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The idea of a non-contested referendum is a fallacy

By Hesbon Owilla
Friday, November 13th, 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta receives the BBI report from the taskforce vice chair Adams Oloo at Kisii State Lodge on Wednesday. With them is ODM party leader Raila Odinga. Photo/PD/GERALD ITHANA
In summary

Political contests bring out the ‘best’ of our political leaders. All of a sudden, they realise they are part of certain groupings and identities and as usual their interest is morphed into communal — nay — ethnic, regional or any other interest they can use for mobilisation to rally the naïve masses.

They emerge in different shades, with utterances and phrases such as, ‘us the people ,’ ‘our people bla bla bla,’ and even speak in local dialects to whip up emotions.

Interesting how BBI has reminded them of the need to champion their people’s issues when people already given their views. 

After the BBI taskforce going round the country twice, collecting views from Kenyans, we would be shooting ourselves in the foot if we start debates around the constitution of Kenya amendment bill 2020 because of different interest groups. 

Look at this way. We collect views from Kenyans; all of a sudden, we have various groups emerging with demands in the name of bringing everyone on board.

Now, some of these folks were all along against the BBI and today they want issues that have fairly little to do with Wanjiku addressed in a document and process whose main object was to address nine critical issues. 

The BBI team collected views from Kenyans, through a process that was gazetted.

To contest and try to sneak in other agenda because you can hold a press conference in  the name of representing different interest groups should be put in proper perspective.

A few critics have raised concerns about the interest some emerging groups are seeking to serve.

Kenyans addressed themselves to nine issues and we need to stick to solving these issues, which essentially form the bedrock of economic prosperity and political stability.

We need to interrogate instances at which some groups conducted public participation and engagement with the people they purport to represent. 

Granted, any constitutional making process is a political process and in a democracy, contest is inevitable.

Now, if we start this conversation of a non-contested referendum, we will be reducing and cheapening our political discourse, especially if end game is to gain near unanimous support by accommodating all ideas and opinions regardless of their substantive contribution to our socioeconomic and political development.

The lie is that we can only have a non-contested referendum if we accommodate all elite interests, including  of politicians with ambitions in opposition to the spirit of the BBI and other who have been by the fence only to emerge with partisan interest.

The fact here is serving elite interest does not necessarily mean common interest  will be served. 

Governors, for instance, are coming in with fairly interesting demands. We give in to the demands such as pension to governors and doing away with term limits, and we will be opening a Pandora’s box.

Then you have pastoralists who will then encourage miners, fishermen and all of a sudden everyone’s interest is included; there you’ll have a non-contested referendum that will be a bastard child of so many interests groups merged together.

Some demands such as that of deputy governors’ asking for ban on doing business with the government be expunged from the report are shocking.

Common folks in my native Suna East just want an environment to make their daily bread and not a deputy governor who will doing business with the government.  

The numerous proposals have nothing to do with Wanjiku, and we should interrogate why self-seeking few elites want to sabotage and derail BBI process!  —The writer is a PhD candidate in political communication

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