The problem I have with the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is that it is a step too far.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga could have enacted BBI for a fraction of the cost using their parliamentary and county assembly majorities. This is obvious to all who care to open their eyes.
Neither Kenyatta nor Odinga ran for President in 2017 campaigning to change the Constitution. Kenyatta’s Jubilee Manifesto had a scant 4 mentions of the word ‘constitution’ in 76 pages. Odinga’s NASA Manifesto had 85 mentions in 24 pages of the word ‘constitution’, but always in the context that they were the party of the 2010 Constitution and that the choice between NASA and its Jubilee competitor was “the choice between faithful implementation of our new constitutional dispensation, and yet another triumph of the old order.”
Fast forward to 2021, and the two choices have coalesced into the most spurious of justifications for wholesale constitutional changes – a purported constitutional moment has been discerned by two men. They claim to be duty bound in the spirit of the “framers of the 2010 Constitution” as President Kenyatta said on 1 June 2020 to change the “political architecture” and even the governance system “we must not be afraid of changing this system, if it does not serve our present purposes.”
The reference to the framers is meant to hoodwink the rest of us into forgetting that we were the framers of the 2010 Constitution. 2010’s is the only constitution ever promulgated in Kenya’s entire history that was the product of a decade of genuine public participation through conventions and delegates conferences, and through both a parliamentary process and ratification in a referendum by we the common people.
Unlike BBI, the processes that resulted in the 2010 Constitution were transparent and every deliberative meeting was documented verbatim. This is not the case with BBI.
Really, Kenyatta and Odinga have no right to equate their process with that which brought the Constitution of 2010 about. It is farcical to purport that what they are doing in hijacking the 2010 Constitution’s popular initiative clause is for the love of the common people.
Give the devils their due. By hook and by crook they have together amassed enough votes in Parliament and the County Assemblies (supplemented by their temporary allies) to pass the BBI Constitutional amendment without spending a further shilling on an unnecessary referendum.
Even those opposed to the BBI would have to admit that constitutional change by parliamentary initiative would be hard to defeat as things stand today. So why have the referendum at all, if the promoters of BBI could get what they want without reference to you and I?
I believe they want you and I to be complicit in the wide-spread changes they alone decided to make to our current Constitution. They want the imprimatur of a plebiscite to insulate themselves from serious questions about the utility, necessity, legality and posterity of what they themselves have stated was initially only a ceasefire handshake agreement.
What appears to have happened is that as soon as their respective supporters got over the initial shock of seeing Kenyatta and Odinga pressing the flesh once again, the more cunning elements of their respective bases sought to fashion a new government by appealing to the basest instincts of both leaders by rolling the first stone over the hills – gathering other rocks into the massive landslide that is the BBI.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I don’t think I am being facetious, but if you believe in group think, then BBI is for you, for the moment at least. Rest assured, unless you assert yourself and reject this power grab, another BBI will come.