This past week, the country has been abuzz following the release of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.
Twenty months ago President Uhuru Kenyatta and his then-rival Raila Odinga met and sued for peace after a particularly turbulent post-election period.
They then formed a task force to collect views on the nine areas they had identified as needing intervention, and to recommend changes needed in our policy and legislative infrastructure to implement the needed shift in the national mindset and behaviour.
The task force finally handed over its findings to the appointing authorities last week, followed by a colourful launch at the constitutionally symbolic Bomas of Kenya.
While many people have taken stances that suggest support or rejection of the entire report, my own opinion is that the BBI Report is a set of recommendations cutting across the entire spectrum of our collective existence as a nation.
BEYOND OUR FUTURE
Our task is to tease out these recommendations and use them as the foundation for interrogation of the various policies and laws they speak to.
In this spirit, let us focus on a few of the recommendations that I found particularly worthy of note.
Firstly, the BBI Report, in the concluding paragraph of the first chapter on national ethos, the technical team recommended a national conversation that begins with the report but also goes beyond it to start thinking about the kind of country we want current and future generations to live in.
While the mechanics of this conversation are necessarily fuzzy, we must seriously think about this, and begin by asking if all of us really envision a Kenya beyond our own lifetimes.
If some of us cannot see a future beyond today, we must seriously examine the reasons behind that, and generate a cause for optimism through enlightened policy and action.
To borrow the language of the drafters of the report, we must ensure every Kenyan has some “skin in the game”, a stake in our future.
Secondly, it is gratifying to note that the technical team concluded that it is time the health services in Kenya were reorganised, retaining most functions as they are currently distributed, but bringing the entire body of human resources for health under one institution, the Health Services Commission.
This is perhaps the most important practical proposal for the ordinary Kenyan who has suffered repeatedly under the frequent industrial unrest in the health sector due to the scattering of human resources under 48 different regimes trying to implement a unified national health policy.
The Babelian cacophony resulting from this arrangement has cost many lives, and the situation cannot be allowed to continue.
Finally, proposals to strengthen national mental health services, including for our security personnel, must be applauded.
Coming soon after a presidential proclamation declaring a national mental health crisis, this recommendation fits very well within current identified needs for interventions and will help develop a happier and more productive citizenry.
Indeed, the recommendation for national and county departments of happiness, wellness and mental health must be implemented immediately!
If, in the midst of contentions about the proposed political arrangements, we can begin to implement the changes outlined here, it will be that much easier to tackle the remaining issues in the report.
These are the basic building blocks for bridges we intend to build.
The writer is Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Moi University School of Medicine; [email protected]