Does BBI constitutional amendment cover Kenya’s deeper issues?

When politicians believe they are above the law, very bad things happen during elections, the very things that the BBI is supposed to cure.

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Does BBI constitutional amendment cover Kenya's deeper issues www.africanpolicy.com

On Tuesday, as the country’s Senate was voting to approve the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2020 (the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), 70 kilometres away in Murang’a town, paid “youths” were having the time of their lives pummelling each other after disagreements on the matter erupted.

According to media reports, a group unhappy that their senator and one of their MPs had aligned themselves with those who opposed the BBI in Parliament, and strolled into town carrying placards denouncing Senator Irungu Kang’ata and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro.

When the BBI opponents got wind of what was going on in town, they too assembled with their own views on the matter, and the difference in opinion degenerated into a physical scuffle during which a number of participants were hurt.

The police, who should have kept abreast of the developments but for some reason chose to wait and see how matters would go, swung into action and dispersed the mobs with teargas. Whether anyone was arrested for the disturbance is not clear, but the fact that activities in town came to a standstill for hours was a very costly indulgence.

A number of things don’t make sense about this altercation. First, the BBI Bill had already passed with an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly and it was a given that it would pass in the Senate as well, so the demonstration could not have altered the outcome in any way. Secondly, the message these demonstrators were trying to deliver did not warrant any sort of fracas because the outcome will be determined in a referendum anyway. In other words, the demonstration was an exercise in futility whichever way one looks at it.

Ulterior motives

Third, the so-called youths were too well-dressed and eloquent to be the ordinary louts associated with such activities. In fact, a number did not look like youths at all. Considering the emotions that have been generated in Murang’a over the BBI issue in the past year, it looks like some politicians fomented the chaos with ulterior motives and it may be all to do with next year’s gubernatorial elections.

After all, this is the incumbent governor’s final term and chances are that one of the BBI opponents has gained enough clout to threaten the ambitions of some of its proponents.

There may not be enough evidence to support this theory, but the fact that someone went to all the trouble to print the placards indicates that politicians were behind this melee. If so, one shudders to think about what might happen in the 15 months before the 2022 elections.

Last October, two youths died when two groups again clashed when Deputy President William Ruto was being denied access to a church function in Murang’a. The fact that the matter has never been resolved, nor the culprits arrested, may have nurtured a sense of impunity that will eventually lead to worse violence.

This is actually the crux of the matter. It is plainly ridiculous for anyone to lose his or her life because a politician wants to be elected into office. It has happened in the past, and it will happen in the future unless there is a complete change in the collective mindset of Kenyans about democratic political contentions.

When politicians believe they are above the law, very bad things happen during elections, the very things that the BBI is supposed to cure. When people die in such a manner and no one is held to account, nothing is ever going to change. We don’t seem to have learned any lesson from all the years we have fought over politics.

For the first time in history, the residents of a sprawling village in Gatundu South Constituency, Kahuguini, on Monday resorted to planting banana stems on a five-kilometre road stretch to protest the neglect that has always made it impassable during the rains.

On the national scale of things, this was not a very newsworthy event; what gave it significance was that the vital link road is just a few kilometres away from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ancestral home.

Secondly, 10 years ago, the road was earmarked for upgrading, but little has been done since, and now survey beacons are sinking into the soil while grand sign-boards erected by the Kenya Rural Roads Authority two years ago have become irritating eyesores.

There are two lessons here. First, the canard about the country’s resources being poured into the President’s county – he was once Gatundu South MP – have been effectively debunked. There is nothing to distinguish the constituency from any other in Kiambu County just because it has produced two of the country’s presidents. Secondly, the area’s current MP, Mr. Moses Kuria, is always in the limelight fighting for the welfare of hustlers, but he seems to have forgotten that charity begins at home.

However, to be fair, it is not the job of MPs to make or repair roads. What they ought to do is to seek to influence government decisions in such matters, and that can’t be done by endlessly antagonising those who hold the purse strings.

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