A national unity government can heal wounds identified by BBI

Wednesday March 18 2020
TOON: 27-12-19
By KWENDO OPANGA

Twenty nineteen will always be owned by BBI, the acronym for Building Bridges Initiative. That's the custom-built vehicle to propel Mr Raila Odinga into pole position for the 2022 presidential poll and succession in particular, and General Election in general.

TUMULTUOUS

It is therefore unsurprising, yet fitting, that where past commissions of inquiry or task forces have been popularly known by, or named after, their chairpersons, BBI is synonymous with Mr Odinga and, to a minor extent, co-principal President Kenyatta.

That's some statement. Mr Odinga is the unelected powerhouse who in 2017 boycotted a court-ordered presidential poll rerun and declared war on the government. Then he swore himself in as a people's president, but somehow escaped arrest, let alone jail, and dived into the duvet of co-operation with the enemy.

Now BBI is the sun around which revolve planets Tanga Tanga, Kieleweke, Embrace Handshake and Inua Mama, and comets such as Junet Mohammed, Aisha Jumwa, Maina Kamanda and Kibra by-election, among others, that have comprised Kenya's 2019 political solar system.

BBI greatly impacted 2019 politically, but it may yet make 2020 tumultuous. Kenya intends to hold a BBI-based referendum, whose results will definitely feed into, and certainly shape, the journey to the 2022 General Election, change of Constitution and Kenyatta II succession.

LAMPOONS

BBI's referendum will be the starter's gun for more than 24 months of campaigning, Kenya's longest active, yet unofficial electioneering period ever. Therein lies BBI's, Mr Odinga's and Mr Kenyatta's collective Achilles heel or banana skin.

One, if, as the three argue, our elections divide us, embitter us and drive the economy south, then we are headed for a divisive and embittering election in 2020 called a referendum. And this will be the forerunner to another divisive game of choosing called General Election two years down the line.

Two, BBI has been packaged and camouflaged as a vehicle for reconciling and uniting Kenyans divided by two filthy 2017 presidential polls. But prolonged exposure to that which fouls and divides, can neither unite nor make peace.

Three, while BBI lampoons elections as divisive and economy-thrashing, it does not dwell on elections being a function of politics, and driven by politics and politicians. It therefore avoids censuring or holding Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga accountable for poll-induced upheaval.

CONTENTIOUS

Four, the BBI report addresses a nine-point agenda and makes a multiplicity of recommendations — some contentious — on each. These are supposed to be what some 7,000 of us who appeared before the 14-member panel, said we would like to see done or undone.

But while the majority were said to have asked BBI to create a strong premiership, BBI's report presented the most enfeebled premier's office ever. BBI was supposed to serve a ready-to-eat political buffet, but now a national conference on its report has been floated.

So, five, whose conference will it be? BBI is paraded as pursuing inclusivity. But at the launch of its own report it came across as excluding rather than welcoming dissension. That bodes ill for the management of a national conference, reconciliation process and agenda of inclusion.

But that is not surprising. BBI is a political instrument fashioned to serve vested interests fronted by Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga. The interests of the elite of the political class do not tally with, let alone represent, the dreams of the majority of the people of Kenya.

REPRESENTATION

Indeed, BBI mistakes expansion of the Executive for inclusivity; refuses to give serious thought to proportional representation; glosses over poll mismanagement and vote-rigging as purveyors of political strife; blames the people, that is, the victims, for poll violence.

So, which way for Kenyans in 2020? Delegates to the national conference should tackle four issues: strengthening devolution; protecting and sharing resources equitably; rendering public services promptly and fairly; and growing the economy without leaving a single region behind.

And how are these to be achieved?

Delegates should table for discussion legislation for the construction of a government of national unity or a government of inclusivity at the conclusion of every General Election.

REMEDIAL

If, per BBI, we have crises on all fronts; if successive governments have plundered Kenya's resources since 1963; if we are divided; and, if our structures for governance are not fit for purpose, then, we should switch to a government of national unity.

A unity or inclusivity government is remedial emergency action in the national interest because a people united can never be defeated.

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