Opposition chief Raila Odinga led a strong pro-government team in a show of might and determination to seek support for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
The team, comprising top elected leaders, government officials, governors and Opposition politicians, landed in Western Kenya yesterday morning in a rare show of unity as erstwhile rivals shared the podium for a discourse to birth a new Kenya.
Carrying out his mandate as the chief campaigner for the BBI, Raila, who conveyed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s goodwill message, put the icing on the cake as he addressed a mammoth rally shortly after local kingpins Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula.
Several kilometres away, leaders allied to Deputy President William Ruto met heavy security when they attempted to hold a parallel rally, which authorities had banned.
Mudavadi and Wetang’ula had days earlier vowed not to attend the Bukhungu meeting, saying it was a gimmick by Central Organisations of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli to crown a Luhya spokesperson.
During the rally, leaders supporting BBI maintained that they are forging a common front for a cause that will help end election-related violence.
ALSO READ: Uhuru snubs Ruto, again
The BBI proponents said the country stands to benefit if the proposals in the initiative are supported and implemented.
Raila, who is the ODM party leader, reiterated that he was not taking advantage of the BBI process to advance his presidential bid for 2022.
He said his interest was to bring to an end the perpetual violence and disunity witnessed every election cycle.
The former prime minister said all he would love to see is a country led by a person of integrity and high standing in society. His handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta that culminated into the BBI process was the best thing to happen to Kenya, he said.
“The gesture has been acknowledged world over. In fact, I have been invited together with President Kenyatta to the US between February 4 and 5 to speak about the handshake,” said the ODM leader. “Uhuru and I may necessarily not be there when Kenyans get to the mountain-top.”
He said they opted to grab the opportunity to unite the country and fix its past problems once and for all through the BBI process.
“After talks, we decided to grab the opportunity to find a lasting solution to the problems we have had since 1992 through the handshake,” said Raila. “I agreed with President Kenyatta to come up with a solution for posterity because 2022 will just be an event that will come and go.”
Organisers of the event were left confused at one point when Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Mudavadi and his Ford-Kenya counterpart Wetang’ula arrived at the stadium unannounced.
The leaders’ convoy snaked into the stadium at around 12.30pm, shortly after Raila had arrived accompanied by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa.
Wetang’ula later declined to take up the microphone when invited to speak by Senator Cleophas Malala, insisting that the governors present needed to speak first.
Both Wetang’ula and Mudavadi said the BBI process must be made all-inclusive for Kenyans to give their contributions.
“We don’t want to see the BBI meetings turn violent, we want the BBI Secretariat to do its work and get Kenyans along,” said Mudavadi.
The ANC leader said to achieve inclusivity, there ought to be a constitutional commitment by the government to put in place rescue interventions in sectors such as agriculture across all regions.
ALSO READ: Uhuru snubs Ruto, again
“In Western region, sugarcane and maize farmers deserve stimulus guaranteed returns just like tea, coffee and milk in other regions,” he said.
In governance, the ANC leader said the country must foster inclusivity and debunk the ‘winner take it all’ practice. “Let there be a constitutional guarantee on propositional representation in government appointments on the basis of population quarter of Kenyan communities,” he said.
Raila said he would like to see Kenya make huge development strides just like China did, managing to pull 300 million people to middle income status. He urged Kenyans to look at the BBI in totality to appreciate the nine-point agenda.
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru received a standing ovation when she arrived at the stadium. Ms Waiguru said governors from Mt Kenya region have taken a common stand to support BBI.
She said no county chief from the Central region had been left out of the process, adding that she sits pretty at the national committee that is steering the process.
Wamalwa praised governors for taking a lead role in popularising BBI, saying it will help strengthen devolution through increased allocation to the devolved units.
Other leaders present at the meeting included senators James Orengo (Siaya), Amos Wako (Busia) and George Khaniri (Vihiga).
ALSO READ: 2022: How Mt Kenya is making Raila president
Governors present were Charity Ngilu (Kitui), James Ongwae (Kisii), John Nyagarama (Nyamira), Cornel Rasanga (Siaya), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), Okoth Obado (Migori), Wilbur Ottichilo (Vihiga), Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma) and Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia).
Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat, who represented the party’s chairman and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, said the Independence party supports the BBI process as it will stamp out political marginalisation that plays out after elections.
“The present structure where power is concentrated at the top is no longer acceptable. As a party, we want power to be decentralised and be spread so that it can flow and benefit mwananchi, and this can be achieved through BBI,” he said.
He said any process that is supporting the empowerment of the youth will be backed by the party, noting that the Uhuru-Raila BBI initiated process will devolve more resources to the counties and help in stimulating economic growth.
Wajir County Woman Rep Fatuma Gedi called on the Jubilee administration to reorganise its leadership at both the Senate and the National Assembly.