Uhuru, Raila litmus test as BBI proposes a new system

Wednesday March 18 2020
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Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and Opposition leader Raila Odinga demonstrate their cordial relationship during the annual prayer breakfast in Nairobi on May 31, 2018. They will embark on rallies in a bid to popularise the BBI report. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By NATION TEAM

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report will not only recommend a change in the structure of government but will also push for historical injustices to be addressed once and for all.

While some of the recommendations have been contained in previous reports, such as the Truth Justice and Reconciliation (TJRC) and the Agenda Four of the 2008 National Dialogue and Reconciliation Agreement, the coming together of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga will give the initiative crucial impetus.

President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga are set to criss-cross the grassroots in unity rallies, issue title deeds to communities that have been marginalised and also offer reparation to victims of historical injustices.

“The report contains specific resolutions for various problems facing Kenyans in various counties,” a member of the task force, who is also close to President Kenyatta, told the Nation.

By addressing specific issues, the team had assuaged fears of losing political mileage by a section of the leaders once President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga visited their areas to resolve locals’ grievances, thus lessening opposition to the report.

STRONG BACKING

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The government has allocated Sh10 billion for the implementation of the BBI report to help address ethnic antagonism and competition, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, divisive elections, safety and security and corruption.

Following its backing by top political leaders — President Kenyatta, Mr Odinga, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetangula and Kanu’s Gideon Moi — the BBI report has been touted as a likely game-changer of the country’s political scene.

Only Deputy President William Ruto and his lieutenants have shown lukewarm support for the initiative, insisting it was meant to create positions for some individuals and block his bid to succeed President Kenyatta in 2022.

Both President Kenyatta's and Mr Odinga's handlers on Thursday said the duo plan to traverse the country to drum up support for the report.

Speaking in Suswa last week, President Kenyatta vowed to market report, adding that it had nothing to do with politics.

UNITY RALLIES

The President said he was determined to use the BBI to leave behind an enduring legacy built on sustainable peace and unity.

“If there is a legacy, and I am praying to God to help me realise (it) on behalf of the Kenyan people, it's that we should not have any other election where Kenyans will shed their own blood, where their property will be destroyed and where they will be divided along tribal lines."

In Murang'a on Thursday, leaders affiliated to President Kenyatta started organising meetings to drum up support for the BBI recommendations.

The leaders, who included former MPs and former The National Alliance (TNA) party officials, launched the grassroots meetings in Kenol Town when they met about 100 opinion leaders in a closed-door meeting that lasted five hours.

Led by former Kangema MP Tirus Ngahu, they urged locals to support the President’s efforts of uniting the country through the 'handshake'.

The momentum created by the report and campaigns for its implementation are expected to continue up to the 2022 elections and could result in the formation of new political movements.

The battle lines have already been drawn with President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga’s team expected to receive opposition from Dr Ruto and his allies, who have vowed to oppose any plans to create more positions.

DEFIANCE

And, just a day after the team chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji announced the end of its work, Mt Kenya MPs allied to Dr Ruto on Thursday showed they were ready to defy President Kenyatta by rejecting the report.

The 39 MPs, who spoke at Parliament buildings led by Senators Mithika Linturi (Meru), Isaac Mwaura (nominated) and Ndaragua MP Jeremiah Kioni, said they will only support the report if it captures their views on inclusivity and equitable distribution of resources.

“The need for inclusivity must address all the areas with regards to leadership, representation, resource allocation and structure of government,” Mr Kioni, whose Constitution Oversight and Implementation Committee (CIOC) will have a big role in analysis of the BBI report in the National Assembly, said.

Interestingly, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, who was also in Parliament, signed the MPs' statement in apparent defiance of his boss, President Kenyatta.

Jubilee secretary-general Raphael Tuju said: “We will wait for the report … (then) make a decision on whether to campaign for it or not.”

ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna said: “We will comb through the report to see the proposals that Kenyans have made.”

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru said they were ready to “start popularising it once called upon.”

By Lucas Barasa, Justus Ochieng, David Mwere, Ndung’u Gachane