The Building Bridges Initiative Report has shaken the political ground in Kenya. The BBI taskforce was formed in 2019 after President Uhuru Kenyatta shook hands with his political rival Rt. Honourable Raila Odinga in what the duo termed as an end to divisions brought about by political competition.
The force was tasked with coming up with progressive recommendations on nine areas; Ethnic antagonism, National ethos, Inclusivity, Devolution, Divisive elections, Safety & Security, Corruption, Shared Prosperity, and Responsibility- Human/Civil rights. The taskforce crisscrossed the country, collecting views from Kenyans on the nine points in public participation forums.
The report took more than one year and a half to put together, to present it to the President & Hon. Odinga and to present it to the public. Since the release of the report Kenyans, political leaders and pundits have expressed divergent sentiments of the report ranging from who should fine-tune it (parliament or the people- popular initiative) to whether it's a necessary expedition or not- some have argued that it's a replica of some of the provisions of our Constitution. Below are some of the cut-offs caused by the report;
1. The rift between the President and his deputy
The bromance between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Principal Assistant Dr. William Samoei Ruto, has faded away pretty fast. Whether by design or default, BBI continues to drive a wedge between the two leaders. Whilst Uhuru Kenyatta favours the idea of popularising the BBI report amongst the citizenry, Dr. Ruto deems the idea popularising a document that has no opposition pointless; he perceives this as wastage of taxpayer’s money. Raila Odinga and Interior Affairs/Coordination Cabinet Secretary attended a BBI meeting held in Kisii County on 10th January 2020 and drummed support for the document. They argued that the BBI proposals are the best thing that ever happened to Kenya and that the recommendations will go a long way in building a united and prosperous country. The event was dubbed the Kisii Declaration. It was attended by a good number of Governors and Legislators who are "pro-BBI." The leaders who spoke at the function called and hinted of a referendum on the BBI proposals by July 2020. The imagination that CS Matiang'i and Raila Odinga represented President Uhuru's position on BBI raises Political anxiety. The rift between President Uhuru and his deputy Dr. William Ruto makes the 2022 Presidential race complicated and interesting.
2. Pro and Anti BBI Kenyans
A document that was meant to unite Kenyans has left them divided more than ever before. Led by their representatives (Governors, MPs, MCAs, Woman Reps), Kenyans have leaned on either side based on the direction given by the leaders. Voter apathy is the greatest challenge amongst the citizenry; only a small percentage of Kenyans will read and scrutinize the BBI report. This means that in case of a referendum, the majority's decision will be based on what the politicians told them and not what they think about the document.
3. The halt of Big 4 Agenda
The political mood triggered before and after the release of the BBI report is likely to stall Jubilee Party's Big 4 Agenda owing to the fact that the Party itself (the leadership) is divided on which way to go on the document. This standoff will have a negative impact on the continuity of President Kenyatta's ambitious Big 4 agenda and his legacy; with two years to the lapse of his second and final term, his performance is likely to be lackluster due to politics.
4. Ethnicity/Tribal regrouping
Various leaders have swiftly sought support (either supporting or opposing the report) from their tribesmen. Ineffective civic education and voter apathy are the greatest challenges; it would be difficult to regroup into tribes if the citizens understood their right to scrutinize proposals in the report as opposed to relying on the direction given by their tribal chieftains. This throws the country into major tribal antagonism.
5. Pro-popular initiative and pro-parliamentary process
A section of political leadership is of the opinion that the BBI report should be taken to parliament for refining whilst another section opines that the report needs to be taken to the citizenry so that they can vote in favour or against- because it's the citizens' document. If recent public utterances by senior political leaders are anything to go by, the referendum debate has taken shape, and it's no secret that it's likely to take place in the second quarter of 2020. It's no longer a question of if but when. A referendum requires a lot of money to prepare and carry out; bearing in mind that the country is not doing so well economically (unemployment rate, corruption, poor healthcare amongst others) one wonders why the government of the day would want to spend billions of shillings in such a process instead of channeling the resources to programs that benefit common man.
The political leadership supported the BBI report proposals. Why is a section of the same leadership earnestly popularizing a report that has no opposition? There must be more than meets the eye.