If cohesion commission was made strong, would we really need BBI?

Sunday November 17 2019

Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) committee meets with women's group Embrace Kenya at KICC, Nairobi, on August 8, 2019. The BBI is duplicating the work of the NCIC. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) speaks for itself.

It was formed by an Act of Parliament in 2008, no sooner than the blood of the victims of the 2007 violence had dried.

The Act states the purpose of the NCIC as “to encourage national cohesion and integration by outlawing discrimination on ethnic grounds; to provide for the establishment, powers and functions of the NCIC, and for connected purposes (whatever ‘connected purposes’ means!).

With an organisation such as the NCIC, given the mandate to create a cohesive and integrated society, why did we, then, have to even think of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI)?

That apart, poll violence should have been a thing of the past had the NCIC been more visible than it is on issues of hate, discrimination and violence.

The commissioners seem happy to be seen but not heard, amid all the divisions and violence the country experiences.


Kibra has been thronged by another election-related violence and Marsabit has experienced deadly hate-fuelled ethnic strife for a number of years now with the NCIC rarely even trying to wake up from its slumber.


Statements such as those made by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga during the campaign for the Kibra mini-poll that the constituency is “Baba’s bedroom”, is passively aggressive, not to mention inflammatory.

It was ODM’s way of drawing a line in the sand and readying itself for a duel as it tacitly dared its rivals to not even think of the Kibra seat.

To ODM, their right to Kibera seat is cast in iron. It is not surprising, therefore, to witness intimidation, bribery and stones hurled about. What is democratic about ODM’s behaviour in this regard?

I do not hold brief for any party, but I still fail to see why Dr Boni Khalwale got the flak when he had to defend himself from the threats he was receiving.

Any individual facing the level of fear witnessed in the video on the former Kakamega senator that went viral would have done exactly what he did.

What is disturbing is the silence of the NCIC and the police on the violence in Kibra. Their failure to act is a big concern and does not bode well for the 2022 General Election.


For a country that has had its leaders almost saved from the jaws of ICC, we ought to have put in place by now to make election-related violence a thing of the past.

Lest we forget, Kibra was the epicentre of the pre-ICC violence. The video that showed Dr Khalwale carrying stones has the prima facie evidence.

What are the NCIC and the police waiting for? And it was not only the violence; a few of the ODM leaders ran away with ‘Baba’s bedroom’ comment and used unsavoury, sexist and pornographic or blue language against their opponents worthy of a reprimand — but none has been forthcoming.

But it is hard to put all the blame on the NCIC without looking at the factors that hinder its operations.

Like many such organisations, it is never given teeth to bite. Without strong prosecutorial powers like those enjoyed by the EACC and the DPP, they have no way to win over violence and create the cohesion that we yearn for.

The goal being pursued by BBI to unite the country could easily have been achieved by the NCIC had it been allowed to prove its relevance and supported through funding and capacity building.


Despite the crucial role it is legislated to play, NCIC is one of the most invisible government departments.

The ‘handshake’ — whose agreement is still vague, and which birthed the still-ambiguous BBI — is, nonetheless, commendable.

President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga timed it well to kiss and make up. Kenya experienced a period of lull and tranquillity after the handshake — until BBI.

The intentions of BBI may have been good; however, it is receiving the undesired reactions.

It has already created fault lines with Raila and Ruto supporters using it to tear into each other. That is nearly a half of the country divided by BBI.

If the handshake was meant to bring the country together, BBI is ready to put it asunder.

The architects of BBI must now think of shelving it, if only to save the country from the potential violence linked to it.

It does not appear as if BBI will succeed in achieving unity.


BBI is also duplicating the work of the NCIC. It is illogical to form organisations such as the NCIC but not give them the space to do their work.

This is an organisation that is meant to work for the interest of the entire country and not a select few.

BBI is flying in the wind of opposition because it is tagged to two individuals, who are finding it hard to prove they are, indeed, fronting the interest of the country.

President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga need to be honest about what they really intend to achieve with BBI. For now, the unity of the country appears illusive under it.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo