BBI Initiative: Proposals by Kenyan Diaspora

Published on 21st January 2020

The Kenyan diaspora feels that the extension of the BBI mandate presents them with the opportunity to table their proposals and recommendations before the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). This comes hot on the heels of President Uhuru Kenyatta's announcement of the extension of the taskforce in readiness for a constitutional referendum.

The BBI, whose extended mandate was gazetted by the president gives Kenyans a second opportunity to analyze any potential oversight and failure of the BBI task force to exhaustively capture issues that should have been included in the initial report.

The Diaspora National Assembly (DNA) in collaboration with Kenya Patriotic Movement (KEPAM), both diaspora organizations that endeavour to bring Kenyans living abroad together; for purposes of creating economic, political and social awareness has come up with radical proposals to the BBI team.

Among the radical recommendations is a proposal barring any Kenyan found guilty by a court of law on charges of corruption, abuse of power or criminal offense from any elective or appointed position. A notable personality who may be affected by this proposal is Deputy President William Ruto, who was found guilty of acquiring Mr. Adrian Muteshi's land in Turbo after 2007 general election.

Additionally, in order to effectively fight graft, all appointed and elected officials charged with corruption MUST step aside without pay and privileges associated with their position, pending conclusion of cases in court and their bail set at 50% of the amount of missing or stolen.

"Allowing people with questionable ethical values to hold any office in the country is perpetuating impunity and destroying the country," Says Dr. Isaac Kinungu Gitau, who is also the President of DNA USA.

Kenyans in the diaspora also propose the creation of a Diaspora Constituency that will handle matters diaspora and highlight issues faced by Kenyans living abroad in parliament.

To fully address the many challenges that face the diaspora, they propose that a Ministry of Diaspora Affairs be created and headed by one of them, similar to that of Israel and India. Both India and Israel have a well-established and organized diaspora that significantly contributes to the national exchequer and fully contributes to the development of their country. The flourishing medical tourism industry in India is a product of the Indian Diaspora.

In order to fully avail themselves in the service of their motherland, Kenyans in the diaspora propose the removal of the Clause in the 2010 Constitution that bars holders of dual citizenship from holding and running for public office in the level a State officer.

Mr. Joseph Lister Nyaringo, the President of Kenya Patriotic Movement (KEPAM), terms the clause archaic and discriminatory and a violation of their birthright. He compares it to having classes or levels of birthright citizens.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010, Chapter 3 (14) (1) provides that a person is a Citizen if at the time of birth when either parent was Kenyan. If indeed the constitution is right, then Dr. Miguna Miguna is right, because he is a Kenyan citizen by birth. Mwenda Mwinzi is right because one of her parents is Kenyan. Sen. Ted Cruz was born in Canada to a Cuban dad and an American Mother. He is an American by birth.

The general perspective of Kenyans living abroad is that Kenya has a bloated legislature. "What is the logic in a nation of about 50 million people having 425 elected representatives in both chambers?" wondered Ms. Edith Kariuki, a concerned Kenyan in the US.

According to many Kenyans, this is one area where BBI can borrow from "Ondoa Mzigo." This can be achieved by abolishing women Representative positions, fusing constituencies and using nomination slots to ONLY fulfill the 1/3 gender rule

Following many cases of incompetence at the county level, and to curb the nomination of academic dwarfs to the cabinet, the diaspora proposes that a bachelor's degree from a reputable institution of higher learning, be the minimum requirement for all Cabinet Secretaries, MCAs and MPs.  Another key proposal to BBI from the Diaspora is a requirement for all legislators to clock in and out to boost accountability and efficiency in parliament. Additionally, they propose that a Prime Minister MUST be an elected member of Parliament and not a nominated Member of parliament.

Dr. Frankline Onchiri of Seattle US, wonders why the Diaspora voting rights according to Section 38 (3) (a), of the constitution is never utilized to serve its purpose. The continued denial by the current administration of the right to vote and/or stand for election is in violation of the Supreme law. Indeed, Kenyans have another chance to strengthen the diaspora voting rights through the BBI in order to ensure that, come 2022, Kenyans living abroad will get a chance to exercise their universal suffrage.

According to Prof. Luke Nyakiti, a member of the DNA taskforce, redundant and dysfunctional county ministries should be abolished. He Points out that there is little value for Nairobi and Mombasa counties to have the Ministries of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries. In his opinion, Counties should only have ministries that are relevant to their regions and should not duplicate those performed by the National government.

To conclude, the Diaspora proposes that, whilst members of Parliament and any other constitutional bodies may wish to raise their salaries and allowances, a clause should be introduced that says such increases can only be realized by the next Parliament. This will deter greed and selfishness, as is the case with the US Congress and State Assemblies.

Finally, the diaspora believes that members of the Senate who are lawyers should not represent county officers in a court of law who are mentioned in graft cases. According to Albert Musasia, Chief Whip, and organizing Diaspora National Assembly and SG, Kenya Patriotic Movement, "it's a conflict of interest and a violation of trust entrusted by wananchi for senators to defend governors mentioned in defrauding counties."

By Joseph Lister Nyaringo and Albert Obulukhu Musasia

Nyaringo and Musasia are representatives of two Diaspora lobby groups based in the US and Europe

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