President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga were avowed political enemies for more than five years. In 2013, Mr Odinga believed Jubilee’s win was undeserved and petitioned the Supreme Court. He lost.
A similar situation played out in 2017. This time, the Supreme Court nullified President Kenyatta’s win and called for a fresh election. The opposition boycotted the repeat poll, allowing Uhuru to romp home. The ensuing buildup of tension was, mercifully, defused by the March 9, 2018 handshake between Uhuru and Raila. The handshake gave birth to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) from which we derive vital lessons.
First is that leaders can rise above narrow party politics; that at times we lose to gain; that Kenya is bigger than all of us with much stronger ties than the political class acknowledges; that we should not take too seriously the exaggerated differences between politicians.
Their interests are not necessarily the interests of the public. Citizens must appreciate that peace and tranquillity are an irreducible minimum for economic growth and prosperity. Kenya would better if all of us pulled together; there is enough space for all to thrive.
Yet, going by the events of the last few months, it is easy to conclude that BBI is a poisoned chalice. It seems to be achieving the direct opposite of what its architects sought to correct by creating divisiveness and rancourous politicking. Though agreeing in principle that reforms are needed to reduce the premium attached to political leadership and to ensure a more inclusive society, it is a shame that politicians seem to disagree on whose truth the people ought to believe.
Make no mistake, this newspaper believes in constructive debate, especially on issues of national importance. We abhor the absence of an opposition and objective reasoning.
Though the BBI report is a fairly decent document, it harbours many shortcomings and offers mundane, tried and tested solutions. It does not propose the radical departure from the norm that people envisaged, hence the need for further consultations. In the end, it skirted the issues that are a drag to growth and prosperity, denying the country a chance for a clean break from the past.
For example, we had hoped that this would include reforms that would shake up the economy and evenly spread the prosperity pie, making the rise up social classes easier and, with enough effort, guaranteed.
Second, at the centre of the Uhuru and Raila dispute was the conduct of elections. NASA believed it was a stitch up. Raila even branded the president and his deputy William Ruto ‘vifaranga vya computer’.
The solution offered by the BBI task force is, quite frankly, disappointing. These are just two pointers of what really was an underwhelming attempt to get things right.
Opening up the report for discussion once again should lead to broader consensus on the issues that really matter. Sadly, it has offered politicians and their surrogates another chance to poison the political climate. That should not be allowed to happen.
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