President Uhuru Kenyatta has said the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is not about creating new positions to help him extend his stay in power.
He added that the reforms he and Opposition leader Raila Odinga envisage would be achieved.
Uhuru also revealed that not everyone was happy when he joined hands with Raila to form the BBI team. He maintained that he reached out to the Opposition leader and others for the sake of the country.
“Some people feel I did wrong by joining hands with other leaders like Raila. I called them because Kenya is bigger than all of us. Kenya is an elephant, and it can’t be handled by just one person. We are not talking about BBI because of elections, but so that Kenyans can live in peace and unity,” Uhuru said.
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The President maintained that there cannot be any development without peace.
“As you saw earlier, even though my friend said the election was flawed and my other friend in court said we repeat it I raised my hand and said let’s repeat it then. And even when we repeated I said I was ready to work with others. Because without peace and stability, we won’t be able to achieve anything,” Uhuru stated, adding that apart from Raila, he had reached out to Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi.
Apparently reacting to speculation that BBI could lead to constitutional reforms to create new positions that could see him and Raila team up to vie to form the next government, Uhuru declared its mandate was in public interest and to ensure lasting stability after elections.
“That road (read BBI), Raila and I with other leaders shall complete. Do not be misled, love your country, love and respect yourselves. I am confident we shall accomplish the mission,” Uhuru said ahead of submission of the report by the BBI team.
The team is also supposed to come up with recommendations on how to deal with poll violence.
The Head of State dismissed claims that BBI, which was formed after the March 9 2018 truce with the ODM leader, was seeking to create a position for him so he does not retire once he leaves the Presidency after 2022.
“Mimi sitaki kazi, mimi nimechoka. BBI ni kuhakikisha ya kuwa hakuna Mkenya atamwaga damu katika nchi yetu kwa sababu ya siasa (I don’t want any position, I am tired. BBI will ensure no Kenyan sheds blood because of politics)” Uhuru declared.
He spoke in Mlolongo, Machakos County, during the launch of the construction of the Nairobi Expressway, a 27km highway from Mlolongo, near Cabanas on Mombasa Road, to James Gichuru Junction in Nairobi.
The Sh60 billion ($599 million) project implemented by Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) will be undertaken by China Road and Bridge Corporation.
The ambitious project is expected to be completed by December 2021 and consists of a 10km four-lane ground level highway from Mlolongo to Eastern Bypass interchange.
It is followed by 5km six-lane ground level highway from the by-pass to Southern Bypass Interchange which is then linked to 11.2km four-lane elevated highway from the interchange to James Gichuru junction.
Thereafter he rode on the passenger train along the 100km phase 2A of the Standard Gauge Railway to Suswa and addressed meetings in Ongata Rongai, Ngong and Maai Mahiu.
The President also took a swipe at leaders he accused of using, “force” to gain power instead of persuading voters”.
Likening wooing voters to seducing a woman, the President said it was all about charm.
“Men and women were created differently. If you have the urge, you seduce a woman slowly, but you don’t force. Today you buy her soda, tomorrow you buy her mandazi. You respect each other and you talk,” Uhuru told a crowd in Ngong.
Kenyans to decide
Uhuru added that power cannot be obtained forcibly and that in the long run, one can only attain presidency if God wills it. “No one gets power by force. In the end, it is through God’s grace that you get the seat.”
The presidency, he went on, cannot be obtained by continuously asking for it since it is Kenyans who ultimately decide who to award the presidency.
“People should not be asking for jobs. Ultimately it is Kenyans who decide to give the jobs”.
Uhuru warned against tactics that lack in respect, warning that without respect, there would be consequences.
“Let us respect each other. I’m telling my friends, we can compete, but let us respect each other. Let us compete and not spill blood. The Swahili said respect is not servitude. Respecting your friend is not being his servant. Respect me and I will respect you,” he added.
The president said Kenya remains a democracy and as such, he was not concerned with suppressing free speech, stating, “This is a democracy, we cannot shut people”.
He told the public they should not be misled into thinking that political contests were a sign of enmity.
“We competed with Raila and he is not my enemy. Competition is fine, but coexisting and respecting each other is mandatory,” he added.
Uhuru asserted that he was concerned with leaving a legacy as a president who cultivated lasting peace.
Uhuru defended his infrastructural projects, dismissing critics as shortsighted individuals with little concern for the future of the country. He equated them to critics during the construction of the old Mombasa-Kisumu metre gauge railway line.
“When the British came and constructed the old railway line, some dismissed them as fools. Later the critics watched as they took our produce to their countries…SGR is aimed at helping all citizens,” he argued.
Uhuru praised the project saying it will reduce frequent traffic snarl-ups on Mombasa Road from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport beside guaranteeing jobs to the locals.
During the launch of the expressway, Uhuru was accompanied by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and his Machakos counterpart Alfred Mutua.
Others present were Cabinet secretaries Keriako Tobiko (Environment), George Magoha (Education), Fred Matiang’i (Interior), Monica Juma (Foreign Affairs) and James Macharia (Transport). Members of Parliament Julius Mawathe (Embakasi South) and Charles Njagua (Starehe), and several Nairobi ward representatives were also present.