BBI report must cure our flawed electoral system
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
Wrangles in the ruling party and premature presidential election campaigns are living impediments to unity pact signed by one time political foes-turned buddies, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.
The pact was informed by elusive cohesion, lingering suspicion and mistrust between followers of political leaders beyond the election date.
The decision to form the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to diagnose the country’s political problems answers national unity dreams espoused by the nationalists at independence. Notably, the country’s woes are election-related with dire consequences. If the country abandons the present electoral system and settles for a different system, election campaign fiasco and party nomination flaws will be a thing of the past.
Kenyans need a foolproof electoral system devoid of chaos, voter bribery, ethnicity, gender discrimination and manipulation. One viable option is proportional representation in which voters choose parties instead of individual village elders and freelance political practitioners.
The system could elevate village political entities to ideological outfits, reduce election costs and tone down political temperatures and other forms of injustices. Political parties must start the process of restoring the confidence of Kenyans in elections. South Africa has gone through six peaceful elections under proportional representation system. The number of votes cast for a party determines the number of seat slots in the political posts. Individual party nominees in the rainbow nation are posted by the electoral body to any of the electoral units in the country where they serve a full term without interruption.
Envisaged constitutional reforms will be incomplete without relooking at the Counties Act to eliminate obstacles identified on the path to the success of these units. Issues for consideration are mergers of devolved units into regional states or reverting to the defunct administrative boundaries. Some of the regional economic blocs formed by County Governments should be transformed into viable regional governments headed by a Governor General. Governor Generals’ appointees should head the existing County Governments. Wards and constituencies should also be merged as part of the cost cutting measures.
Unfortunately, BBI on its last lap has acquired a new rival, the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee. The Committee has commenced the collation of views on contentious issues in the supreme law. Former Attorney General Githu Muigai, who was also a commissioner in the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission has already presented his views to the Committee, whose motive is unclear. Endless jitters are not without a precedent in a country where political wrangles are a lucrative industry. The Kenyatta’s and Odinga’s are hot political commodities on sale during campaigns and beyond. The Handshake that rekindled hope and peace cut off the livelihoods of many political merchants, cronies and sycophants across the political divide.
The one million dollar question is, could BBI team report be a replica of the Committee of Experts (CoE) document that could not stand the test of time or will it be another reference material in the dusty office shelves? The Committee, a product of the 2007 post-election violence was mandated to harmonise constitution drafts generated at Bomas doctored in Naivasha and Kilifi.
— The writer is the Siaya County Governor