What is all the fuss with BBI?

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) has dominated the news headlines in Kenya. It has been responsible for creating party and ideological divisions. Equally, various people have blamed the BBI for the cold relationship between the president and his deputy. In today’s post, we look at the BBI, understand why the main protagonists of the project are pushing for a referendum. However, for those who are oblivious to national politics, I will discuss the BBI in brief as it has been subject to various publications.

Understanding the BBI

The BBI came up as a result of the coming together of two competitors: Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta. They agreed to shake hands and unite a country that was on the brink of war on 9 March 2018. This unity is commonly known as the handshake. Subsequently, they constituted a team to collect views on what changes Kenyans would want to see in the government. They divided heir work into nine thematic areas that included looking into ethnicity, divisive elections, among many other things.

As such, the main aim of the project was to identify some of the main issues that affected Kenyans and would provide some recommendations. Once the project was complete, Mr. Uhuru and Mr. Odinga engaged in a publicization drive where they went round “informing” people about the building bridges initiative. Some of the BBI recommendations require a referendum. A faction of Kenyans and politicians has rejected a referendum. We will look at their objections in a moment. In today’s post, we will try to understand why the major proponents are pushing for a referendum. But first, let us see what the opponents of the project have to say.

Not all that glitters is gold.

Not everyone received the BBI well. Some have seen it as a means by some politicians to ascend to power. They also argue that there are more pressing things that the country needs to deal with: such as youth employment and healthcare. Thus, we should prioritize allocating resources to more pressing needs. The BBI opposers refer to themselves as tanga tanga and hustlers. The question of whether the tag fits them is debatable.

Why we need a referendum

Despite its many proposals, what has captured the imagination of many Kenyans is the need for a referendum. In essence, to implement some of them, we need to amend the Constitution, thus a referendum. Such proposals include the formation of regional blocs and the creation of the Prime-Minister’s office.

The Kenyan Constitution is an ironclad


The Kenyan Constitution is an ironclad and provides for amendment procedures. Specifically, Chapter 16 Outlines the various constitutional provisions that require a referendum for amendment. Article 255 provides instances where we have to conduct a referendum: they include if an amendment proposes to alter the objects, principles, and structure of devolved government. The proposal to create regional governments alters the structure of county governments. It falls under the ambit of Article 255, thus a referendum.

Unfortunately, despite having the constitutional backing, the question of whether the BBI will address Kenya’s problems is debatable. Don’t get me wrong; some of the BBI proposals are commendable. For example, the proposal to increase funding to counties will help the marginalized counties. Strengthening healthcare and security will help many Kenyans. However, The Legal Analytica takes a different view.

Right vehicle, wrong driver

As seen above, some of the BBI proposals, if implemented, will go a long way in solving Kenyan problems. However, the drivers leading us to the BBI Canaan do not have the best interest of Kenyans at heart. Specifically, campaigns and media reports are fixated on the creation of regional blocs and the Prime-Minister’s position. They argue that this will ensure the proper representation of all Kenyans. However, if you dig deeper, the leadership positions created will only help a minority few. (The BBI protagonists). The main goal should not be the creation of new posts, but accepting election results and implementing proposals in healthcare, job creation, and security that will help the common mwananchi.

The drivers leading us to the BBI Canaan do not have the best interest of Kenyans at heart.


Lessons from Brexit

In any case, the Brexit referendum and its aftermath can offer Kenyans some lessons. (Click here to read a detailed article I wrote on the topic) Major takeaways include: although a referendum is an exercise of direct democracy, it is never that direct. Article 1 of the Constitution provides that all sovereignty(power) belongs to the people and can be exercised directly or through their representatives. However, these representatives have sway over people’s decisions, and they vote based on the leader’s recommendations. The same case happened during the Brexit vote where people voted “leave” not for economic reasons, but due to political influence.

Therefore, we should not allow politicians to fool us; they decide our will. Besides, the country is reeling from a pandemic. We should prioritize helping individuals and businesses get back on their feet.

Do you want us to interpret anything? Email us at [email protected] and we will surely get at it.

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