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Who will be the guardians of democracy?

Tuesday June 30 2020
By SAMMY KWINGA

The long awaited final version of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report is slated to be handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at the end of this month.

 The BBI process started in March of 2018 with the famed handshake between the two leaders at the Harambee House, Nairobi.

This is a moment that should excite all citizens who care about the future of Kenya. For the first time in our nation’s history, the people have been given the chance to give their input on the country’s political future.

 Wide-spread support for the final version of the BBI has been ensured through the process of validation that the report has been undergoing over the past few months. This has allowed the public to go over the task force’s initial findings and give their input as to how well they represent the needs of Kenyans.

HISTORIC PROCESS

According to the task force members, “The views and solutions the steering committee gains in these meetings will be combined with those drawn from the diverse BBI delegates meeting being undertaken by leaders, civil society and other citizen-owned groupings”.

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 Inclusiveness has indeed been the guiding light of the BBI process. Members of the task force, led by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, have reported listening to over 20 presentations from interested citizens and Non-Governmental Organisations in Nairobi alone.

In order to give everyone a chance to partake in this historic process, the opportunity to submit ideas in writing was also instituted.

Supported by the ideas put forth by interested citizens, the most important thing that the BBI task force’s final report is expected to contain is recommendations for constitutional reform.

President Kenyatta has expressed his desire to ensure that these are implemented before he leaves office in 2022. Always seeking to involve citizens in decisions that impact their political future, the president is expected to pursue a referendum on the proposed constitutional changes.

 These will not seek to replace our constitution adopted in 2010, but rather to improve it. According to President Kenyatta’s 57th Madaraka Day address, “In 2010 we formulated and adopted a new constitution, altogether replacing the independence constitution. Ten years later, I am already discerning a constitutional moment. Not a moment to replace the 2010 Constitution but one to improve on it”.

 Other than improve our system of governance, the BBI has also sought to address our endemic culture of political divisiveness.

This has led to innocent citizens becoming the targets of ethnically fuelled violence and destruction. No governmental policy can put a decisive end to this. However, wise and inclusive policy can help reduce the potential for the emergence of such violence.

 With this second aim of the BBI in mind, it is anticipated that the final report will contain the idea for an expanded Executive.

This will bring back the position of Prime Minister, something which is expected to help offset political tensions. Most important in this regard is the fact that the Prime Minister will be more than simply a figurehead. The holder of the post is expected to be able to both supervise the day to day activities of government as well as take an active role in steering the ship of state.

POLITICAL APATHY

 Although the President’s vision has guided the BBI process since its inception, it is to the citizens of our great country that we owe a debt of gratitude.

While the political culture in many countries in today’s day and age is defined by political apathy, the concern of Kenyans for the future of our country knows no bounds. The BBI has shown that educated and concerned citizens have the power to impact even the most intricate of political processes.

 Over 2000 years ago, the Roman poet and one of the earliest proponents of democratic governance, Juvenal, asked in reference to political leaders, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes”, translated from Latin as, “Who will guard the guards themselves”? The BBI process, alongside its intricate process of validation, has answered this question well. It is us, the citizens of Kenya who will be the guardians of our country’s democracy.

Mr Kwinga is a political scientist. [email protected]

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