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Thunder from Mt Kenya threatens to destroy bridges BBI is building

Sunday October 27 2019

Building Bridges Initiative

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and Opposition leader Raila Odinga demonstrate their cordial relationship during the annual prayer breakfast in Nairobi on May 31, 2018. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

KWENDO OPANGA
By KWENDO OPANGA
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Confirmed a monopoly and ascendant, Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) appeared in command of the change-constitution arena in particular, politics in general, and the Kenyatta II succession in tow.

BBI was driving political discourse ahead of the unveiling of its eagerly awaited report and recommendations which have been expected to shape the rethinking of Kenya's Constitution, political and electoral terrain and architecture of the presidential succession.

Indeed, insider briefings about BBI's work; teasing allusions to attempts to infiltrate and influence its crew; and choreographed winks and nods to selected news outlets and journalists in certain directions, kept it top of the public mind.

UHURU SUCCESSION

Then came Thursday's thunderclap from clear blue skies. BBI was its target, which pointed to the vicious fights lying in wait for the initiative and that underpin the fault lines in politics ahead of the 2022 General Election and presidential succession.

Mt Kenya MPs held court, sabre rattling with a signed statement. They made it clear that they were speaking not as Deputy President William Ruto-allied Tanga Tanga nor Odinga-leaning Kieleweke Jubilee Party factions, but as elected representatives of Mt Kenya peoples and their diaspora.

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The timing of their statement, the large number of 40 out of 56 elected representatives that signed on the statement and, convention ahead of the BBI report, meant the objective was that all would sit up and take notice of their intervention.

BBI is the brainchild of President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga. BBI is the vehicle by which Mr Odinga hopes to gain pole position ahead of Dr Ruto in the race to succeed Mr Kenyatta. BBI has been seen as the future of Kenya's politics.

Mt Kenya's support for BBI is crucial if it is to be accepted by Kenyans and smooth the way for Mr Odinga to succeed President Kenyatta.

REFORM

But after Thursday's performance it is evident the region's MPs have little time for BBI now unlike was the case in 2018 and the better part of 2019.

Clearly the calculus has changed. Without mincing words, the politicians put the key protagonists of BBI, President Kenyatta and his chief new-found cheerleader Raila Odinga on notice.

And they put Mt Kenya at the heart of the reform of the constitution and the presidential succession.

Yes, exit Punguza Mizigo, the failed change-the-constitution project, and enter Jubilee Party MPs from the President's own backyard armed with a wrecking ball. They put BBI and the President's legacy-bound Big Four under scrutiny and in jeopardy.

They handed Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga tension headaches. They implied the former has neither say nor sway in his succession. And they suggested the latter's private deal with the President does not guarantee him their support or vote on anything.

FEWER COUNTIES

Mt Kenya is under-represented legislatively and has fewer counties, yet it is Kenya's most populous region, read their explosive statement.

They said it is Kenya's most economically productive region, yet gets the least in terms of allocation of resources.

The group said Mt Kenya would like to benefit from available job opportunities in and composition of government and it would like to benefit from infrastructure projects and see its counties resourced fully in a manner befitting their populations.

Emphasising their region's numerical strength, the leaders demanded that the principle of one person one vote be respected in order that each individual vote counts. The message is clear: Our vote will count in every material particular.

In reference to parliamentary style democracy, believed to be a cornerstone of Mr Odinga's and BBI's pitch, they ruled out election of leaders by MPs or electoral colleges because this will suppress Mt Kenya's numerical superiority.

LEGACY PROJECTS

Without the support of Mt Kenya for Mr Odinga's presidential or prime ministerial bid, the man may not grab the diadem he desperately needs to crown his political achievements. Put another way, if you want our vote you will do as we say and or demand.

Thursday's checkmate caused great discomfiture in Mr Odinga's camp. If BBI does not command support in his backyard, President Kenyatta will discard it in exchange for support for his legacy projects of housing, health, manufacturing and infrastructure.

What is Dr Ruto take? His silence and that of his voluble sidekick Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and shoot-from-the-hip MP Sudi would suggest, the DP's camp too was shaken by the thunderbolt.

The thunder from the mountain may unleash cascading lava! President, DP and Mr Odinga have opted for safety first. They are the first casualties of Mt Kenya's thunder.

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