BBI – YES OR NO? UNPACKING THE TRUTH ABOUT THE BBI REPORT (Part 4(a)of 4) – Chapter by chapter Analysis

Chapter one Notable issues that Kenyans must deal with

Chapter SummaryIn this chapter, the taskforce expands on national ethos and identifies a myriad of issues that plague the country that need to be addressed. These problems are not new, an epiphany or things we already didn’t know but it helps that the Taskforce reiterates them. They include, a) lack of unity of purpose as a country based on common ideals but instead we have ethnic driven agendas, b) disenfranchisement of the youth by way of unemployment and lack of advancement opportunities especially among the youth, c) trust deficit (not sure what the taskforce means), d) lawlessness due to a broken legal system and the cynicism it promotes, abuse of power by public officers who break the law with impunity without any accountability whatsoever, unequal application of the law by the state law apparatus, e) the “now” mentality that fails to plan for the future f) a country and culture that neglects its talented citizens especially in sports and athletes where world renowned Kenyan talent is often left to fend for themselves and in most cases exploited without any safeguards or safety net to look after their interests, g) the breakdown of the family unit and the proliferation of violence, child abuse, incest, depression and suicide, h) adulteration of “capitalism”, exploitation of the tax code and inequitable redistribution of wealth that creates a few very wealthy individuals and little for the masses which ultimately leads to despondency and despair, i) failed leadership that incites Kenyans against one another to advance their selfish political agendas, a corrupt public service regime that seems to believe public service is a “favor” to the public instead of a privilege to serve and failure to recognize that the public is the real reason they have jobs in the first place, j) poor treatment of the disabled among us, k) a lack of moral compass, inability to adjust attitudes to reflect ethical considerations of others and shirking personal responsibility, as the taskforce puts it, “the problem is mostly in our software, not our hardware” (pg26), l) no redress for injustices perpetrated in the country as they are often swept under the rugs with the state being the greatest culprit in the commission of crimes against citizens and m) widespread insecurity from within and without the country that threatens to tear the national fabric into shreds.

Major recommendations – NONE! The report says there needs to be a “national conversation”

Analysis I think as many issues as the report identified in the chapter, the taskforce should have come up with practical and actionable recommendations that spell out what we need to do about the issues and what the milestones in achieving the recommendations, the expected outcomes and how we measure those outcomes, it simply did none of that. Nothing in this chapter can be changed through any legislation or constitutional amendment, NOTHING!

The report also states that Kenya is running out of time to remedy it is political, social and economic trajectory “if we are to avoid catastrophic failure, or, just as bad, a continuing downward drift into sustained poverty, misery, instability, and conflict. We have designed political and economic systems that are not fit for purpose, and we continue to tempt fate by

building on their failures to the detriment of most of our people.” (p26). There is actually a lot of truth to this assertion and yet it appears that the commission’s prescription is misplaced. In fact an argument can be made that they are exploiting the situation to advance a narrow selfish agenda that does very little to fix the problems. They have not made any specific, tangible, and substantive recommendations to fix the problems they identify except platitudes. In fact, the report makes no mention of the much touted vision 2030 started by President Kibaki or the Big 4 Agenda by Kenyatta, instead it in       itiates a new 2050 vision predicated on the same tenets as the others, not exactly exciting.

Chapter 2 – Lack of a national ethos

Chapter Summary The report states, We lack shared beliefs, ideals and aspirations about what Kenya can become if we all subscribed to a national ethos that builds and reinforces our unity.” (pg30) and expands by stating that this is “a historic opportunity to begin willingly defining, developing and subscribing to an enduring collective vision that would lead to a united Kenya equal to all its major challenges.” Most Kenyans, according to the report, want prosperity and feel that the country abandoned its culture and substituted with the Western culture, “Kenyans yearn for a national ethos of cultural pride, one that allows us to reconcile our traditions with the new and dynamically changing world around us.” (pg30). The taskforce places part of the blame. Part of the country’s leaders who have been derelict in their duty to instill ethos.  

Major recommendations ‘To think big and long-term, a vision of the Kenya we want to exist 3 generations or 100 years” (pg31); the vision must stand alongside an “official and inclusive history”; rename The Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service the “Official Historian and National Archives Service” led by an established and highly regarded scholar of

African history or a world-class expert on library science or curating”, etc.; we must become comfortable in our own African skin; All of us have a responsibility; A full-time focus on ethics whereby the “NCIC should be subsumed in the Ethics Commission and its mandate brought in line.”; Link the cultural values and modern norms of Kenyans; Develop and implement enforcement mechanisms because “We have lost track of the enforcement of

Chapter 6 on National Values and have few working mechanisms.”(pg36)

Analysis: Now I am not making these “major recommendations” up nor are they imaginary but actually in the report. We cannot legislate national morality, we already have ethics in the current constitution of which none are talked about or enforced in any way shape or form, so how or why would the task force list these as major recommendations knowing full well they are not actionable legislatively nor practical to enact. This is yet another perfect example of “fluff” designed to bamboozle the people.

Chapter 3 – Responsibilities and rights

Chapter Summary Similar to the previous two chapters above, chapter 3 of the report is verbose and repeats the same themes in previous chapters if only in a different language. As in the existing constitution. The chapter restates responsibilities and rights of Kenyans in the prism of “national ethos”, themes that are well known and understood already. Specifically it restates, A history of responsibilities and rights in Kenya that dates as far back as Responsibilities and rights in pre-colonial times (p37); Responsibilities and rights during colonialism; Responsibilities and rights in post-independence Kenya; Under the Constitution of Kenya, 2010; Other legal responsibilities and rights rooted in the Constitution. That’s it!

Major Recommendations –  Recognize that the responsibilities and rights of Kenyans are rooted in the individual and enable the knowledge and attitudes that strengthen responsible Citizenship; ‘Skin in the game’ and responsibility of leadership where public officials such as ministers of public health are compelled to use public hospitals in Kenya (pg41); Effective parenting is learned where an “inter-ministerial Taskforce should be formed to develop a generic and simple parenting curriculum and make it available to religious and cultural institutions, health centres, and sub-chiefs and chiefs for the widest possible dissemination.” Entrench ethics awareness, training and accountability in the workplace; Growing through being of service where “All Kenyans should voluntarily give six months

of their lives to national service between the ages of 18 and 26 as a means of

developing personal responsibility through service to others.”; Utilise the duties articulated in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights to develop civic training on responsibilities.

AnalysisThe chapter speaks for itself, nothing in this chapter is actionable or can be legislated, it is fluff.

Chapter 4 Ethnic antagonism and competition

Chapter SummaryThe taskforce asserts, correctly I might add, that unless our diversity is properly managed especially in competition for power and resources, it will lead to our collective ruin. Resources follow power and because the two go hand in hand there has to be a better way to mitigate the effects of ethnic rivalries. Tribalism is universal and not unique to Kenya except that in Kenya it is a central common theme upon which national decisions are based. As mitigation, the taskforce believes that we more deeply integrate with our neighboring countries, and to achieve the political federation that is the ultimate objective of the East African Community. Deeper integration, at the political level, will lead to today’s ethnic politics being swallowed by much larger populations so that any one group in Kenya is a small minority in the federated region.” (pg44)

Major Recommendations – Build and strengthen the ties that bind us through education in school curriculums, integrate publicly funded secondary schools of up to 50% of the student body; Do away with a winner-take-all model for the Presidency and opt for a more consociational model that works best for ethnically divided societies;  Make resource distribution to be fair and felt to be fair; Baraza la washauri whereby the “president is advised by eminent, experienced, and honourable citizens serving in a Council of Advisors on a non-salaried basis.” (pg46); Accelerate regional integration; Institutionalization of national political parties where political parties are “compelled to reflect the Face of Kenya in ethnic, religious, regional, and gender terms.”

Analysis – As you have seen by now, I hope, the recurring theme in the Task force’s report and recommendations is straight forward, “do away with a winner take all.” We have debunked this narrative; it is a ruse and NOT the solution by any stretch of imagination. There is no established evidence or correlation between integration and these problems, in other words there is no cause and effect that ties ethnic antagonism and competition to the so-called “winner take all” politics in the country. In Somali for example, there is only one major tribe composed of multiple sub-clans and yet even in that mono-tribal setting, the country has suffered immeasurable civil strife for decades. Rwanda has two tribes, the Hutus and the Tutsis and yet recorded one of the worst human genocides in Africa. My point is that Taskforce missed the mark on this by a long-shot. Competition is a good thing, it is negative ethnicity that creates problems, we need a system that creates a level playing field where competition thrives and leadership that upholds the rule of law and promotes unity among citizens instead of fomenting divisions and ethnic resentment for political gain.