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BBI is the start, not the end, of political debate

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KIVUTHA KIBWANA

By KIVUTHA KIBWANA
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Finally, the Building Bridges Initiative report is out. In its executive summary, the report identifies what ails Kenya as follows: “While a major focus of this report, again reflecting what we heard from Kenyans, is about government and the public service, the country is far more worried by the lack of jobs and income.

“This has led to so much poverty, inequality and frustrated hopes, that our continuity as a unified and secure country is uncertain… We desperately need a shift in our economic paradigm if we are to provide enough jobs to our youth…”

Looming systemic collapse of the political system is, in the report, premised on ethnicised, do-or-die siasa mbaya (bad politics) competition.

Negative ethnicity is a disease of the political class which every five or so years is transmitted to gullible citizens. Put simply, the political class is the prime agent of disunity. Rather than accept electoral results, they jeopardise state cohesion. National unity must start with the genuine unity of the political class.

The BBI is spot-on when it recommends that citizens must commit themselves to duties and responsibilities and not just rights. The idea is to domesticate Article 29 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the individual’s duties into Kenya’s Constitution.

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BBI also advocates for the real emergence of national political parties. Since independence, our political parties have been personal chattels of their key leader or joint property of a collective of ethnic barons.

Strengthening the office of the registrar of political parties alone will not change the manner in which parties are established and run. Region-based political parties should be outlawed or not recognised as parliamentary parties.

Political parties should have defined membership, democratically elected officials, and free and fair party nominations.

BBI has proposed a new system of proportional elections in the county assembly and Parliament. This means each party will present a party list of democratically identified men and women candidates to ensure gender equity.

The winners will be selected according to the proportion of votes a party gets in the relevant poll. Voters would then be voting for the party first and foremost as opposed to candidates of their choice.

The most radical BBI proposals relate to the executive. The president, whose deputy is his /her running mate, is still the head of state and government. He /she is to be elected through universal suffrage.

A prime minister is appointed by the president being an elected member of the National Assembly from a political party or coalition which has the majority.

The prime minister discharges the control, supervision and execution of the day-to-day functions and affairs of the government. He/she is the leader of government business in the National Assembly. The prime minister chairs Cabinet sub-committees whereas the president chairs the entire Cabinet. The president is to appoint ministers in consultation with the prime minister.

Although the president is the chief executive under this BBI model, the prime minister exercises significant executive power.

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The BBI executive is one of shared power; it is a hybrid executive model.

The Cabinet is to be sourced from within and without the national assembly.

BBI proposes the creation of leader of the opposition who is the runner-up in the presidential race. He /she automatically becomes a member of Parliament. If the above leader joins the government, then the leader of the party or coalition of parties not in the government becomes the opposition leader.

The leader of the opposition has a shadow cabinet, which is to be facilitated through public funds to challenge the government of the day.

Presumably, BBI assumes that the above four powerful positions can facilitate the formation of coalitions by the major leaders in any election, thereby reducing the likelihood of electoral violence since the winner does not take it all.

BBI has three chapters (6,7 & 9) touching on economic inclusion and shared prosperity, which still shy away from concretely laying bare how the current social and economic decline can realistically be arrested.

BBI’s key recommendations on anti-corruption strategy relate to constitutionalising the anti-corruption agency to ensure its independence, banning public servants from doing business with the government and making wealth declaration by public officers public.

During the national conversation on BBI’s proposals, other stringent measures to fight corruption should be explored such as lifestyle audits for all public servants and life imprisonment for corruption-related offences.

BBI’s significant recommendations on devolution relate to retention of the 47 counties but ensuring the legalisation of economic blocs or ensuring “representation and legislation are undertaken in larger regional blocs; increase of resources to the counties to between 35 per cent and 50 per cent of the last audited accounts; relocating current CDF funds (except bursaries) to county development imperatives; equitably reserving 30 per cent of county development budget to each ward; creation of an independent health service commission.

In my view, the Council of Governors’ Ugatuzi initiative has robust proposals concerning the strengthening of devolution. These are likely to prominently feature in the national conversation on BBI.

Of course, governors could still decide to pursue their Ugatuzi Initiative.

A close examination of the BBI proposals confirms that they are not as radical as was earlier anticipated. Many are even currently incorporated in the Constitution or other laws and national policy.

BBI is also largely a summary of previous reform initiatives dating back from the 1990s.

Kenyans should hold a national conversation on the BBI report in the spirit of Article 1  on sovereignty and the public participation policy. This should be done within a legal and structured framework.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Kenyans fiercely fought for a people-driven constitution-making process. Therefore, citizens have a right, within the national conversation or any other platform, to demand change of the Constitution through a referendum. This does not preclude, under Article 255, a role for Parliament in the subsequent constitution-making.

The writer is governor of Makueni county

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Our wizards saw the Brave New World, but none saw coronavirus

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By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

Last year in December, Nation Media Group held its first Kusi Ideas Festival in Kigali. The festival tried to peer ahead the next 60 years in Africa.

There were many Brave New World ideas about how that future might look like, and also the perils that progress almost always brings. Needless to say, no one saw Covid-19 coming.

A futurist curtain-raiser in The EastAfrican, titled Africa in 2079, came close to outlining a mirror universe to the one Covid-19 is bequeathing us.

Between London, Zimbabwe, and the corners of Africa where Econet’s fibre optic network reaches, Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of Econet Wireless and former chair of the board of AGRA wrote:

“I recently invested in a tech start-up that has created an Uber-like platform for tractors, enabling farmers to link up with a central database and order a tractor via SMS…freeing the farmer from the drudgery of the hoe. This service is particularly valued by women farmers, enabling them to circumvent social norms that might otherwise hamper their ability to hire a tractor.” From wherever we are hiding from the virus, unable to roam the farm, Uber farming could be the new way a lot of our food is produced.

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From Tanzania, Aidan Eyakuze, who is executive director of Twaweza East Africa and has been confined in-country as an elegant prisoner for nearly two years because of his love of inconvenient data, painted an intoxicating but strange utopian-dystopian picture of Africa at the end the century.

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By 2079, he foresaw the “vast majority of Africans earn their living through multiple micro-tasking (MMTs) ever since every ”job” was unbundled into its component tasks…leaving only those unbundled micro-tasks needing social intelligence, creativity or dexterity to be done by people. All ”taskers” are always-on private contractors who bid relentlessly for the privilege of tasking.

Incomes are kept low by the relative scarcity of tasks requiring the human touch.

“The unrelenting competition for tasks is both stressful and socially divisive — you are competing against everyone all the time…even marriages have renewable term limits, ‘in case someone better comes along.’” With work-from-home regimes, the former has come 78 years earlier.

Indeed, even for the latter, more people now probably think being cooped up with the same man or woman in the house “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part,” is a very archaic model.

Between Italy and Kenya, the Society for International Development’s Arthur Muliro, peered into a what a truly borderless Africa might look. Among others, his gaze settled on, of all places, Libya.

“Libya…was now welcoming other Africans and allowing them to settle. The peace deal that had come after a decade of civil war was holding and there was new optimism, in part boosted by the arrival and expansion of new migrant groups who had settled there and were helping rebuild their adopted country.”

On a close re-reading, turns out Aidan hinted that Turkey, which jumped in the Libyan fray as the coronavirus made its way out of Wuhan, might have something to do with it.

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Stadiums progress welcome – Daily Nation

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By EDITORIAL

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Last week, the Sports ministry’s top officials, led by Chief Administrative Secretary Hassan Noor Hassan and Principal Secretary Joe Okudo traversed the country to access the ongoing construction of stadiums.

President Uhuru Kenyatta also made an impromptu tour of the Nyayo National Stadium to ensure that all is well besides giving Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed full support. That has made sure that renovation works resume at all the stadiums — including Kasarani, Nyayo, Kipchoge Keino, Kamariny and Wote — and that everything is running on schedule.

Upon completion of some of these arenas, the country will have positioned itself to host major world events, especially in football, athletics and basketball. The ministry must, therefore, ensure that, while it has given contractors an ultimatum to finish their work, it also insists on quality delivery.

But there are concerns about work at county stadiums, especially in Mombasa, where those who redesigned the arena have done away with the internationally approved running track.

The new stadium has been designed for football only hence won’t host any track and field events. The four lane track will only be for warm up and this has raised eyebrows.

Mombasa County Chief Sports Officer Innocent Mugabe said Bububu grounds in Likoni and Kenya Ports Authority’s Mbaraki Sports Club will be upgraded for sports use. Mombasa being at low altitude, it is suitable for staging major World Athletics events, having staged the 2007 World Cross Country Championships.

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Kenya is bidding to host the 2025 World Championships in Athletics and Mombasa can easily be the venue with a good stadium in place. There is still time to build a county stadium.

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Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

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By EDITORIAL

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When Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced a fortnight ago the postponement of school reopening to January next year, he gave an exception. Universities, teacher training colleges and technical training institutions were directed to be ready to reopen in September.

Consequently, they were asked to put in place safety measures prescribed by the Health ministry, including reorganising classrooms and hostels to ensure social distancing. Just a month to the planned reopening, are those institutions really prepared?

In the past few days, Prof Magoha has convened meetings with the heads of the institutions to plan for the reopening and visiting the colleges to assess their preparedness. Preliminary reports from these engagements indicate that just a few institutions are ready.

POOR STATE

At the university level, so far, only Strathmore has been declared ready for reopening. Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly

For teachers’ colleges, three — Murang’a, Kibabii and Kericho — have met the threshold. Assessment is ongoing for the technical training institutions.

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But the broad observation is that most of the institutions are not ready. Though not surprising, most of them are ordinarily in poor state and Covid-19 has just exposed them. Beyond the situation, long-term actions are required to revamp and revitalise them.

Reopening the colleges in September will be the starting point for relaxing restrictions in the education sector. The reason for beginning with colleges is that they have mature students who understand the health protocols and can, therefore, take care of themselves and minimise infections. Their experience would then inform plans for reopening primary and secondary schools.

REPEAT CLASSES

Closure of schools and colleges has dealt a huge blow to education. Learners in schools have lost a whole year and have to repeat classes next year. This comes with high social, economic and psychological. Indeed, this is the first time in history that schools are being closed for a year.

The last time the education sector suffered most was in 1982, when, following an abortive coup, the University of Nairobi and then-Kenyatta University College were closed for nine months. That created a major backlog and that took five years to clear. This is the reason steps should be taken at the earliest opportunity to mitigate the damage.

The challenge, therefore, is for the colleges to work on those health protocols to prepare for reopening. All other sectors, such as transport and tourism, are reopening and, therefore, colleges have no reason to lag behind. We ask the management of the institutions to expedite the required processes and get ready for reopening in September as directed.

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