Yash Pal Ghai pens plea for Kenyans to reject BBI and stick to yet unfulfilled promises of 2010 New Constitution

Update: See “Selfish political elite at heart of push to change supreme law” also by Yash Ghai.

To understand the role of Ghai in the movement for constitutional reform in Kenya, see Seema Shah’s great five part time series in The Elephant last year.

During the BBI process but before the release of the BBI Report, Ghai made clear that he had throughout been a proponent of a parliamentary system and devolution, that he had no particular objection to making amendments as a result of the BBI process and that he supported the introduction of the office of Prime Minister.

This is all important background to understand the weight of his concerns in The Star last week:

GHAI: Please, Kenyans reject the false promise of BBI.

. . . .

It was this sort of conflict between the Kikuyu and the Luo that prompted the Handshake and the BBI.

Ironically, BBI has aggravated the situation, as we see, instead of solving many problems through the Constitution, as Raila Odinga and Uhuru saw and committed themselves to (an issue on which his staff consulted me).

They went far enough to identity nine major social and ethnic problems that could have been resolved within the Constitution —  swore to do so.

But soon after, they came up with the extraordinary scheme of the BBI, expensive and as it turned out productive of further conflict.

Under the current Constitution, political parties do still play major roles in Kenya’s governance.

The people indicated what they wanted in the 2010 Constitution. It was hardly necessary to go back to the people.

But the BBI is more consistent with the arrogance of politicians. I wonder if Uhuru and Raila see the consequences of moving to a Constitution in which the leaders of every ethnic group (in practice major five or so tribes) will dominate the country.

This is not the occasion to review in detail the failings of their proposal.

Here it is enough to remind ourselves of the enormous difficulties that the new constitutional system will generate — and the extreme difficulty of making work the proposed system of government with a multiplicity of senior posts.

They are taking away from the people the Constitution which they made and cherish even though our politicians never gave them the chance to become its beneficiaries.

. . . .

Why not focus on how we can help the people to achieve what the objectives they have long wanted — even since Independence.

They had told the CKRC (Constitution of Kenya Review Commission) at the length of their wishes, perhaps hopes too.

. . . .

Kenyans have realised little of these aspirations. I am sorry to say that the people are in fact worse off.

Why? Because politicians took over. Their agenda was different from that of the people, focusing on their own needs — which have required enormous sums of state money.

As we know, they have done little for the people, despite knowing well what they wanted and what the Constitution promises them.

The champions of BBI were there in that process and Raila played a crucial role. Has he now lost confidence in his great work? Uhuru did not pay much attention, and his ignorance of the Constitution may have persisted.

Please Kenyans, reject the false promise of BBI.