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A Theological consideration of the maligned BBI and possibilities for enhancing national stability

As a formula for sustainable peace and development, BBI should be seen as an attempt to win the war without fighting

When Hon. Raila Odinga was interviewed by Citizen TV on August 25, 2020, he stated that the “BBI is a rescue operation to forestall imminent civil war in Kenya.” Viewed this way, the BBI is an attempt at national reconciliation in order to forestall imminent chaos.

Ideas like the much-maligned BBI are not new in history. This is clear in the Bible. As early as the first century AD, Paul of Tarsus came out with the idea of “the ministry of reconciliation,” urging his followers to reconcile regarding any conflict between them.

In military terms, reconciliation is called a truce or ceasefire and it is regarded as a better alternative to war. Reconciliation is the aim of BBI, so the best way to understand it is to do so synonymously with reconciliation.

BBI could mean winning the War without Fighting

A Chinese principle of war states that one can ‘win a war without fighting.’ This implies the use of other methods such as diplomacy, friendship and prayer to resolve differences and to avoid conflict. From what I read in the first BBI report, the initiative is aimed at winning a war in order to avoid fighting. In this sense, Kenyans should congratulate President Uhuru and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga for starting the BBI because it just might end up ‘winning the war without fighting,’ which is the shortest and cheapest means of winning a war by resolving differences amicably.

BBI and its Sincerity

For a lasting result, reconciliation must be sincere, true and free from hypocrisy, self-deception or hidden agenda. The Kenya Cooperative movement have an analogy for conflict resolution: Two cows tied with one short rope around their necks and two heaps of grass on opposite sides. The cows strived to reach the feed, each pulling the other, but none could reach the feed because the rope was too short. Finally, they came to their senses and agreed to eat one heap together first then go to the other. In conflict, the cows remained hungry. In reconciliation, each of them could feed.

The principle behind BBI is positive. Reconciliation is victory over pride and prejudice, fear and doubt, suspicion and embarrassment; resulting in courage, wisdom, foresight, insight and discernment. In political terms, the superficial interpretation of BBI could be a ploy for deceit. However, from a philosophical perspective, the concept could be a good principle for development with the fundamental intention of stopping further damage to our economy and security due to political tensions. A genuine BBI can serve as a warning against simple mindedness. For lack of a philosophical base and due to an inaccurate and simplistic approach to its true meaning and interpretation, Kenya lost a great principle – the economic development spirit of Harambee. This spirit of “pulling together in the same direction” built the foundation that created our nation. However, we killed it and with it, the prosperity and economic independence that would have resulted in protecting the synergy of Harambee.

Genuine BBI can advance Devolution

A sincere spirit of BBI can be the most accurate and timely interpretation of the philosophy of devolution, and could become one of the three major policies Kenya has ever made after 1963 independence: Harambee, Devolution and now BBI. The current rapid development in Kenya is a result of devolution. The technical meaning of devolution and the era of New Dispensation is an affirmation of Kenya’s maturity to do away with specializing in the emotion of trivialities and gullibility of bodily appetites. Through devolution, Kenya is now entering into the tough love of chewing the bones of wisdom, intellectualism, reasoning, science and technology, education, culture and civilization; instead of drinking the milk of empty celebrations. This mindset amounts to saying to ourselves: Kwaheri to the past Kenya of Corruption, as we advance into a Kenya of integrity, respect of our values, professional ethics, honoring our laws and obeying our rules, regulations and living out the specifications of our professions

Genuine BBI can serve as Kenya’s Universal Principle of Development:

The hidden power of our constitution implies that once the President issues an edict on any matter, by virtue of being the President, all other related matters, at all levels of society, should comply. BBI therefore, is a universal principle in Kenya, which should go beyond politics to social and economics; cleansing Kenya of all its infirmities and so, allowing a fresh and cleansed promulgation of our Constitution towards true devolution.

BBI can be a Weapon against Corruption

In Kenya today, the meaning of corruption is blatant stealing that drastically influences our decision-making mechanism in all national affairs. It has led to deep wounds of betrayal from substandard medical treatment, denial of promotions for qualified candidates, examination failure due to negligence of school officials, poor access roads and more, factors that continue to result in injustice, disease, ignorance and poverty. BBI should critically review the outcomes of impunity and unfair distribution of national resources and so help declare corruption a national enemy.

BBI and the Phenomenon of Acting out of Principles

Acting out of a principle results in multiple solutions to a problem or answers to a question. It does not lead to any one answer, thus making the error of parallax: viewing an object from different angles, hence getting different images of the object. BBI proponents must stand on one level ground to view Kenya and to see one Kenya in order to make One Resolution out of BBI. This suggests an understanding of our constitution and a stern punishment for law breaking. The pending cases in our courts result in acting out of legal principles have created many conflicting resolutions in one case. Corruption, tribalism and impunity thrives on Acting out of Principles. This awareness alone should ignite a fire of courage to claim all the rights of acting within principles of law, economic, social and religious foundations.

BBI and the Principle of Creative Tension

This principle states that, once you have discovered the solution to a problem and identified the means to correct the same, it is important to maintain the speed of resolution until the issue is solved. The common saying: “forward ever and backwards never,” ascribes to this adage. Now that the BBI has identified the solution to perennial political squabbling and the brief periods of political peace we experience between national elections, we need to sacrifice all we can to maintain that tension. Rapid development results in observing this principle. Indeed, Singapore and the Great Tigers of the Far East stuck on this attitude. They realized that the war against poverty fulcrums on the law of creative tension.

BBI and the Secret of 3Qs

The three Qs stand for Quality, Quantity and Quantum Leaps. Quality refers to high excellence in production. Quantity denotes large quantities in our production while Quantum Leaps signifies our ability to maintain positive change, rising from one level of development to the higher one. This is how Europe achieved the Industrial Revolution. Quantum Leaps has to do with the time interval between a problem and its solution. The problem, in our case, is corruption and tribalism and the leadership capacity that is needed for sustainable development. Corruption and tribalism have been with us for too long and final sustainable solutions are not forthcoming.

BBI and Leadership Relationships

Kenyan leadership is riddled with informal attitudes, the absence of no-nonsense leadership. Bureaucracy, authority and power are some of the central factors needed in any Government leadership. The absence of governance in government activities results in chaos and corruption. This is where weak leadership is usurped by management, thus creating a situation which begins to replace weak governance with personal ulterior motives. Quietly, the leadership or owners of government are bribed by management or its owners into financial lures, thus robbing the leader of the governance role that demands inspection, supervision and questioning of financial mismanagement. This is the root of corruption in government – fake friendship and the blurring boundaries instead of formality or officialdom between the elected and the appointed. The elected are the representatives of the citizens within the government. Leaders lead, managers follow. The role of leaders is to supervise, inspect and oversight the civil servants. When this political, social and economic distance is broken through internal corruption of civil servants bribing the elected, the leaders, are as it were, bullied by civil servants and so lose faith in their professionalism, hence becoming morally decadent and moving towards nihilism. This is an evil and dangerous relationship. Kenya should make every effort to normalize the true working relationship between the owner and the steward of the government.

BBI and its Highlights for Discussion

A critical reading of the BBI draft documents released earlier, reveals a lot of leader-lesseness in the Government and in our communities. Apart from the Proposed Political Structures, which claims, in my assessment, 30% of the document, the rest is simply normal Civil Service Administrative issues. These should be confined to directives from the Chief of Staff in the Office of the President to Civil Servants. Administrative issues have no legal implications to warrant major changes in the constitution, although the constitution can be changed to make something right. Indeed, the Ndegwa, Ndung’u and other commissions contain findings and recommendations for action and observance. These recommendations do not need a BBI, but simply, decisive authoritative action. The Civil Servants’ unlawful sitting allowances and other malpractices are purely maintained by the laxity of the Cabinet and Civil Service questionable relationships. Elected leaders must represent the electorate with greater firmness, commitment and professionalism.

BBI and its Theological Interpretation

Whenever a problem remains in a society beyond a certain period, say a decade, the wisdom of seeking help elsewhere becomes necessary. Repeated political tensions in every election in Kenya suggest the presence of a deeper problem in our leadership and inability to locate, define and dislodge corruption from within civil service and society in general. Can the BBI succeed where all else has failed? In Christianity, BBI may be aiming at some form of reconciliation – a process that begins with confession and proceeds to repentance, forgiveness, restitution, reconciliation, restoration and finally, healing. The most critical stage in our context is restitution and reconciliation – two inseparable steps and the lasting result to our recurring election wars. Restitution or restorative justice becomes necessary before reconciliation can occur. Reconciliation results in making good the wrongs done. Restitution or compensation is the legal requirement for justice. The one hurting must pay penalty to the one wounded. Reconciliation or BBI can only occur when restitution or debt owed is fully paid. This is the test the parties involved in BBI must pass for the initiative to be fully consummated.

Passing the test of restitution will prove to Kenyans the validity of the BBI for this Nation – not through political emotion, gimmicks, threats or intimidations, but through getting in touch with true needs of Kenyans. There must be sincere, honest, accurate, conviction with persuasion of facts, figures and researched information. One of the questions BBI must answer regards the usurping of political powers by cartels. This anomaly has created a leadership vacuum due to the power of corruption within the government. Civil Servants openly bribe elected leaders, thus silencing governance and allowing dishonesty to thrive unabated.

Reconciliation guarantees inner change that forms reliable, trusted and dependable leadership character. To this end, I wish to appeal to religious leadership to unitedly call believers together to consider a Religious BBI that will bring spiritual healing to the many wounded through the years, even as politicians continue with their version of BBI. This religious act can set an example for politicians to emulate.

Finally: A Nation Goes on a Retreat

In the context of this article, a retreat is not a conference, convention, seminar, workshop or referendum, but a deliberate confrontation with our main national enemy – corruption. The word retreat, is a religious and military term that means “to withdrawal from the battlefield for re-examination.” When an army repeatedly loses in battle, it withdraws into isolation for consultation. The force faces itself mercilessly, asking honest, sincere and difficult questions regarding its continuous defeat. The self-confrontation asks: “Where is our weakness? Are our weapons inferior to those of our enemy? Are we conversant with the use of our weapons? Is our leadership smart? Could there be traitors among us?” With thoroughness and accuracy, the army creates a principle to guide them to one solution to the problem, then they act, united together, with direction and creative tension.

This is the BBI I am proposing: A National Retreat to face our archenemy Corruption, that has disguised itself as friend, but is, in fact, an enemy – wreaking havoc and destroying the very foundations of our nationhood

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