There is renewed hope that a referendum based on the Building Bridges Initiative report will deliver the Kenya we want.
The presumption is that there is sufficient will to broker a Constitution that will redeem the country from the culture of bad manners eloquently captured in the report.
But will the process be people-driven enough to address the task forces 23 ‘notable issues that Kenyans must deal with’?
Is the country ready to face the ghosts of the past in readiness for a united and inclusive nation with a responsive government accountable to the people? What will be different this time?
Kenyan’s have a fundamental weakness: The ability to endure heartbreak. Not the romantic kind, (perhaps, that too) but the knack for enduring repeat cycles of roller coaster political rides to nowhere, wrought in broken promises.
Aware of this weakness, politicians have perfected the art of subverting every opportunity to rewrite history.
Three missed opportunities stand out: The 2002 general election which ushered the popularly elected Narc government that collapsed; the misfired implementation of the National Accord and Reconciliation Agreement that followed the 2007 post-election violence and the harmonised review draft mutilated by politicians in Naivasha before the Constitution was promulgated in 2010.
Leaders, powered by vested interests, have always used subterfuge to manipulate and slow down the reform process.
But there is a contradiction. Despite the social and economic gloom, a Global Optimism Outlook Survey of November 2019, found that Kenyans are the most optimistic people in Africa and among the top in the world.
How, when every street corner conversation is seething with lamentations about corruption, unemployment, poor services and the rising cost of living? Maybe Kenyans direct their anger at fellow citizens through crime, violence and femicide.
Perhaps, there is a positive energy resulting from diversionary, feel-good antics such as sharing memes on social media including the sensational talk for married couples that stole the thunder from the BBI launch.
Or are Kenyan’s so broken by the consequences of their choices and only remain optimistic about making change in their own lives, families and communities?
Whatever the case, a glaring lapse in the BBI report gives Kenyan’s enough reason to brace for more heartache. It fails to address process — how the ‘bottom-up national conversation’ will translate into the anticipated ‘national consensus.’
The architects of the BBI, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga, are yet to explain who will harness the views of the public and how the views will be insulated from political machinations to ensure the will of the people reigns this time round.
Already impatient politicians are angling for control. A meeting of Mt Kenya region leaders in Embu on Friday backed a parliamentary process rather than a ‘costly’ referendum.
The Kieleweke brigade is busy claiming victory and campaigning for BBI’s adoption while the subdued Tanga Tanga is demanding a voice at the table. Without a clearly defined process, we can brace for nothing less than a highly contentious circus.
The chaos will be spearheaded by people who cannot measure up to a single clause of Chapter Six of the Constitution on Leadership and Integrity. These barons of vice will grace the ballot in 2022 and win to share the spoils of the review process, and the cycle continues. — The writer is a journalist, writer and communication practitioner