A rare admission by the Opposition chief Raila Odinga that the Building Bridges Task Force, a product of political truce with President Uhuru Kenyatta, had run into trouble could be a pointer to the deep-seated resistance the initiative is facing from powerful forces in government.
High-ranking members of the ruling party like Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen are on record as blaming ‘strained relationship’ between the president and his Deputy William Ruto on the growing bond Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have had after the March 9 handshake.
They have not shied away from hiding their reluctance to embrace the task force.
“Yes, they are facing a few challenges here and there which I know and are normal, but they are working and they will produce the results that we will use to re-construct ourselves as a society and deal with those issues which have been an impediment to the realisation of the Kenyan dream,” Mr Odinga said.
Ordinarily, and being one of its originators and restrained by the spirit of cooperation, Mr Odinga is not expected to go ballistic, his usual brand of politics in his public utterances in this case, but his close handlers say he is frustrated at the slow pace the initiative is moving.
They said he was waiting for Mr Kenyatta to return to the country to discuss on ways of unlocking the stalemate.
The president left for China last week for Sino-Africa summit and is expected back today.
But Mr Odinga still asks Kenyans to support the work of the task force, saying that it will deliver on its mandate.
He described the problems which he did not mention as 'normal' and said that the 14-member team was working round-the-clock and will provide solutions on numerous challenges the country was facing.
Having had to postpone a planned national conference twice, the committee chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji has been facing serious cash-crunch and there were signs that this had been solved; but Mr Odinga’s latest remarks bring into focus the role of the National Treasury, which is already struggling to manage the economy in the face of fuel crisis.
Initially scheduled for the second week of August before being moved to September 11, the conference has been put on hold indefinitely.
In the second case, co-secretary Paul Mwangi explained that clashing dates with a similar event by the Dialogue Reference Group (DRG) convened by the religious leaders had informed the move.
Last month, the National Treasury referred the Sunday Nation to the Interior Ministry to clarify who was to fund Building Bridges.
The ministry in turn passed the baton to State House who on their part sent us back to the joint secretary of the task force, Ambassador Martin Kimani, who did not respond to our enquiry on the same.
“Ambassador Kimani will be of help. That’s his domain,” State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena said then.
A high-ranking Treasury staffer had even questioned the practicality of such funds coming from their docket.
But speaking in Kisumu on Friday during a thanksgiving dinner for Kisumu Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth, who was celebrating his 40th year as a bishop, Mr Odinga asked Kenyans to be patient with the team.
He said it will lead to the realisation of the dreams of the country’s founding father - which include equity and a united country that is free of corruption, among others.
"Some 55 years since independence, we have not realised the dream of our founding father and so we formed a team to look into this.”
The team was formed by President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga after their March 9 peace deal and was tasked with making recommendations and proposals that will build lasting unity.
It is also expected to outline the policy and implementation modalities for each identified area and to conduct consultations with citizens, religious leaders, cultural leaders, the private sector and experts from county and national levels.
On Friday, Mr Odinga said that he reached out to Archbishop Okoth to be part of the initiative, which has 13 other members, thanks to his selfless nature for the 40 years he has been a bishop, as he also rekindles how the man of God helped him escape arrest during the Kanu era.
“Bishop has played a major role in building the society. He has touched many lives and many people look up to him in the society, so he was the first person I reached out to when we agreed to dialogue,” Mr Odinga said.
He went on: “I am one of the beneficiaries of the bishop’s generosity. He made arrangements on how I was to be sneaked out of Nairobi to escape what was to be my fourth detention, which indeed worked."
Archbishop Okoth said he prayed for the initiative to create a new Kenya.
Fellow clergymen asked the State to award him for his long service as a bishop with the Golden Heart.
Archbishop Okoth was ordained a priest back in 1968 and elevated to become bishop of Kisumu diocese in 1978 by Pope John Paul II, a position he served for 10 years.