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BBI rallies laying the ground for bruising battle among Big Three

Sunday January 12 2020

BBI

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga lead a Building Bridges Initiative meeting at Kisii Sports Club on January 20, 2020. Mr Odinga said the BBI agenda must be dispensed with this year. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

KWENDO OPANGA
By KWENDO OPANGA
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Omnipresent even before its findings are concluded, let alone ratified, Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is all set to become a campaign tool.

If Nairobi's Bomas introduced its report, yet hid its intent, Kakamega's Bukhungu Stadium is primed for its high-profile, high-impact rollout.

A Boxing Day meeting between organised labour boss Francis Atwoli, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) chieftain Raila Odinga and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya has begat the first BBI-anchored public-galvanising rally.

Bukhungu will on Saturday serve up variety in the service of the organisers, schemers and owners of BBI.

It will seek to convey strength by the throng attending, and acceptance of BBI’s known and unknown prescriptions, by enthusiastic chorusing of slogans.

Speakers will intimidate opponents, real and perceived, of BBI. By a show of hands and rising decibels, the crowd will answer speakers’ BBI wishes.

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PRESIDENTIAL FETE

It will be the first political rally of 2020 that serves as a presidential function. It will be the first significant Handshake rally after many false starts.

The tone was set by Mr Odinga when he addressed media with Messrs Atwoli and Oparanya.

He said the BBI agenda must be dispensed with this year. He added that 2022 will mark the start of the new Kenya of unity, peace, liberty, justice and plenty, as envisioned by the founders and conveyed by the national anthem.

Confirmed. The year 2020, BBI and 2022 are intertwined. Outwardly, the organisers are Mr Oparanya and Mr Atwoli, but the visible hand of state under cover preparing a presidential function belies the importance of the event in national politics.

Mr Atwoli and Mr Oparanya will be delighted to host the President. More importantly, they will relish playing the role of a Luhya War Council: blessing and unleashing Mr Odinga into electoral battle and sounding the 2022 war cry for the rest of Kenya.

Mr Atwoli as secretary-general of the umbrella Central Organisation of Trade Unions, is used to performing on the big stage.

NUMBER TWO IN TROUBLE

But this will be massively significant politically, he having declared that Kenya currently has only two formations - pro and anti -BBI.

He will relish repeating that before the President, whom he says should stay on in power, preferably as premier, after his tenure expires in 2022.

But Mr Atwoli has as much respect for Deputy President William Ruto as he would reserve for an alley cat.

That speaks volumes: one, BBI is synonymous with Mr Odinga. Two, Mr Oparanya is ODM's second in command. Three, President Kenyatta long declared war on his own Number Two.

So if the DP attends, he will be on hostile turf and lonely in a crowd as happened at Bomas.

If he does not, he will be condemned for opposing BBI and the Handshake, and being in contempt of the President.

BBI professes to be a propellant of unity, peace, liberty and diversity, but, and Bukhungu will make it clear, it is evidently a repellent of dissent.

LUHYA'S PLACE

Mr Atwoli, who has decreed that only those he blesses will be elected in Luhyaland in 2022, will consider Bukhungu's success his confirmation as the foremost Luhya big beast. Ditto Mr Oparanya.

But the two have ignited a storm by locking out senior Luhya leaders such as Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula and Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi.

The former accused Mr Atwoli of selling the Luhya to Mr Odinga, a non-Luhya.

Though Mr Wetang’ula and Mr Mudavadi have not been enthusiastic about BBI, they will have an axe to grind.

They believe they have been disrespected as community heavyweights by Mr Atwoli and Mr Oparanya in deference to Mr Odinga.

The latter long slammed the door shut on the duo, preferring to negotiate the Handshake alone with the President though the troika, operating as National Super Alliance, had run against the President's Jubilee Party in the 2017 General Election.

VOTE BANK

But why launch it in Kachimeka? Because Luhyaland is populous and therefore a vote bank and therefore a battleground.

But Dr Ruto has pitched tent there. Abaluhya have to be prised from him or he from them for Mr Odinga's benefit. And that's where and why Mr Atwoli and Mr Oparanya come in.

Bukhungu will just be a stage on the long and convoluted road to the Kenyatta II succession.

But the circus and festival of cacophony will kick off the conditioning of the public mind on the next (BBI) political dispensation.

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