*BBI has to be about … we, the people*
BBI’s original aims as articulated at inception were noble. Back then, it was about finding a lasting solution to violence that occurs when presidential poll results are contested outside the limits of our fine constitution. BBI, at inception, was therefore a national unity project.
Unfortunately BBI has morphed into a political project that may undermine the original aims. The main political thrust of BBI now seems to be to mobilise the country to prepare it for a referendum. And the hurried manner in which some want us to carry out this referendum is not only reckless, it is alarming.
It is alarming because we must bear in mind that a referendum is only necessary if one seeks to alter fundamental provisions of the constitution. These provisions provide important safeguards that are central to good governance. These provisions protect our system of checks and balances, i.e. by ensuring that no branch of government succeeds in the unwarranted acquisition of power, so as to then dominate the others. These provisions, therefore, prevent the reintroduction of imperial tyranny – without regard to the branch of government that is proposing to introduce such tyranny.
It must therefore become patently clear that the constitution is too important a document to be treated casually, as some now invite us to do. Those seeking to amend key provisions really need to engage in a rethink. They must think about the broader impact to what appear to be half-baked measures. They must think in terms of decades, if not centuries. They must think, not only of their children or grand children, but also of the unborn generations of Kenyans. And they must bear in mind that Kenya’s constitution should not be amended to suit individual whims or to further political ambitions. This is what we did in the ‘60s and we suffered greatly as a nation because of such casualness of approach. We should really learn from our own history – so that we avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
Moreover, we should also learn from the history of other nations. One such nation is those United States. Their constitution is now more than 200 years old, yet the Americans have only ratified 27 amendments. ALL of these amendments, without exception, have either given more liberties to the American people or checked the powers of the American government. The Americans are acutely aware that *the fundamental purpose of a republican form of government is to keep imperial tyranny at bay.* A republican form of government, as Abraham Lincoln put it, is _”a government of the people, by the people, for the people.”_
BBI’s important dialogue on governance must not overlook the sentiments expressed by President Uhuru. For last week, he reminded ALL Kenyans that _”political power pursued for its own sake will not make us the great nation we want to become.”_ Political power, within the context of a republic, must be fashioned as a vehicle for delivering economic empowerment to the ordinary citizens. As Kenyans, we must therefore bring to an end this obsession we have with creating powerful executive positions or with sharing power within the executive. For if power really must be shared, then let it be shared with we, the people – for this is what the American experience teaches. Rather than created more powerful executive positions, let us create many more empowered Kenyans. For this is how we shall build a better republic.
In closing. *We, the people must now begin to ask tougher questions of the referendum promoters.* We must encourage them, and I dare say even compel them, to put their country first. We must insist that they engage more openly on this matter and desist with any form of political dishonesty. We must remind them that we place such demands on them because Article 3 first places such demands on us. Indeed, Article 3 places these very same demands upon them, for like us, they are citizens of this beloved republic.
We, the people, have a duty to speak bluntly and speak boldly about matters republic. We have a duty to defend the principles of our present constitutional dispensation, particularly where present liberties are concerned. We, the people must remain a free people. And so, this is the context within which we must defend the constitution. For in the final analysis, when we defend the constitution, we are also defending this beloved republic.
And so my friends, we must defend the republic of Kenya. This is the highest duty we have as citizens of this beloved republic.
_Nchi yetu ya Kenya_
_Tuwe tayari kuilinda._