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Where is the peace BBI promised us?

By Otieno Otieno

The men and women on the BBI task force deserve credit for doing much more than they were initially asked to do.

I think President Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledged that effort when he received the BBI report in Kisii, noting the team had suggested constitutional reforms as well as legislative and administrative changes.

Yet the task force’s work will ultimately be measured by how well it addressed questions around bitterly disputed elections and related violence.

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It was set up under the terms of the March 9, 2018 truce between the President and his then opposition rival, Raila Odinga.

The duo’s surprise rapprochement followed a tense seven months during which they contested a presidential election in August, fought a Supreme Court petition culminating in the nullification of the President’s victory in September, quarrelled over a repeat election that the main opposition candidate boycotted in October and squared up menacingly after Mr Odinga swore himself in as ‘the people’s president’.

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The 2013 presidential race involving the two, whose fathers were Kenya’s founding president and vice-president, also stoked tension after Mr Odinga challenged the outcome at the Supreme Court.

They have repeatedly said their decision to pursue constitutional reforms through the BBI process was informed by their experience from these elections.

They appeared to say their personal ambitions were becoming a threat to national unity. And it is perfectly in order to judge the BBI report by its answer to the election violence question alone.

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Many people who have honestly analysed the report have pointed out that some of the bonus proposals in there are already captured well in existing legislation and policy documents.

Election violence

So has the BBI report addressed the election violence question properly?

Should Kenyans be sufficiently confident that after this report is implemented there won’t be a repeat of the tensions or violence witnessed in the past three elections?

My honest view is that it has fallen short of guaranteeing us peace in future elections.

To its credit, the report has properly identified the major cause of election violence as the greed for power among the country’s political/ethnic elite.

But rather than tame the greed, the BBI team sought to reward and feed it instead.

The task force has created the posts of a prime minister and two deputy prime ministers, empower the President to appoint Cabinet ministers from Parliament and reintroduce the position of the official leader of the opposition in Parliament as some accountability solution. Yet the real reason is to try to accommodate rival ethnic elites in power.

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The problem with this rewards route is that there will never be enough to satisfy political elite greed.

In any case, BBI might actually end up incentivising these politicians to engage in brinkmanship to try to force their way into power.


Otieno Otieno is a writer with the “Sunday Nation”. He can be reached via jkotieno@ke.nationmedia.com. @otienootieno

About Whispers from the North

Whispers from the North is an online platform that appreciates the ecological, cultural and socio-economic diversities of Northern Kenya. We also acknowledge that the lives of the communities of northern Kenya has been shaped by a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors which have led to complex challenge that calls for a multifaceted approach.

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