The muscle and spectacle exhibited at the two meetings held so far to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative have left no doubt about the political direction the country is being herded to. Saturday’s meeting in Kakamega, following closely after the Kisii one the previous week, were about showmanship, bravado and raw power. Little has been discussed about BBI and hardly have the citizens been accorded a chance to give their views.
Paradoxically, as the BBI caucus got underway at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega town, the police cordoned off Nabongo Stadium in Mumias, a few kilometres away, and teargassed and hounded western leaders who had planned a parallel rally. The irony was striking. BBI is about unifying Kenyans but is increasingly becoming divisive and acrimonious; achieving exactly the opposite. Which is the point of discussion here. Proponents of BBI and critics should all be listened to. Critics should be allowed to express their views and articulate reasons for their disagreement. Stifling criticism is the surest way to dictatorship.
A political system that perpetuates a single narrative and demands blind loyalty is perilous. We have walked that path before and are acutely conscious of the ramifications. During its heyday in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Kanu administration forced total and unquestioning obeisance. Police and the Provincial Administration were used to intimidate critics and force acceptance of the system. There are signs of a return to that era of intolerance and high-handedness.
Precisely, the reason why Kenyans fought so hard for constitutional change was to create a new order and end an oppressive system. At this point in time, with a robust Constitution with expansive provisions on bill of rights, we do not expect such imperiousness. If there is anything that BBI should achieve is to provide a platform for bettering the Constitution, not dividing people and providing visa to political office.
Real gaps and challenges ought to be isolated and subjected to public debate and remedied.
Yet the fear is that the whole process is being hijacked to achieve political interests. Which argument is lent credence by the fact that since that momentous day in March 2018 when President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga entered a truce and shook hands to end incessant political rivalry, the public has never been told the real intention and designs around the peace pact.
On the contrary, the citizens have been rendered mere watchers of the events unfolding in the political domain. Chances are high that the proposed constitutional changes would be pushed through the throats of the masses, which is a sure recipe for chaos.
Campaigns to popularise BBI should be objective and inclusive. What we are witnessing is crass politicking and mass deception and risks to backfire.