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BBI is about building bridges to the 2022 Uhuru succession game

Sunday February 23 2020

Ruto, Uhuru and Raila at Bomas BBI launch

From left: Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga launch the Building Bridges Initiative report at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on November 27, 2019. PHOTO | REBECCA NDUKU | DPPS 

KWENDO OPANGA
By KWENDO OPANGA
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The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is an unstoppable juggernaut.

Its victims will be legion and may include the governing Jubilee Party. Jubilee cannot hold a meeting lest it descends into a civil war.

It is split down the middle amid camps associated with President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

The last time the first and second in command squared up to each other was in the post-independence years during the Cold War divide.

West-leaning President Kenyatta and leftist Vice-President Oginga Odinga were at loggerheads, with their ideology-based policy and political differences splitting government and Kanu.

The chasm between Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto knows neither ideology nor policy. But it has forced the presidential succession onto the front burner too early in the President’s final term.

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This is about whom the President will hand over power to because the DP, it is now clear, is not his preferred heir.

REFERENDUM

He won’t say who is, but attention has focussed on former Prime minister Raila Odinga, powerful Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi. Two of them are likely decoys.

Will the DP survive the BBI? That translates to, will he become president? He is the elected Number Two, but an unelected Odinga, the prime mover of BBI, occupies the enviable space at the President’s elbows.

Mr Odinga has the President’s ear and confidence. He loudly and proudly flaunts his new-found power.

A week ago, he spelt out the BBI timetable, complete with the preferred March date of finalising its so-called consultation process, and build-up to the referendum. Note: Mr Odinga does not propose a referendum; for him it is fait accompli.

The Presidency too has taken a hit from the BBI because it consists of the Office of the President and the DP’s.

The discord between the President and his deputy is, in fact, emboldening BBI mandarins to consider reorganisation of the apex of the government structure.

ROLE OF PARLIAMENT

It is why BBI’s proposal for the creation of a premiership recommends that the holder should have power to dismiss his deputy.

That suggests a shift where a lot more weight would be placed in the new office of deputy premier and turn the vice-presidency into a backwater.

Now the burning issues of the day should be discussed and resolved by Parliament. The BBI is the biggest issue in Kenya today because of what it proposes for the country.

But it is promoted, not in Parliament by legislators, but in the cacophony of political rallies.

Mr Kalonzo Musyoka seemed to grasp this issue when he called for a BBI rally at which MPs, not governors, would own the proceedings.

Governors are elected to govern while MPs exist to represent, provide oversight and legislate. But the fix was in already.

When the rapprochement, aka Handshake, between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga was unveiled in 2018, the latter announced his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) would henceforth be allied to Jubilee.

BBI RALLIES

When Mr Musyoka embraced the Handshake, he similarly unequivocally instructed his Wiper Democratic Movement legislators to support the government’s agenda.

The duo thus smothered parliamentary opposition and scrutiny, paving the way for Executive dominance. Parliament will therefore rubber-stamp BBI’s work at the tail end.

Further afield, governors are coordinating and facilitating BBI rallies at public expense and at the expense of public services.

Outgoing or first-termers, they are investing in the BBI, expecting Mr Odinga will hold sway in the dispensation ushered in by the 2022 General Election.

So much for the popular pre-2013 general election expectation that governors would be technocratic, politics-eschewing individuals primed to turn counties into technological, agribusiness and entrepreneurial hubs. Out-of-depth politicians occupy many a governor mansion.

What do speakers mean when they tell the BBI rallies that the political arena has only the BBI and Tangatanga formations?

POLITICAL MONOPOLY

They legitimise the BBI, stigmatise opposition, and box dissenters into a corner of discomfort. Tangatanga is a camp in Jubilee and not a formation. The idea is to herd all into BBI.

It is why the 2017 opposition platform, the National Super Alliance, lies in ruins, stranding Mr Odinga’s former allies Musyoka, Moses Wetang’ula and Musalia Mudavadi.

Sold down the river for the Handshake, they are now bullied to either join BBI or be swept into irrelevance.

Kenyatta & Odinga Bros has wrought a monopolistic juggernaut. Not since Kenya became a de jure single party state in 1982, has such monumental change loomed large.

Political monopoly cannot be a force for good; like absolute power, it corrupts absolutely.

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