November 25, 2020 will go down the annals of history as a great day for Kenya. Despite coming in during a prevailing pandemic, the day could have a positive bearing on how the life of the nation turns out for generations.
It was the day the process to re-evaluate and determine how we govern ourselves going forward was, for all practical purposes, begun.
By launching the official collection of a million signatures to endorse the Building Bridges to a United Kenya Taskforce Report, the train to a different, better Kenya left the station that Wednesday afternoon.
It has been a long but worthy journey.
Just about a year ago, on November 27, 2019, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) preliminary report was released. Compiled through information collected in all 47 counties, the BBI was a tremendous and painstaking undertaking, seeking to unite our exceptionally fragmented country through casting political differences aside and building bridges between communities. The goal of this was to address the concerns of all Kenyans.
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This gave way to another round of national dialogue and consultations that gave birth to the current report that was officially launched at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on October 26 this year.
Despite the complexity in compiling the report, now that it has finally been submitted, its findings released and the constitutional requirement of signature collection initiated, the difficult part of the Building Bridges Initiative begins as it depends on us.
Since taking office, President Uhuru Kenyatta has held his primary objective, similar to that of his father, has been bettering the lives of Kenyans. This is by no means an easy task, given the diverse nature of our nation.
With a multitude of identities, with strong religious, tribal and geographical differences, how does one even begin to attempt to represent the needs of a nation? The BBI was an attempt to do exactly that; to unite our country by trying to address the needs of each and every individual.
The President’s understanding was that in order to effectively accomplish this, unity was required. And such unity must naturally begin at the political level. The handshake with Raila Odinga was a crucial starting point. The message broadcasted through this was that if we are to improve the lives of our people, political differences must be cast aside. Without this, all attempts at change would be futile and subject to political opposition.
The betterment of the lives of Kenyans, however, is not a political mater. It is a goal that crosses party lines and must be sought by anyone who defines themselves as a true political leader.
As is known, the BBI has attempted to tackle the issues facing citizens by focusing on nine points integral to their daily lives and the functioning of our country. These include things like ensuring terms in office are limited, guaranteeing adequate funding to all counties and battling corruption.
The accomplishing of any of these feats independently is a challenge, let alone seeking to tackle all nine. While our President says he has our best interests at heart, the time has come for us to realise that in order for the BBI to live up to its full potential, our own support is necessary.
There has of course been vociferous criticism of the document. Some have labelled it a political move to strengthen the president’s allies, while others argue that its impact will be to divide the nation.
Albeit, the BBI report has already been released and deliberations on it done and settled. The money and efforts have been expended in interviewing all Kenyans, collecting their concerns and putting together a report that will address these. The least we can do is give it a chance.
Many reports have been written on the causes of division in our country, particularly in the aftermath of the 2007 election and the ensuing violence. Many attempts have been made to reform the political system, combat corruption and make our county a better place overall. None, however, have been on the scale of this undertaking. None have been so heavily reliant on the opinions of citizens. None have had the multilateral support that the BBI has, despite often amplified criticism from across the political spectrum.
If we waste time criticising the report before we give it a chance, we run the risk of missing a historic opportunity for change. Had citizens not thrown their full support behind other historic opportunities for change, such as fighting for citizens’ rights in South Africa’s apartheid or fighting segregation in the United States, our world would be a very different place.
We should give BBI a chance to accomplish what it set out to do.
-Mr Kwinga is a political scientist. [email protected]