"Let us engage in positive discourse with a view to effecting far-reaching changes to that will address the perennial challenges we have faced as a Nation – negative ethnicity; inclusion; equitable development and our fight against corruption. Like Moses in the Bible, I too have seen our future…A Kenya where no one will ascend to a high public office on account of their tribe. A Kenya where no capable person will wallow in poverty because of poor governance. A Kenya where our potential as a people will be exploited for the greatness of our nation…The Future is bright."
President Uhuru Kenyatta said these words as he delivered the State of the Nation Address before a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate last week.
As such, all Kenyans can see that despite the prevailing dark Covid-19 cloud, the future is indeed bright.
It looks brighter now because, as the President rightly noted, the journey to the new great land "has commenced with the release of the Building Bridges Initiatives Report."
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The political momentum that the President and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga started on March 9, 2018 has hit the home stretch
Just after the BBI Taskforce released its preliminary report on 27 November last year, divisions started to emerge, especially, among the political class. Our political leaders and MPs split into two groups.
On the one hand, Uhuru, Raila and other leaders held their ground in support of the initiative and its original vision. This vision is about forging lasting unity between our Kenyan tribes. It is about building a governing system that reflects our roots as a people. It is about guiding our political interactions in the most peaceful of manners.
On the other hand, and also to the detriment of this vision, a group emerged. At first, they altogether opposed having a referendum. They would have preferred if the draft legislation had been amended and simply passed through Parliament. Although they eventually acquiesced to the path of democratic open debate, their separate rallies worked to undermine the basis of what should be a nation-wide consensus.
The infighting that followed took a familiar route. The very route that has been our foremost weakness for multiple generations now. Not only has it prevented us from conducting our elections peacefully, but the violent clashes between factions in our society sent shockwaves through our political system that reverberated for years. This is undoubtedly the reason why successive governments have often found it difficult to engage in high-quality policymaking. As long as security issues remain unresolved, social and economic policies can only come second.
The BBI Taskforce was assigned with evaluating the challenges we face as a nation as well as proposing the practical recommendations necessary for remedying them. Considering the track record of the past two political terms alone, it therefore came as no surprise that the BBI report identified ethnic antagonism and divisive elections as two of the most urgent issues at hand.
The President’s purpose when launching the BBI was to offer a peaceful channel capable of mitigating our burdensome history of suspicion and hostility towards one another, hence the Handshake.
Since the very inception of the BBI project, Uhuru has emphasised that this was an initiative for the people and one that can only be realised by the people. This is why the Taskforce spent months touring our 47 counties and listening to the concerns and suggestions of as diverse a pool of citizens as possible.
After a long period of data collection, we have finally arrived at the stage where we can contrast different visions for the future of the country, strike a good balance between them and approve our deal with one voice. Never before in our history have we had an opportunity to participate in such an overwhelmingly grassroots movement of reformation.
It is a good thing that the entire process has been successfully completed and we are now on the way to giving the product thick legs to stand on. As we put our fingers on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to a United Kenya Taskforce report in the name of a million signatures and prepare to endorse it fully in the referendum, life in the country can only get better.
If each of us reminds themselves of the inherent dangers in disunity, we will more easily be able to make sensible choices. Giving a chance for a united Kenya to emerge is certainly the most important of these sensible choices.
-Mr Mugolla is a public policy analyst. [email protected]