‘UhuRao’, waken slumbering Building Bridges, graft war

Tuesday July 24 2018

Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga

President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga at Harambee House on March 9, 2018. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Dear President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Raila Amolo Odinga, please allow me to address you jointly as UhuRao.

It is a convenient moniker that obviates the need for a mouthful with every reference. It also, Mr Kenyatta, echoes the reference to the UhuRuto partnership with your Deputy President William Ruto.

If you two pull out your calendars and count back, you will find it’s going to 20 weeks since you famously stood on the steps of Harambee House and exchanged a handshake that reverberated across the landscape.

Many of us were enthralled and captivated by your joint promise of cessation of a generation of family and community political animosities and commencement of a brave new initiative to finally address the source of suspicion, hostilities, grievances and conflicts that all too often make Kenya a powder keg of ethnic conflagration.

We were filled with hope and optimism that, finally, Kenyans would stop burying the heads in the sand, seize the opportunity to exorcise the demons of the past and at last begin laying the building blocks for a peaceful, stable, united nation where all individuals and communities can claim equal co-ownership.


Sadly, it is beginning to look like a dream deferred, yet another of those fraudulent political bridges to nowhere that we have been condemned to for so long.

Dear UhuRao, 20 weeks has been more than enough time for your Building Bridges initiative to show real signs of progress.

Upon announcement of the new movement, you also appointed your hand-picked cohorts — Martin Kimani and Paul Mwangi — to jointly head a secretariat that would plot the way forward.

But after that, the pair seemed to have gone to sleep for some seven weeks — before you unveiled a team of 14 ‘drivers’.

It was not an inspiring team, dominated by old-style Church leaders better known for their roles as self-appointed spokesmen and elders for your respective ethnic political formations rather than for fidelity to proclaimed faith. They simply don’t look the kind of personalities who can chart progressive, imaginative, brave and daring new paths outside the direction set by the appointing authorities.

Just as worrying, UhuRao, your Building Bridges initiative seems to have gone back into deep slumber since the negotiating team was unveiled at the end of April.


That has been another 12 weeks wasted. In the intervening period, brutal and selfish politics around crumbling political alliances and premature campaigns for the 2022 elections have served to divert attention and focus from two of the most important issues.

One is the Building Bridges initiative, which can set Kenya away from the usual path of destructive ethnic competition onto a brave new world of sustainable peace and shared prosperity. The other is the relaunched war on corruption.

UhuRao, you proclaim unstinting support for the campaign to root out institutionalised graft. Rampant theft of public resources by those in positions of power and authority has been the millstone around the neck of every Kenyan since Independence. Corruption diverts money from education, healthcare, water supply, roads, law and order, social services, food security and other critical public investments just to line the pockets of a few and fuel destructive political campaigns.

We are seeing powerful forces at the very heart of government resisting and sabotaging the anti-graft war.

They are playing the old card of political and ethnic victimhood, inciting their supporters with the retrogressive and dangerous ‘our people are being finished’ narratives that can easily spark ethnic conflict.


UhuRao, you can only halt these reactionary elements by lending unstinting political support to the war against corruption.

Jointly, you can mobilise your legions of supporters to recognise that the war against corruption is a war to safeguard their own resources; and a war that mercenary Parliamentarians can only sabotage at the risk of losing their seats.

Of course this crusade must be waged in a fair manner with no hint of political victimisation or favouritism.

If defeating corruption must be the Number 1 agenda, then it must be twinned with the Building Bridges initiative.

Dear UhuRao, it follows that must now move with haste to pull Building Bridges out of hibernation. Those you have entrusted to drive it must wake and up and be seen worth the onerous task.

Building Bridges will also make more sense when it expands beyond a ‘private’ UhuRao family and community parley to a broad-based all-inclusive national conversation.

That is the only way it will triumph over the reactionary forces of corruption and ethnic incitement and deliver on its sacred mandate.

[email protected] Twitter: @MachariaGaitho