Ensure BBI report does not divide the country

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga. Photo/File

When President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga announced a political truce after the divisive 2017 elections, Kenyans breathed a sigh of relief.

The March 9, 2018 Handshake is acclaimed for restoring peace in a country that was steering towards a crisis. 

The two principals acknowledged that Kenya had a political problem that needed to be addressed and they had a responsibility to be part of the solution.

In their memo released on the steps of Harambee House, the protagonists-turned friends recognised they had a historic opportunity to set the country on the right course, saying they did not want to be remembered as another generation of leaders that did not rise to the occasion.

The two also acknowledged that the glue that holds the country is weak, leading to deterioration of relationships between ethnic communities and political groups.

Theirs was an act of courage and compromise. They then set up a team under the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to address their nine-point agenda of what they considered most pressing issues — inclusivity, corruption, ethnic division, polarising elections, security and lack of national ethos. Others were devolution, responsibility and rights as well as shared prosperity. 

The objective of the BBI taskforce report, set to be handed to the President and Raila today, is to build a sense of nationhood, unity and belonging for every Kenyan. 

But even before the findings are made public, cracks are emerging with a group of politicians vowing to reject the report if it does not address their various concerns.

There are strong indications the team’s proposals on some of the issues might not sit well a section of the political elite which has linked BBI effort to the 2022 Uhuru succession.

This could set the country on the path of divisive and unfortunate political debate that will defeat the spirit of the initiative.

One is reminded of the divisive 2005 referendum that was exploited to plant seeds of discord blamed for the disputed 2007 election debacle.  

It should be emphasised that debate around the BBI must not trigger political division and animosity that the principals aimed to bury.

And this places momentous responsibility on the President and Raila. They must rise to the occasion and ensure the national debate after release of the report is sober and responsible.  


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