One of the most distinctive features of modern architecture is its accessibility for people with disabilities. Building malls, apartment complexes and offices barrier-free is fortunately becoming standard nowadays in Kenya too. This is important so that we can include more of our brothers and sisters into the social fabric of our nation, and benefit from their talents and contributions.
To create a barrier-free world is a human instinct almost as old as the drive to survive. Some of the oldest human milestones are mountain passes on ridges that separated territories, and early settlements were often built at points where rivers were easy to cross. Bridges, crossing the natural barrier that is a river, were crucial in development of societies around the globe, for the exchange of ideas and goods.
Even the pope, the leader of the Catholic Church, is called “Pontifex maximus,” which translates to “the supreme builder of bridges.” While historically the title of pontifex was given to priests of ancient Rome considered the bridge between mankind and God, it is used nowadays to describe a bishop of the Catholic Church.
Dirty power games
Thus, the act of building bridges, whether between ancient tribes so they could trade or between Man and God, is a fundamental one for us humans. The Greek philosopher Aristotle already coined Man as a “social animal” by nature, so bridges fulfill a natural need and desire for social exchange. This social exchange is the basis for functioning of any society.
That’s why the name of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is so aptly chosen. While handshakes can be held across a barrier, to overcome that barrier, a bridge is better suited. A bridge is the consequence of an earnest handshake between former rivals. The name BBI already shows that President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Odinga Raila were sincere when they proclaimed their wish of cooperation for a better and more prosperous future.
While some politicians believe that only building barriers around one’s own tribe will secure them power and influence, Uhuru and Raila have turned their back on tribalism of the past. They have put Kenyans first, disregarding the old and dirty power games. The task-force went around the country and listened to citizens. There was no favouritism and no discrimination.
Instead of fuelling issues that divide us, the BBI focuses on solutions to change our system; answers that will strengthen our unity. From the fight against corruption to the advancement of devolution – all these crucial issues can only be tackled by a firm, united approach. Our leaders thus must agree on an inclusive outlook for our country.
The BBI has already succeeded in building initial bridges between formerly deeply opposed camps. It is said that majority of leaders and parties support the ideas the taskforce is putting together in one document right now. Kanu and Gideon Moi, Amani National Congress and Musalia Mudavadi, the Wiper Democratic Movement and Kalonzo Musyoka, and many more – this is a level of united support which Kenya perhaps has not seen since its struggle for independence.
It appears that time is ripe for all of us to get behind the handshake, and use the bridges built by BBI to cross the Rubicon towards a more united, prosperous future.
Kenya already enjoys decent economic growth. And history teaches us that the only time our growth has been negative was in 2017, as a result of electoral violence. Divisiveness is disastrous. We therefore must unite to avoid these unnecessary wounds which hurt every Kenyan family, no matter their tribe or political affiliation.
The only way to achieve this is to come together and change the current system to a more inclusive one. A change that enjoys the support the broad support of all Kenyans. This task falls upon all of us.
The BBI shouldn’t be the only initiative building bridges. I strongly recommend that each and every one of us should take it upon itself to read up on the nine points and then go out, build a bridge to your neighbour or your fellow church-member and then follow the way of our president: Sit down and discuss with them how we can create a better, more united Kenya.
- The writer is an architect and comments on topical issues.
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