The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report has been hailed as a document for not just achieving sustainable development, but also ensuring lasting peace in Kenya. There are many benefits the common mwananchi can reap from this important initiative.
In 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta took the reins of power at probably the most tumultuous period in Kenya’s history. He was facing charges at the International Criminal Court where he was later acquitted. We were then confronted with the shocking Westgate, Likoni and Garissa University terror attacks. Last year, the country had to deal with the locust invasion and coronavirus pandemic but despite all these, our president has managed to steer this country forward.
Perhaps his biggest test was the aftermath of the 2017 elections. First, the Supreme Court nullified the presidential results and ordered a repeat poll, which Uhuru won again. Raila Odinga disputed the results and chaos erupted, bringing the nation to a standstill. But being the peace ambassador he is, Uhuru put aside his differences with Raila and called for a truce. That resulted in the famous March 2018 Handshake that gave birth to BBI
BBI has been touted as the remedy for Kenya’s incessant election-related violence. Peace is a major component in the development equation and its importance cannot be overemphasised. An analysis by the Institute of Economic Affairs revealed that Kenya has lost Sh50.7 billion as a result of economic slowdown witnessed during election years since independence. This, therefore, means we cannot achieve sustainable development in the midst of divisive politics.
It is through the peace experienced after the handshake that the president was able to knit the country back together and focus on implementing his Big Four agenda. One would be feigning blindness if they failed to recognise the development that has been achieved thus far—roads are being built everywhere, dams constructed, markets rehabilitated, affordable houses built and the war against graft is ongoing.
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Besides peace, the BBI seeks to address inequity in both representation and resource allocation. It is, however, unfortunate that politics of lies, especially in our Mt Kenya region, has taken over our conversation. We spend more time discussing personalities and less addressing real issues and development.
Our region stands to benefit immensely from the BBI in that resources will be allocated proportionately to the number of people. Truth be told, if the representation and resource distribution issues are not addressed, our region will continue to be disadvantaged even post-2022 elections.
To address representation, Mt Kenya region will collectively gain an additional 15 constituencies which translates to more resources for our people. The additional MPs will give the region a bigger and more united voice.
In terms of resources, the proposal to increase county revenue allocation from 15 to 35 per cent and establish a Ward Development Fund will be a game-changer in promoting development at the grassroots. To ensure that the 35 per cent is not plundered, BBI has bestowed Senate with oversight powers to supervise both devolved funds and expenditures.
Nouman Ali Khan could not have put it better when he said “The most important investment of our time is in our people and in our youth”. At the heart of the BBI are matters affecting our young people. For starters, the youth have gained two nomination slots into the National Assembly through the BBI.
The proposed Youth Commission will also be critical as it will give our youth ease of access to job opportunities including structured job placement under bilateral arrangements with our development partners as well as responsive institutions that support youth programmes, sports, arts and talent innovations.
Youth-owned business will be exempted from paying taxes for seven years to allow them grow without stressful tax demands. What’s more, the youth will also have a four-year grace period to repay HELB loans.
As leaders, we need to be counted not for bravado, but for great service to our people. We owe it to our children to leave Kenya a better than we found it. Let us step back and relook where we are coming from, where we are, and where we are going. BBI is the vehicle we can use to achieve peace and prosperity our country desperately needs.
I, therefore, urge my colleagues from Mt Kenya region to pursue the region’s interests beyond 2022 politics. We must not be like Esau, who sold his birthright to Jacob for lentil stew.
-Mwaniki is MP, Kigumo constituency