Let it be said again – even at the risk of sounding ridiculous. No nation on earth has ever prospered under division – not one! Every nation that has chosen the path of strife and division has sooner or later collapsed. Yet, whereas harnessing unity is often quite costly, it is an investment that ultimately pays handsomely.
It may be a little slower, but as the oft quoted African proverb declares: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) was a noble effort to rally the nation towards a united and prosperous future. Born out of the Handshake between His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta and Right Honourable Raila Odinga, this was a sacrificial effort to lay aside personal interests in order to build a united Kenya. Sadly, since the launch of the report, opinion has been divided over some of its provisions and recommendations. Several groups also feel their concerns were not taken on board. Strong political divisions have equally arisen that have resulted in fierce political posturing. Several religious groups have come out expressing great concern over the unfolding scenario. The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya (EAK) and Supreme Council of Muslims of Kenya (SUPKEM), are among the many religious groups that have voiced their concerns.
The common fear is that a contested referendum could easily spill over into the 2022 general elections, with possible catastrophic consequences. According to the religious leaders, such a development would totally undermine the spirit and intent of the Handshake and BBI, which was to bring lasting peace to the nation.
The NCCK observes that Kenyans are generally agreed that the 2010 Constitution needs amendments in some sections. However, such amendments must be principle based, people-focused and aimed at enhancing justice, national cohesion, accountability, and national prosperity. KCCB equally welcomes the BBI as an opportunity for all Kenyans to engage constructively in discussing issues which affect our country and that have caused perennial conflict and division. In this regard, the EAK has pleaded with the key Principals to remain focused on the original and noble vision they had to unite the nation. It is thus encouraging that in his State of the Nation address, the President chose a more reconciliatory path on matters BBI. He asked Kenyans to engage in a positive discourse on the BBI report so as to effect necessary changes to guide the nation into its destiny. “When generations come long after we are gone, let them say that we made the right decision at this moment; that we chose unity over division; that we dreamt of and birthed a happier, and more prosperous nation,” said the President.
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In much the same spirit, both KCCB and SUPKEM have strongly encouraged all Kenyans to read and understand the content of the BBI report with a view to building consensus. The other area of common concern over the BBI proposals is the cost of government. The EAK argued that, whereas aspects of the restructuring necessary for the achievement of our aspirations may be costly, yet some of proposals in the BBI unnecessarily increase the cost of government.
As the NCCK put it, “The amendments should produce better government, not more government.” Thus, at a time when the nation is going through a serious social and economic crisis, our resources and energies must be put into long term investment that will help rebuild the nation and spur economic growth.
At another level, the Church has consistently engaged in every constitution review process with a view to helping craft a constitution that not only captures the aspirations of Kenyans, but that is founded on our moral and national values. Therefore, the Church has expressed concern over the blatant entrenchment of imported values and practices that are repugnant to our national ethos.
Unfortunately, those charged with the review of the Constitution have refused to listen. This has put the Church in the unfortunate place where they opposed the Constitution at the 2005 referendum and in 2010.
Sadly, as the Kenya Council of Church Alliances and Ministries (KCCAM) observed, these concerns appear to have once again been ignored by the BBI Team. Such intransigence certainly does not bode well for national unity.
That said, as a people of faith, we remain confident that in spite of the many challenges facing the nation, God loves Kenya and is going to see us through. We therefore call us to pray so that God’s hand of blessing remains upon this land.