The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) has reached a critical moment as critics join hands with proponents to push for its actualisation. Mombasa’s meeting on Saturday was a turning point. Erstwhile hard-hitting critics – politicians associated with Deputy President William Ruto – made an about-turn and declared their support for the initiative. On the face of it, that is a major victory for the BBI proponents. But that is why the matter ought to be critically evaluated to determine the viability of the proposals contained in the report.
Contrary to earlier concerns that the Mombasa rally could turn chaotic as critics and proponents were set to share the platform for the first time since the BBI public sensitisation rallies began, the gathering was peaceful. That’s how it should be. Political differences should not translate to hatred or enmity. Proponents and critics shared the same platform and both endorsed proposals contained in the BBI report that, among others, seek to expand the Executive to create new positions such as prime minister as well have a flexible structure that facilitates inclusivity. Significantly, the meeting unanimously supported proposals for a referendum on the BBI proposals.
One of the highlights of the meeting, like the others before, was a formal presentation on matters that affect the Coast region and for which the people seek constitutional and administrative solutions. Included in this was the vexing land question, with coastal people complaining about forfeiture of their land to people from other placesand being excluded from government. The challenge is that previous governments made lofty promises to deal with the land question but without success.
Exclusion of various regions from the government and continued marginalisation of communities are some of the unending challenges that spawn inter-ethnic hostility and violence. Which is why one of the rallying points of the initiative is inclusivity and fairness; that every Kenyan deserves an opportunity to participate in government and enjoy national resources without equivocation.
Given the momentum that the BBI has gathered, push for constitutional amendments is inevitable. Which is the point that we need to canvass. While acknowledging some of the bold proposals, the BBI does not provide a lasting solution to the country’s socio-economic and political contestations. There are fundamental political, administrative and economic issues that require constitutional settlement. Hence, they should be brought out and discussed openly.
We must avoid the herd mentality where everyone is railroaded to accept a document without proper interrogation and alternative voices.