Catholic bishops were correct to point out flaws in the BBI report

Bishop Philip Anyolo (centre) and other members of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops address journalist at the Subukia shrine in Nakuru County on November 11, 2020

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • My position is that we do not elect MPs and MCAs so that they tell us what to do
  • And an elected rep's work is given impetus and credibility when it is backed by his or her party.

 I return to Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) because, in my view, it has brought to the fore the matter of the role of elected representatives, political parties and government.

Secondly, I return to BBI because of the intolerance that is creeping into public discourse and the attendant arrogance of those in positions of power and, therefore, responsibility.

My position is that we do not elect MPs and MCAs so that they tell us what to do. We do not elect parties to form governments so that governments become the club with which we are beaten or coerced to submit to their whims or to those of vested interests.

Elected representatives and governments exist to serve us, to do for us that which we want done to improve our lives; to develop; and to prosper. It is we the people to tell our MPs and MCAs how our neighbourhoods need improving and suggest the best ways possible to achieve that.

Our elected reps then should come in to focus us and provide leadership towards realisation of our aims. Elected leaders must not become nyapara; they must not become overbearing or intolerant.

Best weapons

The best weapons in an elected representative's armoury must be involvement and networking with constituents, communicating with and persuading them, and, ultimately, providing leadership.

And an elected rep's work is given impetus and credibility when it is backed by his or her party. A political party worth its salt educates its rank and file on its policies and those of the government.

It educates the membership on political, economic and social developments and explains what is expected of them. It is why that video clip of that old man on TV in 2005 will forever be strong, emblematic and, yes, iconic.

"I have not read the (draft) constitution,” he said, “but (Mr) Raila (Odinga) has read it and he says it is bad. It must be bad.”

Party rank and file, that is, the Kenyan people, expect their political leaders to know and to put them in the know.

Witness the voices of elected representatives from the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party that typify leadership in Kenya's political arena and its approach to political development. They are voices that these days typify the desperation of ODM to push the recommendations of the BBI over the line by whatever means, speed and force necessary:

 “We don't want any negotiation on the BBI. Let us enact the document into law as soon as possible.” That is the MP for Kasipul, Mr Ong'ondo Were.

 “You cannot put us in the mode of analysis of the BBI report forever. Let those who don't like the report start their own initiative.” That is the senator for Homa Bay, Mr Otieno Kajwang'.

If BBI is about uniting Kenyans, then, let it be known that one cannot create a fraternity by foisting one's point of view on others, especially if they are thinking people and capable of countering one's position with their own.

Two elections in two years

One cannot foist one's position on others when they can analyse it and see its faults, especially vis-a-vis their day-to-day life. For example, we are here being stampeded into two elections in two years.

But the self-same people railroading us into the polls lament that each election cycle results in decreased production and a depressed economy. Yet, per our MPs, we are not supposed to ask if this is public money well spent or, whether public money so spent is working for the public.

Put another way, we are supposed to forget that our parties and our MPs long forsook their role of oversight of government, and that is no mean act of abdication of duty.

It is clear that most politicians, the two above included, are not happy with Catholic bishops for raising disturbing issues about the BBI recommendations on peopling of the polls umpire by appointees of political parties, return of an imperial president, increase of MPs when many argue we are over-represented and the bloated public wage bill.

If MPs cannot point out the flaws in BBI, let the bishops speak for us and for them. I will speak next week.


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