From the outset, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report unveiled by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga was meant to unite Kenyans regardless of their political beliefs or persuasion.
It was a perfect vehicle through which challenges identified in the nine-point agenda were to be tackled to save the country electoral chaos after every five years, endemic corruption and other ills.
The two leaders were clear its agenda was to initiate a national conversation on cohesion, inclusivity and a shared prosperity. These sentiments were further echoed by all leaders who spoke during the unveiling of the report at Bomas of Kenya last year.
This explains why Kenyans backed the President when he extended the BBI term and announced that citizens had another chance to interrogate the document and make recommendations.
The President further announced that a national convention would be held in January to address contentious proposals and thereafter a committee of legal experts would be constituted to prepare the final draft Bill.
At Bomas, all leaders present, including Deputy President William Ruto, made it clear that they supported the BBI process. But of late politicians across the political divide have hijacked the BBI and turned it into a political campaign for 2022.
This was evident in Bukhungu Stadium, Kakamega where the leaders sent signals that the BBI was the ideal vehicle for Raila to ascend to the presidency. Curiously, the government demonstrated its might by blocking other leaders allied to Ruto from holding their meeting at Nabongo Grounds in Mumias to air their views regarding the BBI.
A week earlier state machinery was deployed to ensure a BBI meeting in Kisii and attended by Raila was successful. The leaders present also used the meeting to drum up for Raila’s 2022 presidential bid. It was clear that the leaders were sending signals to Ruto that he is unwanted and the BBI is the vehicle that will put to rest his ambition to lead the country after Uhuru.
From the foregoing, it is clear the agenda of the BBI has been hijacked to pursue narrow political interests. In the Kakamega and Kisii meetings, there was no mention of how the BBI would address the most contentious issue that has been the trigger of election violence - skewed land distribution. In the two meetings, there was no voice on how to tackle one of the biggest headache the President has repeatedly lamented about - the bloated Public Service wage bill.
Also, no leader gave a proposal on how the BBI would address overrepresentation which remains a challenge. None of the speakers gave a hint on when the BBI final report will be given to the public to read as pledged by the President and Raila.
As Farmers Party, we believe that the BBI sensitisation forums are going against the wishes of the President and Raila when they shook hands at the corridors of Harambee House on March 9, 2018.
The meetings are a departure from the nine-point agenda of ending ethnic division; inclusivity; how to solve polarising elections; safety and security; how to deal with corruption; how to deal with lack of national ethos; responsibility and rights; shared prosperity and enhancing devolution.
It seems the leaders have not learnt a lesson from the nasty 2007/08 post-election violence which broke out largely due to perceived marginalisation of some communities by those in power.
One wonders who the opponents of BBI are given that during the November 27 launch, the over 4,700 delegates drawn from across the country endorsed the report. The BBI has now been hijacked by selfish political leaders and other actors out to advance sectarian interests. If this trend continues, the country will witness a divisive referendum likely to sow seeds of discord during the 2022 poll.
Uhuru and Raila must include all political actors in their crusade to market the BBI, otherwise it will be a futile exercise which will taint the President’s legacy.
- The writer is the Farmers Party leader. [email protected]
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