Ingenious or fraud? Demystifying the BBI – End the Charades
Ingenious or fraud? Demystifying the BBI – End the Charades: Suspend, Refine, then PASS BBI
Suspected massive signatures fraud – The just concluded and submission of “Millions of BBI endorsement signatures” to the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission (IEBC) by the Raila Odinga brigade confirms most Kenyans suspicions that this process is fraught with abuse, fraud and fails to measure to the basic societal standards of credibility let alone integrity. It is true desperate times call for desperate measures but that is not and must not be a license for the blatant chicanery being perpetrated on the entire population, almost 50 Million of us. As I write this installment, it appears that is exactly what the Odinga led Building Bridges Initiative secretariat has resorted to. It is NOT permissible and must be rejected. Since my last installment two weeks ago where I joined Millions of Kenyans to denounce BBI’s efficacy to Kenyans as currently framed, President Kenyatta halted the process so it can be refined. Word on the street has it that Odinga became belligerently petulant at President Kenyatta and BBI’s signature collection process was hastily launched by the two principals and barely two weeks later, it has supposedly already collected 5.5 Million “endorsement” signatures against the required one (1) Million which were just submitted to IEBC for “verification”. Something is terribly awry with BBI this entire process as it is evidently clear these gentlemen and their cabal are trying to pull wool over eyes in broad daylight. The BBI Secretariat is resorting to blatant lies and forgeries to lend credence to its signature collection because it is impractical, a near impossibility to collect One (1) million signatures in a week under the best circumstances let alone 5 Million that they claim to have collected, in less than two weeks nationwide. To do that requires massive deployment of manpower and resources amounting to Billions of shillings. To collect such a huge number of signatures requires significantly more resources because unlike in a general election where voters come to the polling stations to cast their ballots at their own expense, a signature collection requires that workers actually look for prospective voters, identify them as bona fide registered voters and then sign them up. The BBI brigade claims they delivered 3 Million plus physically signed signatures and the assumption is that the rest were submitted online. That said, to achieve this the BBI secretariat would have conducted massive signature collection rallies nationwide and we have not seen such rallies or even media ads for such events. For Parties that thrive on propaganda and an exercise that would necessarily only succeed through publicity, it is very peculiar that they collected 5 million signatures silently like thieves in the dead of night. Multiple other factors clearly are squarely in conflict with the BBI and not in their favor to accomplish such a monumental fete i.e. the COVID19 pandemic that is killing Kenyans in droves and a rapidly collapsing economy. Kenyans are busy trying stay alive and survive to be coming out in Millions to sign BBI that does absolutely NOTHING for them.
The only other way this is even remotely plausible is for the BBI Secretariat to admit that in the midst of the COVID pandemic it covertly engaged in COVID Super-spreader events to collect signatures otherwise this is one major MASSIVE FRAUD being perpetrated on a gullible and impressionable, powerless and hapless public. Indeed, according to Dr. Ekuru Aukot who led a similar but unsuccessful constitutional change effort dubbed “PUNGUZA MZIGO”, it took his team at least a year in a highly laborious and diligent effort to collect a million signatures, it is an herculean effort any way you slice it and the BBI Secretariat has severely undermined its credibility by making a complete mockery of the effort and abusing of the constitutional amendment process. They are taking unlawful shortcuts in the signature collection. Aukot himself said he received a confirmation for endorsing BBI with his signature when he in fact DID NOT! BBI secretariat did NOT collect 5 Million Signatures in two weeks, they are fake. Kenyans haven’t even read the document to make an informed decision on whether to endorse it or not. This is blatant fraud being perpetrated on Kenyans in broad daylight, a shameless daylight scam. To IEBC I say, your reputation as a credible independent body is already in tatters as it is, don’t fall for this and don’t be baited or coopted to partake in a corrupt process. Question everything about what is being presented to you, these shenanigans and flimflams should be enough to REJECT, cancel and/or nullify the whole thing. The public itself is wary that IEBC will connive and collude the BBI architects and others to certify the signatures as valid by using voter registries and other government databases such as the controversial Huduma Number.
It is clear the Jubilee government in collusion with Raila Odinga are hell-bent on passing the BBI Fraud by hook or by crook, a document that most Kenyans have neither read nor asked for nor. Ordinary Kenyans have been entirely excluded and cutoff from the process, their views that the submitted in the expensive so called “views collection” kabuki dance were ignored entirely. Kenyatta and Odinga have taken their eyes off managing the country’s affairs as COVID continues to kill Kenyans in droves including frontline workers i.e. doctors and nurses; whatever little left of donated PPE equipment is still locked at Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) warehouses; the economy is rapidly collapsing with debilitating consequences, it will take decades to recover, people are starving to death and rather than focus on helping the Millions of Kenyans, these tone deaf leaders are wrapped in self-preservation BBI instead, it is their way or the highway and the people are too desperate and too gullible to fight back, Kenyans are helpless gullible pawns in their own country who have been turned into robotic rubberstamp zombies being who must vote for this fraud just to survive. BBI is not uniting but sowing divisions in the country instead. Odinga’s desperation has gotten the best of him and his dictatorial tendencies are in full display. He is intentionally steamrolling BBI at warp speed to avoid scrutiny and he indeed made it very clear during the “signature launch” that he wanted BBI passed “in record time”! Simply put he wants it passed as is, nobody has read it, even he himself was caught off guard about some of the most recent revisions. On his part President Kenyatta has gone missing and turned a blind eye to placate Odinga. He has outsourced his job and practically checked out as president at this critical moment of our country’s history and for that history will judge him harshly. To Kenyatta I say this is NOT the time to look the other way Sir, it is time for principled leadership and Kenyans are counting on you to provide it.
RAILA DISMISSES ANY CHANGES, AGAIN!
Whatever Odinga wants Odinga gets, right, wrong, or indifferent. For all intents and purposes Raila Odinga IS effectively Kenya’s de facto ruler, at least insofar as BBI is concerned. He has overtly taken reins of government and makes no qualms about it. As exemplified in BBI he sets the national priorities and agenda, dictates what Kenyans can and cannot vote on and when. He’s notorious for conjuring wedge issues and giving them a national framing to stay politically relevant and just like he did in 2010, he masterminded the BBI that has now consumed 100% of the government, and Kenyatta doesn’t know what hit him. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this BBI is all about Odinga’s ascendancy to the presidency in 2022 and blocking William Ruto. He intentionally wants it to be contentious to gin up rivalry between himself and Ruto because that’s good for him politically, he believes a referendum he will give him the momentum he needs to win the presidential contest in 2022. That’s just his Modus Operand that he’s perfected in the last three referendums and perhaps it servers a purpose but he’s doing it all wrong, this is divisive and is leaving too many low hanging fruit unattended to, no purpose is too superior as to subordinate the needs of the majority. Odinga unilaterally set arbitrary timelines and deadlines on BBI, and that is is the law of the land folks, what the Millions of Kenyans think is irrelevant. To President Kenyatta I say, whatever spell Raila Odinga cast on you, snap out of it. You cannot, in good conscience, narrow BBI’s scope, effectively exclude majority of us from the process by ignoring majority of the people’s input and still views, effectively close any meaningful debate or contributions by unilaterally imposing arbitrary deadlines on BBI and still expect us to support it, do you? Odinga has ruled out any changes to the BBI and insists that time has run out for any changes and that said those who insist on improving his BBI can bring their own amendments later. Let that sink in for a moment folks. Just like in 2010, Odinga has unilaterally imposed arbitrary timelines and a deadline on BBI that the rest of us, Millions of us MUST adhere to.
SUSPEND, REFINE AND PASS BBI
Constitutional changes in Kenya are not an emergency. Admittedly we need changes to the constitution but BBI as currently composed are not it. My analogy to BBI in its current state is that of CRUDE OIL. It is not ready for gas pumps and car tanks until and unless it is refined. Like crude oil, BBI is not yet ready for primetime, whereas taxpayers have already poured Billions in and ended up with essentially a verbose mid-grade cognitively dissonant thesis that still needs plenty of refining. Let us REFINE BBI and then pass it. To the two principals’ credit, BBI provides a framework we can work with, Billions have already been spent on it and so let’s not waste it. This is the time to improve it and make it work for as many Kenyans as possible, not just a few. This is not time for arbitrary deadlines but for diligent review and improvements. Again, we have NO emergency that necessitates that we pass BBI right away in its current raw form. Let us be reasonable and methodical, let’s not rush this process and make the same mistakes that were made in 2010. Already Odinga insists that we should pass BBI as is and whoever else that feels it is not right can start their own amendment initiatives at a later date but that is exactly why we MUST NOT rush this process. Odinga might be running out of time but Kenyans need a document that works for them, not just for Odinga. We are NOT beholden to him. Did he not learn from his past mistakes? We are cognizant of his need for self-preservation but we are more likely to acquiesce if our needs as a country are also included, right now BBI only caters for him and excludes most others, that’s too skewed and unfair.
This is not a rejection but a second chance, do not risk rejection by jamming it down our throats, if I were Mr. Odinga, I would seize the opportunity and turn this ZERO into a HERO. Embrace our views and incorporate them in the document after all isn’t this what it is supped to be about? We share views that are then curated and put to a vote? Why do you want to exclude our views? What harm do they portent to you or Kenyans? Do not be spiteful, do not dismiss us because if you do you would be provoking us to escalate this to higher levels including petitioning donors to halt any funding that could be used in the process. Be deliberative, conciliatory, and collaborative – do not shut us down; don’t take an adversarial stance on this but as a great opportunity to create partnership. Like Millions of Kenyans there are a few common-sense low hanging fruit items we have commonality that should be included in the BBI document.
The REAL CONSTITUTIONAL REVISIONS TO BBI THAT KENYANS WANT
In my opinion the Constitutional changes that Kenya needs can be classified into four major categories, a) Human Rights protections and guarantees ( patient Bill of rights, equal access and protection under the law i.e. no picking winners or losers); b) economic reforms (Tax and spend – balanced Budget amendment, an independent nationally coordinated economic council, better controls of local level spending i.e. strip counties of spending autonomy and replace with mandates and earmarks; c)Political Reform (preserve the integrity of the vote, IEBC independence, Vote Count and results dissemination, nominations, universal suffrage (diaspora), repeal academic requirements/elitism, if you can vote, you can lead, no more nominations, d) Administration of Justice reform, both civil (torts) and criminal. A major subset of these reforms is Kenya’s Diaspora who have been marginalized and ignored to too long and so let’s start there.
Time has come to end the long-standing deliberate marginalization of the country’s Diaspora. End the political lip service and empty rhetoric toward the Diaspora and actually treat the Diaspora community with the dignity and respect it so richly deserves. The Diaspora is commonly referred to as the 48th County and collectively contributes the largest amount to the national economy of an estimated 300 Billion shillings and a total economic impact of 1.5 Trillion annually, more than Tourism and Agriculture and yet the Diaspora is the most marginalized, ignored and disdained community of all Kenyan communities. We are taxed without representation and punished in so many way and levels just for living abroad but contributing to the nation’s growth. Politicians have absolutely no interest or will to honor their commitments to the Diaspora, they have shunned them and so the only recourse left is a constitutional mandate to serve the Diaspora interests. Diaspora’s needs are not outlandish like the two third gender rule for example, ours are common sense minimal and the constitution can easily solve with a) the creation of a cabinet level Ministry of Diaspora Affairs along with a formal well-funded Diaspora Secretariat that works hand in hand collaboratively to advance and promote the country and Diaspora Welfare and b) IMMEDIATE access to vote starting with diaspora voter registration and facilitation of voting.
Kenya has a dubious notoriety for human rights abuses that need immediate remediation. The ongoing pandemic should be a starting point to ensure Kenyans have equal protections and access under the law. To that end, here are the low-hanging protections we want included in the BBI:
- Patient Bill of Rights – Kenyans must be protected against abuses by hospitals and providers who prioritize profits over human lives. We have witnessed countless incidents where patients die agonizing deaths as hospitals and practitioners watch because families cannot afford “deposits” at the time patients are brought in. These people and entities MUST be constitutionally compelled to uphold a “basic standard of care” for patients during emergencies. They must be required to at the very minimum “Admit and stabilize” patients without regard to ability to pay. Left to their own devises these entities and providers’ practices and abuses will continue unabated and thousands of lives will be lost. Already a lot of lives have been lost in this COVID19 pandemic alone, enough is enough. Too many Kenyans are left to die needlessly at hospital entrances because hospitals’ greed trump patient care and unless mandated, they will continue to let Kenyans die by refusing to render aid. There must be constitutional protections backed by severe civil and criminal penalties as disincentives against medical facilities and providers to save lives. Equally there needs to constitutional provisions to protect the hospitals and providers’ interests that ensures they get compensated for saving lives. A national emergency fund for “Indigent and Medical emergency Care” that they can tap into for compensation. The bottom-line here is we need to protect and save lives.
- Birthright Citizenship – UNCONDITIONALLY RESTORE CITIZENSHIP. This is the Mwende Mwinzi/Miguna Miguna amendment. Citizenship is a BIRTHRIGHT that cannot be taken away by the state or anyone else, only the citizen can voluntarily opt out of citizenship via renunciation and yet the 2010 law that’s now being subjected to change stripped Kenyans of their citizenship and forced them to REAPPLY! Many Kenyans, particularly those of us in the Diaspora watched helplessly over the last several years and lamented at the manner in which our fellow citizen Miguna Miguna has been so mistreated by the state after falling out with government honchos as a result of swearing in, ironically, Raila Odinga as the “people’s president”. Miguna was stripped of birthright as a citizen and forcefully exiled to Canada. He protested, Kenyans – especially in the Diaspora stood with Miguna and protested profusely, courts ruled in his favor multiple times but in the end, it fell on tone deaf ears of the state. Raila Odinga never lifted a finger in aid Miguna. Mwende Mwinzi, a highly respected and accomplished Kenyan with impeccable qualifications to serve the country was denied an opportunity to serve the country as an ambassador to South Korea unless she renounced her American citizenship and Kenya lost. And now here we are with BBI supposed to remedy this and not even a mention. Naturally, we anticipated that any amendment(s) to the constitution would remedy this and protect citizens from the abuse and tyranny of the state. For those of us in the Diaspora this is our “irreducible minimums”.
- Ending Police Brutality & Malicious prosecutions – Equal access and protection under the law means no more brutality meted on Kenyans by the police force. Enough is enough. We need a definitive constitutional provision that not only expressly bars the state and police officers from invoking sovereign and qualified immunity but also enhanced civil and criminal penalties for their conduct. Police and state security agents must be held to a higher standard of conduct and care. No more unmitigated unrestrained abuses by a force acting as the law unto itself.
Kenya must put its economic house in order. Its fiscal and monetary policy are way out of kilter and is getting worse. Public corruption has exacerbated the problem, an estimated 30% of the government’s spending is swallowed by corruption; the annual deficits and the accruing debt are simply unsustainable and places the country in the debtor’s prison; the country’s financial management policies MUST necessarily change if the country stands a chance of averting an even worse crisis
- Balance the Budget – Revenues (not loans) and expenditures must match. The country must live within its means. The government cannot continue deficit spending in perpetuity. There needs to be a constitutional balanced budget provision that requires the national government to balance its budget i.e. spend only what it collects in taxes and fees. Truth is deficit spending not only saddles the country with unimaginable debt burden that has quadrupled to a staggering 8 Trillion shillings in the last eight years alone but also crowds out legitimate businesses from accessing capital to invest and expand job creating businesses. It also raises the cost of operating government and business because of the higher taxes the government must levy to pay the debt as well as higher interest costs borne by both the government and private enterprise competing for the same pool of funds.
- Fiscal Discipline and cut the wage bill – In line with the Balanced Budget provision above there must be discipline in spending. Tax and spend policies must be aligned. Accordingly, the government must tighten its belt by ending pork spending, recurrent expenditures such as wages, allowances and other emoluments must be reined in; cap wages at 25% of GDP and let those who think it is too low find suitable jobs elsewhere, pay must not be excessive- no more than 5 times the national median wage. End Kenya’s confiscatory tax regime that simply robs producers and gives to non-producers. Lower taxes to stimulate economic growth and grow the tax base. The government cannot tax Kenyans to prosperity but rather through lower individual and business tax. Spending must be reduced significantly. BBI entices counties with a 35% revenue share, this inducement misses the mark, methinks it is the wage bill that need to be capped at 30% of the national budget across the board. End excessive allowances i.e. seating allowances, grants to legislators, officials, and government employees. Cap pay of highest government official at 5 times the country’s median wage, if it’s too low they should find other lines of work in the private sector. Discretionary spending of allocated funds by County and local governments must STOP to mitigate corruption. In other words Counties can only spend on specifically pre-approved projected. Discretionary spending on local initiatives can only be from locally raised revenue.
- Streamline Monetary Policy– Formally task the Central Bank with the dual mandate of full employment and low inflation modelled after the United States. We have had the country’s leaders make innumerable “bench-marking” trips to the United States and if there is at least ONE thing they should have picked up on is how the US economy is run, this is one great tool the United States has used ever so effectively to manage its economy, a stable monetary policy run by the Central Bank. Let’s try that, write it into the constitution, literary less than two sentences.
- Independent nationally coordinated economic council – Kenya has been on an economic freefall for a while now and COVID19 has only exacerbated the problem. The country a coordinated economic council to give the country a competitive edge. We need to revive and sustain the economy that works for the common mwanainchi. The current uncoordinated hodgepodge economic policies have not worked for the country, we must change course.
We must have comprehensive reforms in our governance, not piece-meal. The proposed BBI reforms are shallow, misplaced and archaic. Real reforms must start with IMMEDIATE universal suffrage of all Kenyans by granting ALL of us equal access to the ballot box as voters and candidates:
- Immediate Universal Suffrage – End Diaspora disenfranchisement without further delay. The right to vote and access to the ballot box for all Kenyans was enshrined in the 2010 Constitution. After many years of lobbying and remonstrations Kenya’s diaspora was begrudgingly guaranteed access to the ballot but only on paper, we were told it would be gradual, “progressively” they said. Ten years later, Kenya’s Diaspora access to the ballot box remains a mirage; several court orders to the government to facilitate our voting has been ignored. The government has latched on to the “progressive” clause as a scapegoat to further disenfranchise the Diaspora access to the ballot box. Ironically, Raila Amolo Odinga, the so-called “father of democracy” and the primary sponsor of the 2010 constitution and now this BBI, prevailed on the government to deny and exclude the Diaspora from voting in 2017 because he believed that his Diaspora votes will be stolen. And just like that the Diaspora was once again disenfranchised, so when it suits him and advances his interests, he’s all in but if he thinks it doesn’t you are out of luck. That is the hypocrisy we are dealing with here at so many levels in this BBI, it is fraud, a charade, pretense, smokescreens, and a scam. They are not interested in the Diaspora’s rights, NEVER.
- Integrity of Vote Count and Transmission – Vote count and transmission of results of ALL elective office, from Ward representatives to the president positions i.e. MCAs, MPs, Senators, Governors and President, election results must be uniformly and simultaneously announced and broadcast from the polling stations and centers. The practice of withholding presidential election results and then transmitting them electronically to the IEBC tallying center simply leaves too much room for tampering and has in fact resulted in rigging and the attendant violence. Submission of election results must be uniform, concurrent, and independent of other reporting precincts and centers to prevent rigging.
- Independence of IEBC – Strengthen the independence of IEBC. BBI’s proposal to have IEBC managed by partisan commissioners is counterintuitive and a recipe for dysfunction and chaos. If you want to have an oversight commission that ensures IEBC’s independence, that is OK but that’s what parliament is for. Don’t embed partisans in the actual running of IEBC.
- End Security of tenure for Deputy President Position – The deputy president should be subject for removal with or without cause. In the unlikely event that a DP goes rogue like we have seen in the current government, a president must be able to dismiss his/her deputy to avoid dysfunction and paralysis of government operations. If there is anything we have learned from the follies of the 2010 constitution is the conduct of current deputy president William Ruto. The constitution guaranteed the Deputy President security of tenure with no meaningful safeguards against his/her excesses. We have seen an unprecedented rebellion against the president, insubordinations, arrogance and undermining of the president and government institutions by Ruto in the last eight years. The prevailing constitutional protections for the DP are counterintuitive and counterproductive and must be removed.
- Reduce the Size and scope of government – The current BBI proposes additional parliamentary seats. The obsession with increasing the size and scope of government only overburdens taxpayers. We need to reduce the number of representatives, not increase them. Scrap nominations to parliament and local governments, end two thirds gender rule for elective office
- Repeal the educational requirements for elective office – If you can vote you can lead, period. The constitutional requirements placed on Kenyans who wish to vie for elective office to obtain degrees and other diplomas is the antithesis of democracy. It disenfranchises voters and candidates alike by denying otherwise qualified Kenyans opportunities to vie for leadership positions and denies voters their right to vote for candidates of their choice. In Kenya’s experiment over the last ten years we have witnessed multiple instances of abuse and fraud whereby candidates fraudulently obtain degree and diploma certificates as well as fake educational papers to obtain clearance to run. This is unnecessary and needlessly corrupt. Additionally, the practice is cliquish, elitism, and discriminatory. It must be REPEALED.
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE REFORM:
Kenya desperately needs constitutionally mandated justice reform. We need to standardize the administration of justice, both civil and criminal so we have a fair and just system that works for everyone. A system that is free of the rampant inequities inherent in the current constitution, one that eliminates too much discretion and abuse of judicial authority. There are too many inordinate delays in the adjudication of cases that severely stifle the country’s economic development as the courts are clogged up with frivolous litigation. Similarly, too many innocent people are incarcerated and or imprisoned for disproportionately long prison sentences where the punishment doesn’t fit the crime all because judicial officers have too much discretion in the name of “independence judiciary”. For example, it wasn’t too long ago that a sub-chief in Busia was sentenced for 100 plus years for arson he didn’t commit but supposedly made incendiary and inflammatory statements. In another case, an elderly woman was convicted of murder because a suspect led police to human remains buried in her farm, and so on and so forth. We need to right these wrongs in this constitution.
- Tort Reform – Unclog the courts. Litigants (Plaintiffs) MUST be required to have standing before filing suits except in rare circumstances.
- Criminal Justice Reform – Capital offenses and major felonies must be adjudicated by a jury/assessors of at least
By David Ogega
Ingenious or fraud? Demystifying the BBI – End the Charades: Suspend, Refine, then PASS BBI