President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s building bridges initiative is finally set to have its conference at the Bomas of Kenya on September 10.
This is after Treasury intervened following postponement earlier in the month.
Mr Paul Mwangi, the co-secretary from Mr Odinga’s side, confirmed that the team will start with a national conference on corruption, which will run for four days.
There had been fears that delays by the Exchequer to release funds would completely ground activities of the task force seen by allies of Deputy President William Ruto as a threat to his State House ambitions.
The delay in rolling out activities of the Building Bridges Initiative Task Force had seen temporary celebration among those opposed to it, with some senior officials at the Treasury being accused of gatekeeping for some politicians.
The conference will be attended by grassroots leaders, women, youth, elders and the disabled from all the 47 counties, with their transport and accommodation paid for.
On Saturday, Mr Mwangi explained that the 14-member team did not hit the ground running immediately as earlier anticipated because they were still laying the ground, mapping out their scope of work and deciding on the timelines of the activities ahead.
Mr Mwangi suggested that the task force took some time building trust among members before embarking on the real work.
“Traditionally, before you embark on any journey, you must plan. Remember the team has 14 members from different backgrounds and seeing things differently so we had to first make them have a common goal,” Mr Mwangi said.
After the anti-corruption conference, the team will embark on county tours for two months before converging in Nairobi again to start going through memoranda that they will have received from the public, professional bodies and organisations on various matters.
“After going through the memoranda, we will then listen to experts before finally starting to write our report,” Mr Mwangi said.
The team has been tasked with finding lasting solutions to shared objectives of tackling ethnic antagonism and competition, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, safety and security and corruption.
Members of the task force are Dr Adams Oloo, Mr Agnes Kavindu, Busia Senator Amos Wako, Ms Florence Omose, Mr Saeed Mwanguni, and Mr James Matundura.
Others are Major (Rtd) John Seii, Bishop Lawi Imathiu, Samburu Woman Representative Maison Leshomo, Mr Morompi ole Ronkai, Bishop Peter Njenga, Ms Rose Moseu and Mr Zaccheaus Okoth.
A member of the team said the conference will offer a rare platform for ordinary citizens to “look at the Executive and Judiciary in the face and tell them what they think about the fight against corruption”.
The task force is a product of political rapprochement between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, fierce rivals in the 2013 and last year’s elections.
Mr Mwangi sought to downplay earlier reports of the committee being crippled because of lack of funds.
“We are part of the bureaucracy and we have to go through the processes to get any money,” Mr Mwangi said.
President Kenyatta on Wednesday put up yet another spirited defence of his pact with Mr Odinga.
“I want you to understand that there is a much, much deeper understanding between myself and Raila Odinga. I appeal to all politicians that, while there can never be an end to politics, they should never misinterpret politics with this deeper understanding,” President Kenyatta said.
A section of leaders allied to Deputy President Ruto have seen it as a strategy to complicate political mathematics for the DP in the 2022 presidential race.
Senators Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) and Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho) have been on record several times saying the handshake is a ploy to put Mr Odinga in the 2022 race at the expense of the DP.
But on Saturday, Mr Ruto called for an end to tribal politics and supported the building of bridges.
Speaking at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos during the installation of the new Bishop of Machakos Norman King'oo Wambua, Mr Ruto said unity among political and church leaders will help the government deliver services to the people.
“We are all brothers. Let us build the bridges of friendship for our country to prosper,” he said.
Coast-based lobby Pwani Building Bridges Initiative has also poked holes in the March 9 pact and called for the decentralisation of the initiative to the grassroots level.
The group - comprising human right activists, politicians and professionals - has demanded that the gesture be extended to governors and legislators to enable them reconcile with their opponents.
However, former Kaloleni MP Gunga Mwinga, a member of the group, observed that elected leaders in the six coastal counties were not keen on embracing their political rivals.
Speaking at Greenwood resort in Mtwapa after a Building Bridges forum, Mr Mwinga said the spirit of the handshake has not yet been felt at the grassroots level.
“We expect the governors of the six counties to sit down with their opponents, talk and agree on how to manage counties since the handshake at the national level has not been felt at the grassroots,” he said.
Elsewhere in Western and Nyanza regions, there have been murmurs that the fruits of the deal are yet to percolate to the ground.
Mr Odinga has however urged patience, saying the proverbial Canaan wouldn’t be reached in a day.
Additional reporting by Charles Lwanga and Stephen Muthini