OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT

Why Uhuru should ditch BBI to save legacy

Whilst other countries — richer and more developed — are streamlining their governments and adopting austerity measures, yours is pushing for a plebiscite

In Summary

• It is possible that you live in an ivory tower, given your status in our country.

• But Mr President, there is a crisis in the country, and BBI is not the solution.

President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks during the launch of BBI Report at Bomas of Kenya on October 26.
HOPE OF A NATION? President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks during the launch of BBI Report at Bomas of Kenya on October 26.
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

Greetings Mr President,

I hope this message finds you swell and in between breaks from your busy schedule.

The crux of writing you this letter is because of the worrying pattern that the country is undergoing. The current trajectory is appalling and disheartening.

Since your election in March 2013, it is no secret that your administration has attracted criticism and praise, mainly dependent on political persuasion. However, the Covid-19 pandemic ravaging the country has equalised Kenyans.

Regardless of the circumstances, you have insisted to go ahead with the BBI referendum to address issues that you and your erstwhile nemesis, ODM leader Raila Odinga, are convinced are a priority.

In many polls, studies and research, the creation of seats and the expansion of the government has never been an issue millions of Kenyans have yearned for. Nairobi has seen its fair share of protests when legislators increased their salaries and perks.

Unemployment, poverty and poor healthcare are consistently the top three issues we want addressed as they are strongly linked to human’s basic existence and survival. It, therefore, does not make sense how creating hundreds of extra positions — further widening the wealth gap in our country — will trickle down services to Kenyans.

 

Covid-19 has exacerbated the problems Kenyans already face. Millions more are affected and overwhelmed.

At the onset of the pandemic in Kenya, four leading companies announced layoffs, among them East African Portland Cement Company, Telkom Kenya, Stanbic Bank and the East African Breweries Limited. Those were just among the many companies/businesses that faced difficulties attributed to the pandemic. Countless more businesses liquidated and left more Kenyans poorer.

Keep in mind, your government is also affected.

Treasury CS Ukur Yatani has revealed that over 70,000 civil servants are set to lose their jobs as your government plans to do away with 100 parastatals. This will be attributed to the immense pressure from lenders to cut off the wage bill to be eligible for more loans.

A survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics this year showed the labour participation rate has fallen significantly in formal and informal sectors due to Covid-19. That has consequently contributed to the massive disruption of the flow of revenues and limited the supply and demand for goods and services. As a result, most Kenyans are surviving by the day.

To worsen the situation, as you might be aware, Kenya is now almost hitting a debt ceiling of Sh9 trillion — at Sh8.4 trillion — while Kenya Power is operating on a deficit of Sh120 billion.

The pandemic has also ravaged our health sector. We have lost doctors and other health workers to the disease. We cannot afford to lose any other doctor, and with the threats from medical professionals to down their tools until their needs are appropriately addressed, I beseech you, Mr President, listen to them, drown out the noise from the political class to have a referendum by all means. These doctors matter much more than the politicos. 

LEGACY

You have variously argued that BBI will forestall post-election chaos, as it will end the winner-take-all arrangement. That is far from the truth. What will forestall post-polls chaos is free, fair and transparent elections. The other option would be to deglamorise political office.

It is no secret that the ascension to political office is a sure pathway to wealth accumulation. thus creating an unhealthy obsessive competition over who gets to ascend to the top office. A deglamorised political office, right from the President down to the county seats, will ensure healthy competition based on ideas and philosophy as opposed to antagonism whose objective is strife.

To deglamorise politics is to massively reduce the salaries and perks of the political class to match that of the economy. For instance, it is diabolical that our MPs are amongst the highest paid, despite our country being poor.

History will judge you comically and in total amazement, if you do not act accordingly. Whilst other countries — richer and more developed — are streamlining their governments and adopting austerity measures, yours is pushing for a plebiscite that is likely going to cost not less than Sh14 billion, amidst a surging pandemic.

As it is, we are already overrepresented. We do not need a Parliament of over 600 MPs with an already crumbling economy. That is conveying detachment to the needs of the majority, who are poor, unemployed and hungry.

It is possible that you live in an ivory tower, given your status in our country. Your interaction with Kenyans is limited and hence you may be oblivious to what is going on. But. Mr President, there is a crisis in the country, and BBI is not the solution. Unemployment is rampant and the highest in our region, poverty is rising and our healthcare is in shambles, as evidenced by the recent death of a legislator who lacked oxygen in a government health facility.

Mr President, let history remember you as the leader who ditched the possibility of the country going to a referendum and channeled those funds into mitigating the pandemic and addressing what matters to the majority. Ditch BBI and save your legacy. The buck of 47 million Kenyans stops with you.

With thanks,

James Antony Kabugi

Kabugi comments on current affairs