President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday steered clear of the controversial debate on whether to open up the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report for further amendments even as pressure piled from different quarters.
While the Head of State was expected to give a definite position on raging issues around the report he views as the “path to greater national unity, inclusivity, peace and reconciliation”, he appeared to skirt around the matter as he delivered the seventh State of the Nation address at Parliament Buildings, Nairobi, yesterday.
In his speech, the president cautioned Kenyans over expectations on his administration’s ability to deliver the Big Four agenda, saying it may not be realistic to achieve the same within one term.
Uhuru said that at best, by the time he leaves office in 2022, his administration would have only laid the ground for take-off of the project.
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“We give our solemn vow that by the end of 2022, we would have laid an unshakable foundation for the realisation of this vision, which is a shared aspiration for millions of Kenyans,” he said.
The Big Four agenda; food security, manufacturing, universal health care and affordable housing, were Uhuru’s official blueprint after re-election for the second term in 2017, and for the last three years were identified as the legacy projects for his government.
“Even as we mooted the Four Intentions, we recognised then, as we still recognise now, they would not be completed in a single term of office,” he said.
At the same time, President Kenyatta urged Kenyans to constructively and objectively consider the BBI report.
He lobbied legislators to prioritise, among others the Bill on the referendum, which would be critical in the implementation of constitutional changes.
“Let us engage in positive discourse with a view of effecting far-reaching changes that will address the perennial challenges we have faced as a nation – negative ethnicity; inclusion, equitable development and war against corruption,” he said.
The Head of State reiterated that the BBI report was key to a bright and prosperous Kenya, saying it extensively evaluates challenges and makes robust and practical recommendations to address them.
Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga who followed the State of the Nation address from the Speaker’s Gallery have been reading from different scripts on the BBI, with the former calling for more consultations to accommodate divergent views.
On the other hand, Raila who has met several groups that have voiced concerns over the report, including the pastoralists communities and the governors and assured that the issues would be addressed, appeared to change tune on Wednesday saying there was little chance of any changes being made to the document.
“It is basically done and there is little likelihood that new ideas will be pushed into it (the report). However, there are groups that feel their views were not captured in the manner they were presented during the collection of views and those are the corrections we are promising to make,” said Raila.
Yesterday, the president asked Kenyans to seize the constitutional moment for the sake of prosperity of the nation. “This is how the bright future that I see looks like, a Kenya where no one will ascend to a high public office on account of their tribe. A Kenya where no capable person will wallow in poverty because of poor governance. A Kenya where our potential as a people will be exploited for the greatness of our nation. A Kenya where we will all share equitably in the prosperity of our nation,” he said.
He added: “This moment in time is our meeting with 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, more harmonious and more prosperous nation.”
On the state of the national security, the Head of State said the country was secure, especially against threats of terror groups.
He, however, expressed concern over the increasing instability in the region, sparked by ethnicised and regionalised competition for political power, in an apparent reaction to what is happening in Ethiopia.
The president pledged to support peace and reconciliation efforts in the affected countries.
He tabled five reports in Parliament- three reports on the realisation of national values, progress on fulfilling international obligations, state of security, ease of doing business and report of the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions.