Judging by the early debate on the recently released Building Bridges Initiative report, it appears to be fast becoming all things to all people.
Some are busy arguing what it is, and others are arguing what it isn’t. However, pitifully few are engaging with this document on its own merits.
The first thing that needs to be clearly understood is that it is not the Bible, it is not the infallible word and its proposals are not written in stone. They are recommendations, taken from thousands of ordinary Kenyans who have made important and innovative recommendations to the BBI taskforce which navigated the nation over the previous 18 months.
It was never meant to deal with every single minor issue, it was meant to deal with nine very specific points that many saw as the foundation for greater national cohesion, progress and development.
The issues it sought to address are; ethnic antagonism, lack of a national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, divisive elections, security, corruption, shared prosperity and responsibility.
Its 156 pages are an impressive testament to the Kenyan people’s ability to understand the root causes about how to rid our society of issues like instability, division and poverty.
Those who attack the report are essentially attacking the Kenyan people, because it is a people driven process. Every recommendation and proposal in the report had in its genesis the words and thoughts of the people.
We can and should debate the issues, but we must be respectful to the idea, the process and the report.
Nevertheless, even now when some rush to try and enshrine parts of the report in law or use it to throw accusations at political opponents, there is little understanding of what President Uhuru Kenyatta specifically stated at the report’s official release at the Bomas of Kenya, that this is still an ongoing process.
It is important that the people of Kenya, at all levels, read the document in full.
Then it is possible to send edits, criticisms and comments.
Every voice will be heard, and the ideas of an average citizen will still remain as important as a governor or Cabinet secretary.
Those who are claiming the BBI report for themselves have completely misunderstood the initiative and misappropriated the process.
What needs to happen is to follow President Kenyatta’s advice and that everybody should take a deep breath and read the document. They should compare the current system with the reforms that are recommended and decide whether these are improvements for their families, communities, counties, and most importantly, the nation as a whole.
This final point is vital.
One of the most important elements in this process, apart from it being people driven, is that it is an attempt to equalise our society. The BBI was about levelling the playing field and not privileging one community, county or region above another.
The well-known saying “a rising tide lifts all boats” is usually meant to concern the economy with the idea that improvements in the general economy will benefit all participants in that economy.
The same idiom can be used with the BBI report. It might not meet every single one of our day to day expectations and will not magically pull someone out of poverty, provide them with their own housing or give them the job of their dreams.
However, a nation that fixes many of its challenges on the macro level will ensure that the average citizen will only gain, prosper and succeed.
Ensuring greater prosperity, security, inclusivity and fighting corruption which plagues all of us, will be for the good of all. It will allow us as a nation to remove the roadblocks that have afflicted our progress for too long.
This is what the BBI set out to do and the report is a testament to those who initiated it.
So let’s put our politics, affiliations and preconceptions to one side for now and try and read the report with a neutral set of eyes. Let us not allow ourselves to be swayed by those who use this impressive and exhaustive report as a talking point.
It is not a talking point and it is not the Bible.
It is a people driven exercise that seeks to deal with the central issues affecting our nation and looking for sensible, effective and stable recommendations and proposals to improve Kenya.
That is all, but it is certainly enough.
Our wizards saw the Brave New World, but none saw coronavirus
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.
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.
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.
Stadiums progress welcome – Daily Nation
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.
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.
Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly
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.
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.
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.
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.