The Chimera of Transformation: A Critique of the BBI Task-force Report
By George Odera
“Truth is lost in too much altercation”
With much pomp and circumstance, the BBI Task-force Report was finally unveiled on 26th November 2019, marking the end of a purportedly year-and-a-half venture seeking to address Kenya’s recurring problems. A reading of the Report elicits memory of Okoth Ogendo’s timeless and evergreen writing, “Constitutions without Constitutionalism: An African Paradox”. The problem bedeviling African democracies, Ogendo argued, is that constitutions serve a cosmetic value, with little adherence to them. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 could not be more unequivocal in its provisions, as it obliges with its admonitions, and deters with its prohibitions. This is the truth that has been lost with the altercation of the BBI Report.
When one reads the report, whether cursorily or in minute detail, the answer to the question “Does this Report fundamentally alter and transform Kenya?” will be no, non, nein, nada, hapana. Instead, the report is replete with terms and concepts which are only attractive to the ear, yet devoid of informed meaning; “inclusivity”, “autochthony”, “consociational models”, “economic revolution”, “50-year plan”. The Report would have been more convincing had it employed the use of empirical data to inform its descriptionof the problems therein.
Turn your attention to the Report’s recommendation and you will feel the hollow inside; the more things change, the more they stay the same. It is in its recommendations that the BBI becomes spectacular in its failure. For instance, the Report seeks to force, by law, a cadre of government officials to seek treatment in public hospitals. Only Stalin’s Russia would match such kind of government paternalism. Other recommendations are just an ad nauseam compilation of obligations that needed no report and taxpayer money to write.
The BBI Report is emblematic of the times we are living in; times of constitutions without constitutionalism. Times of facts without rigor. Times of values without embodiment. Times of opinion without consequence. Times of wealth without work. Times of politics without principle.