On November the 27th 2019, little over a year and a half after it was started, the long-awaited Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) taskforce released its report. Meticulously compiled through information collected personally in all 47 counties, the BBI was a tremendous and painstaking undertaking, seeking to unite our exceptionally fragmented country through casting political differences aside and building bridges between communities.
The goal of this was to address the concerns of all Kenyans. Despite the complexity in compiling the report, now that it has finally been submitted and its findings released, the difficult part of the Building Bridges Initiative begins, namely the part that depends on us, the citizens of Kenya.
The BBI has attempted to tackle the issues facing citizens by focusing on nine points integral to their daily lives and the functioning of our country. These include things like ensuring terms in office are limited, guaranteeing adequate funding to all counties and battling corruption. The accomplishing of any of these feats independently is a challenge, let alone seeking to tackle all nine! While the President could be having the best interests of the country at heart, the time has come for us to realise that in order for the BBI to live up to its full potential, our own support is necessary.
There has of course been vociferous criticism of the BBI. Some have labelled it a political move to strengthen the President’s allies, while others argue that its impact will be to divide the nation.
Instead of wasting energy on such scepticism, we should instead be focusing on supporting the BBI and allowing it to accomplish what it set out to do – to create a framework for unity and make Kenya a better place for future generations.
The BBI report has already been released. The money and efforts have been expended in interviewing over 7,000 Kenyans, collecting their concerns and putting together a report that will address these. The least we can do is give it a chance.
Many reports have been written on the causes of division in our country, particularly in the aftermath of the 2007 election and the ensuing violence. Many attempts have been made to reform the political system, combat corruption and make our county a better place overall. None, however, has been on the scale of this undertaking. None has been so heavily reliant on the opinions of citizens. None has had the multilateral support that the BBI has, despite often amplified criticism from across the political spectrum.
If we waste time criticising the report before we give it a chance, we run the risk of missing a historic opportunity for change. Had citizens not thrown their full support behind other historic opportunities for change, such as fighting for citizens’ rights in apartheid South Africa or fighting segregation in the United States tooth and nail, our world would be a very different place. And not for the better.
We must ensure the future of our country by giving the BBI a chance to accomplish what it set out to do. For our country, for our people and for our families.
Sammy Kwinga is a Nairobi-based political scientist. [email protected]