Nothing has captured the hearts and minds of Kenyans in the last two years like the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and its mother – The Handshake.
BBI has become a natural conversation starter even among strangers. On the other hand, fierce verbal and psychological battles have been fought, accompanied with much drama in the ever mutating political arena.
The consequence is that for many, BBI has remained just another new word in Kenyan vocabulary. Indeed, it is amazing how many people are still at sea on the exact purpose of the BBI. You only need to listen to various presentations made before the Steering Committee to realise just how diverse our understanding is as to the exact intent of the initiative.
Requests have been made for provision of water, paving of roads, to expansion of the scope of Kadhi’s Courts. The women have passionately argued for a better place in the leadership space, while men have rightly decried the dwindling fortunes of the boy child. Critical factors such as agriculture, education and health issues have also featured prominently.
In actual fact, there is hardly anything in our national life that has not been raised at the BBI forums. All of which goes to say we are a people in dire straits – with needs reaching to the heavens. There is real danger that we could easily miss the original purpose of the BBI.
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Whereas there have been legitimate concerns about the fierce politics around the BBI, there is a sense in which this should not have been totally unexpected. BBI was from the very start a high-stakes political process. It came as a byproduct of a political negotiation between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga. Prior to this, the nation had been held on tenterhooks for several months, with all economic activities brought to a standstill. It was therefore a great sigh of relief when the two leaders publicly shook hands as a sign of cessation of hostilities. In the same breath, they announced the birth of the BBI.
The peace and tranquility that followed was pulpable. The nation was back on its feet and abuzz with activity. And, in spite of our own internal weaknesses and the largely unexpected external circumstances, we have soldiered on as a people with a mission. The reality therefore is that the Handshake sorted out a major challenge in our national life. It pulled us out, albeit temporarily, from the murk within which the nation was slowly drowning. The BBI, however, was to ensure we never travel that murky road again.
It is unfortunate, but it is a settled fact that every election year, the tension in this country reaches fever pitch. The incessant fights and battles surrounding our elections since 1992 require a courageous and objective solution. The fact that this malady has persisted despite changes in regimes could be a pointer to the fact that we have never truly addressed the real issues.
Thus, if we remove the political theatrics and shunt the partisan embarrassment playing out before us, we can actually craft a great national solution to key issues that trouble the hearts and minds of ordinary Kenyans.
Truth be told, what ails this nation is not whether women have one third seats in Parliament. It is not whether Muslims get an appelate court or Christians are granted self regulation mechanisms. What drives us to war every five years is politics – bad politics.
This is the coronavirus that threatens to wipe us out. Thus, as the BBI Steering Committee retreats to put together their final report and recommendations, it is our very sincere hope that they will not lose focus of the critical issue of fixing our politics. The true test of a successful work awaits the team in a short two years. If the 2022 elections come and go, and we all get back to our daily routines, then we can truly celebrate a job well done.
Otherwise, if all we get out of it are more seats at the dining table for the high and mighty, and a few crumbs for others, yet Kenyans continue to kill themselves in the trenches, then BBI will have been the biggest and most expensive national fiasco.
That is why my word of encouragement to the BBI Team is: Be strong. Be courageous. Fix ye first the politics of this nation and all other things shall fall into place. Our prayers are with you.
- The writer is the presiding bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]