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Conversation on law review must be people-driven

By Alberto Leny
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019
Delegates follow proceedings of the BBI report launch at Bomas of Kenya. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

The launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) taskforce report last week kicked off a crucial national conversation and as well reaffirmed the principal role of the people in the constitution-making process and nation building.

Indeed, Article 1 of our Constitution states that all sovereign power belongs to the people and that the people may exercise the sovereignty either directly or through their democratically elected representatives.”

Therefore, the debate on who should engage in the national conversation on the BBI report must be pegged on this important principle. Thus, politicians pushing to have Parliament guide the process ought to be dismissed with contempt.

Team BBI has done its task and brought Kenyans to the table, providing hope for peace, healing and reconciliation after a tumultuous period of political divisions and a difficult economic situation that continues to hold a strong grip on the citizens.

It needs no guessing that Kenyans’ view of their elected representatives is not flattering. The leaders have perfected the art of championing own interests at the expense of quality representation. What with chronic lack of quorum in the chamber when matters of national interest are tabled and the dearth of quality debate on issues affecting the people?

Arguably, Kenyans are in general agreement that MPs have not effectively lived up to the expectations in their roles of representation, legislation and oversight. They have often been accused of, among other things, subverting the Constitution.

With the BBI report now in the public domain, the political class ought to take a back seat, let the people fully engage in a national dialogue, decide on the changes in the supreme law and endorse them in a referendum.

One of the emerging popular demands is the strengthening of Chapter Six on Leadership and Integrity and the recall clause for MPs who fail to deliver on their roles. Definitely, as history has proved, this can’t be in safe custody on the laps of politicians, who are also the targets.

It is clear the people have lost faith in the ability and capacity of their representatives to deliver on the ideals of the BBI. No wonder National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has already made it clear the BBI report belongs to the people and has no route in Parliament. 

The national conversation must breathe a new life into the Constitution by fostering a structured, democratic and open dialogue for all Kenyans. 

The debate must address our political challenges and the elusive search for national cohesion. It should also address moral depravity and corruption, environmental destruction, perennial droughts and floods that often leave a trail of death and destruction of property.

To this list, add the prevailing economic hardships, a spiralling national debt, high cost of living, a troubled agricultural sector and the traditional long-standing woes of poverty, ignorance and disease.

The agenda for this national dialogue must also include constitutional, institutional and legal reform, land reform, poverty, inequality and regional imbalances, unemployment among the youth, consolidation of national unity, transparency, accountability and ending impunity. [email protected]

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