To unite Kenyans, Raila must face the dark truths hidden in his past

Wednesday March 18 2020
By KWENDO OPANGA

Mr Raila Odinga denied in a TV interview that Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is a vehicle manufactured specifically to take him to pole position in the race for the presidency in 2022. He preferred to sell BBI as the pathway to reconciling and uniting Kenyans ahead of the next General Election.

BARRICADES

Neither position is a silver bullet. But this is a racing certainty: Mr Odinga will be front and centre of either unity drive or the forces to battle Deputy President William Ruto for the presidency in 2022, or both. Again, whichever way he chooses, Mr Odinga will be in the eye of the storm. More importantly, forever on the losing end of polls and always heading for the barricades, for Mr Odinga to emerge as a serious peacemaker, he must do the unthinkable.

For example, because he identifies election violence, ethnic competition for the presidency and elections as causes of the division between Kenyans, he should offer full disclosure of his role in dividing Kenyans at election time or for political gain.

He should then own the pain of loss and dislocations caused by his agitation and apologise. No, what happened at the Safari Park Prayer Breakfast in 2018 was no apology. To apologise one must state simply, clearly what error or mistake one made.

CHARADE

Then one must say clearly the damage that was suffered because of one's error or mistake. One must follow this up by expressing one's apology, without conditions, ifs or buts. And, last, one must commit oneself to not repeat the mistake in question.

At Safari Park, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga ambushed their running mates Dr Ruto and Mr Kalonzo Musyoka respectively into a charade. They said they had abused each other in the 2017 poll and forgave each other. They are still insulting each other.

If Mr Odinga is going to unite Kenyans on the bright promise of the moment, he must come to grips with the truth hidden in the darkness of the past. Such truth does not unite, it divides.

Moulding divisive truth into glue of cohesion would be Mr Odinga's new responsibility as a peacemaker.

FACTIONS

Second, Mr Odinga knows BBI has helped create a chasm as deep and wide as the Rift Valley between President and Deputy. Indeed, Mr Odinga has threatened that a BBI-induced tsunami will sweep rubbish (Dr Ruto) into political oblivion.

And Mr Odinga and his allies have since the advent of BBI turned themselves into single issue campaigners, painting Dr Ruto as the chief priest of corruption and the 2022 General Election as the anti-graft poll.

With the Orange Democratic Movement an accessory of the governing Jubilee Party, thanks to the rapprochement between the President and Mr Odinga, they no longer oversight government.

Third, there has been no deliberate attempt by President Kenyatta to unite his Jubilee which is split between two bitter factions allied to he and Dr Ruto and which have their sights firmly set on the 2022 General Election and the presidential succession.

DIVISIVE

Fourth, the isolation of Dr Ruto at the launch of the BBI report by Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, who luxuriated in laughter, and humiliation by Master of Ceremonies Junet Mohamed, as butt of jokes, will poison the proposed January national conference.

The launch excluded where it should have brought in, discriminated where it should have included; and faced down opposing sides rather then seek to reconcile them. BBI's own report launch was an advert for exclusivity where it preaches inclusivity.

Last, it will be difficult to delink BBI from the 2022 General Election when its key findings revolve around elections, ethnic competition for the presidency, management of polls, expanded Executive and a referendum.

BBI may call elections divisive but, polls, as I say, are not called to unite people, but to cause them to make choices. Asking people to choose divides them. A referendum will divide Kenyans enroute to a General Election which will, yes, divide them further.

RESPONSIBILITY

As a peacemaker, Mr Odinga will be called upon to rally Kenyans around the winner and to move ahead to build Kenya. While BBI has strongly strengthened Mr Odinga's hand in influencing a proposed change of the Constitution and the presidential succession, that power comes with the above responsibility.

I am not persuaded that the role above is what Mr Odinga had in mind of himself as BBI peacemaker. But the opposite view is of BBI as a custom-made vehicle for his ride to State House.

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