these pages that it is easier to understand and work with BBI as long as one sees it as a transitional peace document. I don’t think that the folks who conceived the idea of the BBI were as much inspired by the need to create a perfect constitutional framework, as they were by the desire to heal historical rifts among communities in Kenya.

To a large extent, the document appears to touch every facet of life in the population. The jury is out on whether or not this document or process can take a poor country and transform it into a holiday paradise.

Indeed, those who oppose it for the mere reason that it does not address the plight of the poor forget that despite previous constitutional changes hailed as progressive, the country remains largely poor.

The real magic is not in these documents. In any case, the Hustler Nation that passionately opposes BBI doesn’t seem enthusiastic to ask  Ruto what he did for them in the eight years he was DP without the distraction of BBI. It’s a world of little truth and lots of rhetoric out there.

In a nutshell, it is in the interest of the country for this process to move to the next stage, for the two sides to face off at the plebiscite and settle this once and for all. Each side believes it has the people, so there shouldn’t be any worries ahead of this.

With an election in 2022, long-drawn processes risk putting the country into two campaigns without a break. At any rate, it is important that one of the two noisy sides gets silenced at the referendum so that the pre-election decibels ahead of 2022 become bearable!