Mutual trust critical to the success of national aspirations

If the intentions of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) are selfless, no time is more opportune than now for the advent of national unity, which has evaded us for generations largely due to lack of trust among leaders. BBI would be of national interest and for the common good of all. Nothing would surpass leaving a legacy of achieving national unity in the last political term in office.

If implemented legally without threats and coercion, BBI and its precursor, the Handshake, will lead to national unity. It is as high in priority, if not higher, than the Covid-19 pandemic, which will end following the discovery of vaccines.

The achievement of national unity will hold if BBI is anchored on trust, itself lacking among Kenyans as the national unity being sought.

Trust is the confidence that exists between parties on the actions they take, and their words. Lack of trust is destructive. Many unfulfilled manifestos and public statements render leaders unworthy of their positions of trust. 

When trust is undermined, it strains relations between the parties, who then seek counter actions to even out. Strained relations are retrogressive to growth and development of individuals, entities and nations.

Examples abound. Outgoing US President Donald Trump does not trust that the elections he recently lost were conducted legally, even after the courts found his claims hollow and have thrown them out. His lack of trust in the process has painted him among the worst presidents in the history of the world’s leading democracy. That is his legacy.

When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in Wuhan, China, there was speculation that the virus was engineered in a laboratory to create a business monopoly in the supply of a vaccine.

World Health Organisation (WHO) has named scientists to an international team investigating the origins of coronavirus. Should the investigations confirm the fears, it will make China’s dreams of becoming a super power a remote possibility.

On its part, the international community did not trust the protective protocols prescribed by the  WHO against infections and, therefore, the virus spread globally.

In Kenya, due to lack of trust between the people and their leaders, the first coronavirus case was disparaged as one created by the government to convince Kenyans that the pandemic was real, and to secure donor funding. 

When the curve of infection first dipped, there was speculation that the fall was a cover-up following exposure of the Kemsa heist, concealing the actual reason that the country could not cope with the spread. The lack of trust between the public and leaders has led to a spike in infections during the second wave of infection, exacerbating doubts on the existence. That is the price of lack of trust we have had to pay.

The most dreadful of mistrusts is when the parties are leaders, and when it is between the leaders and the public. Nothing gets done well, or at all.

John O’Donahue observed; “Our trust in the future has lost its innocence. We know now that anything can happen from one minute to the next. Politics, religion, economics, and the institutions of family and community all have become abruptly unsure.”

We have the unique opportunity to unite Kenyans after years of loss of lives and property occasioned by episodic violence. But it’s been an uphill task building public trust in the intentions of some of the proponents of BBI. Yet there might be no better time than during the Covid-19 adversity for an advent of national unity to emerge. 

Take root

Trust begets trust. In all good relationships, the most important ingredient is mutual trust. This is severely deficient in many of our leaders. As of now, pledges of some of our leaders in the BBI rekindle bitter memories of violence that robbed Kenyans of family members and friends.

Wounds and scars of the past aggressions are still raw and hurting. They have to be healed if national unity of purpose is to take root. This ought to take the form of confessions and apologies to the victims, as no amount of restitution can recompense the losses.

BBI has to rebuild this, or it will be yet another document in the annals of history. Truth sets us free or convicts us to a legacy of shame. The choice is ours. Failure to rebuild trust among its people through the BBI might edge Kenya closer to joining the ranks of its ilk in the region not worthy living in.

Mr Kimani is a consultant in conflict management and a counselling psychologist