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Raila and Ruto fighting over carcass as BBI a non-solution

Tuesday December 3 2019

BBI report

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga celebrate the launching of the BBI report at Bomas of Kenya, in Nairobi, on November 27, 2019. PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA | AFP 

MACHARIA GAITHO
By MACHARIA GAITHO
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Deputy President William Ruto and opposition chief Raila Odinga are already feuding over the interpretation and implementation of the Building Bridges Initiative report.

But they don’t seem to realise that if what is, essentially, a contest for the ownership of Kenya proceeds in familiar fashion they will be fighting over a carcass.

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on whether the report released last week was a defining moment in Kenyan politics or nothing more than just one big damp squib.

We are approaching the season of goodwill, so, perhaps being charitable would be in order. BBI was absolutely underwhelming.

The merry men and women of the BBI task force were appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga to design solutions to many of the existential problems of our time.

They had the direct mandate of no less than the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, together with a legend of African reform politics and the President’s erstwhile foe, to offer real and concrete solutions to what ails the country.

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LATENT UPHEAVAL

That kind of assignment calls for brave thinking, radical solutions to problems that cannot be addressed with timid steps.

The BBI was itself recognition that, if something was not done, Kenya was headed for an inevitable spiral into doom and destruction.

We are talking here not just of political, economic and social paralysis.

There is always a real threat of ethnic clashes, civil disturbance, class warfare, revolt of the have-nots and other dispossessed groupings that typify urban unemployment, rural helplessness and marginalisation of vast swathes across more than half of the country.

The kind of issues identified by President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga demanded not band-aid solutions but a revolutionary re-engineering of the entire fabric.

If we are unable to bring change from above, we must brace for the inevitable revolt from below.

BBI was not supposed to be an academic exercise. It was not supposed to be about long-winded analysis without concrete solutions.

It was not supposed to propose yet more committees and talking shops.

TIME BOMBS

The problems are already well-defined. We face violence with every electoral cycle.

Our ethnic politics breeds ethnic violence. Unemployment and poverty remain ticking time bombs — as the then Vice-President Daniel arap Moi reminded us in the mid 1970s in the run-up to yet another abortive ‘Kenya we Want’ parley.

A rich-poor gap, about the widest anywhere, remains a recipe for angry revolt.

Vast regions of the country are still denied education, health, roads and other basic economic and social rights.

Government remains absent in major stretches of the country that have been abandoned to bandits, cattle rustlers, ethnic militia and terrorists.

We may quaff champagne and enjoy first-world comforts while plotting how to grab or hold onto power and to multiply our wealth, but we live in a fool’s paradise.

That Kenya is a relatively stable, peaceful democracy and regional economic powerhouse should not dull us into false comfort.

THREAT OF REVOLUTION

Modern history is replete with countries that have fallen as a direct consequence of the ‘Kenya situation’: lopsided ‘development’, glaring economic and social inequities, a tiny elite monopolising wealth and power and deep-seated hostilities across ethnic sub-nations.

These are the real issues the BBI team refused to properly look at and offer solid solutions.

The more we bury our heads in the sand, the greater the real and present danger of revolution, implosion or both.

These are not issues that can be cured by establishing a meaningless office of prime minister or giving the losing presidential candidate the tokenism of an official role.

Neither can these serious issues be resolved by political princes sitting around to share the spoils.

The threat of revolution that could sweep everything away can only be addressed by revolutionary solutions.

EQUALITY

We need a new Kenya, not under the mercy of elites scrambling for power and wealth but one where every citizen enjoys equal access to the basic needs, has equal opportunity to grow and thrive and feels Kenyan irrespective of tribe, clan or distance from the centre.

We need a situation where the adage “every child is born equal” is not a mirage but reality.

To make sense, BBI should have proposed the replacement of the unjust economic, social and political kleptocracy. Tinkering at the edges only upheld the status quo.

Mr Odinga and DP Ruto can continue feuding over the BBI’s non-solutions but they may soon have nothing left to fight over.

[email protected]; @MachariaGaitho

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