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Different opinions need to be heard and valued

Wednesday September 11 2019

MICHAEL CHERAMBOS
By MICHAEL CHERAMBOS
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A great deal of media coverage these days concerns itself with speculation as to the likely outcome of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

As a reminder in May 2018, the BBI committee set out in its quest to hear the public opinion across the country following the ground-breaking handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and National Super Alliance (Nasa) and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga in March of that year.

CONSULTATIVE

They recently concluded the research phase, and in the coming weeks, will publish their findings. We will have significant data on the aspirations and frustrations of Kenyans from all over our country. Going forward, Uhuru’s public policy will be informed and shaped by these findings.

So why are those in the Punguza Mizigo camp critiquing the research campaign? It takes a long time to carry out such a widespread investigative initiative and put the findings together. We must be patient.

The BBI is consultative. It surveys ordinary Kenyans to figure out how the government can best serve their needs. By electing Uhuru, we in essence employed him to work for us.

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The great American statesman and inventor Benjamin Franklin famously said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.

The BBI allows President Kenyatta to prepare policy that is actually based on concrete information. It enables a lot of thinking and sorting out problems, to prevent the typical governmental shortcoming of rolling out new measures that are not economically or socially suitable for our particular needs.

I am sure Franklin would agree that if so much preparation did not go into enacting development policy, we would simply be setting ourselves up for failure. Generic planning is nowhere near as effective as carefully considered forethought. So let’s be patient and let the BBI committee finish what they started.

SEVEN-YEAR TERM

What does seem clear thus far is that the BBI is looking to diffuse the power of the Executive branch and split it evenly with the Legislature and Judiciary. By creating an executive prime minister position, it would split power between the president and the holder of that position, thereby eliminating the current winner takes all system that has caused so many problems.

As a nation we must be wary of anything that appears to centralise power further. We know from our nation’s history that too much power in one man’s hands can never be a good thing. It seems that Punguza Mizigo is seeking this by establishing a seven-year presidency term. The central problem with this is that by strengthening the executive at the expense of the judicial and legislative branches, it could undermine minorities who lack representation.

Preventing this kind of situation seems to be the underlying motivation behind Uhuru’s extension of a peace offering to Raila. As we are taught in Ecclesiastes 4:9, "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour”. An individual can only accomplish so much. Two working together double their accomplishments.

Each person must put effort into maintaining a relationship, but the fruits of the labour are worth it. By deciding to invite Raila - despite being a long-time rival and leader of the opposition - into the decision making process, Uhuru showed us all the value of unity.

CHOOSE DISCORD

Do we choose harmony or do we choose disorder? Do we choose cohesion or do we choose discord? The post-election violence of 2007 was a crisis for a nation but also a turning point. No one came out of that experience believing that continued infighting would achieve anything. It taught us that the solution to disharmony is for those in power to listen to the grievances of those who don’t have it.

I am not saying that differences in opinion hurt us. Quite the contrary, in fact. The thing is, different opinions need to be heard and valued.

Every action that Uhuru takes seem to be guided by the words of Christ. That means humility and acknowledging that two are better than one - that although he was elected by a majority, there are voters who did not vote for him and he needs to listen to them too.

Finally, the Kenyan government seems to be paying attention to the opinions and desideratum of us all. The outcome is the BBI - an initiative for the people, by the people. We should all get behind it.

Mr Cherambos comments on topical issues. [email protected] 

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