Eyes on Uhuru as country honours her nationalists
All attention will today be focused on President Uhuru Kenyatta as he leads Kenyans in marking this year’s Mashujaa Day, amid heightened political activity and fears of a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The day is also being marked against the backdrop of expectations for release of the much-anticipated Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which is expected to be the launch pad for radical political reforms aimed at enhancing national cohesion.
Already, daggers have been drawn over the document, with Deputy President William Ruto preparing his allies and troops to campaign against the report, which President Kenyatta and his ‘Handshake’ partner and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga have presented as the panacea for the country’s perennial socio-political problems.
With this year’s theme, Kenya Yangu, Jukumu Langu, Mimi ni Shujaa (I am a hero because I have a responsibility to my country), Kenyans will be looking up to the President to offer Solomonic counsel over the many challenges facing the country.
From effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and its resurgence, which has left more than 800 people dead, 1.7 million without jobs in a devastated economy, a major crisis in the education sector and growing political tensions, the public is pregnant with expectations that the President would somehow guide the country out of the muddle.
“The celebrations are coming at a very trying moment for the country that is struggling over effects of Covid-19.
Every Kenyan will be looking upon the President to give them messages of hope and reassurance that all is well.
There is a lot of despair everywhere at the moment,” Prof Macharia Munene of the United States International University (USIU-Africa) told People Daily yesterday.
Prof Munene said President Kenyatta has more often used such iconic days to address issues most pressing to the nation.
With his term nearing an end, amid an economic downturn and political shifts, the President’s shoulders are weighed down with the burden of leading the more than 47 million Kenyans at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is ravaging the world.
Last year, the President used the Mashujaa Day celebrations in Mombasa to outline a plan to shift gears, reshuffle his Cabinet by getting rid of non-performing ministers, and address specific economic and political challenges.
According to Prof Munene, this year’s 11th Mashujaa Day could be no different.
“This is the right time for the President to strike the iron when it is hot. Time is just ripe for him to release the BBI report so that Kenyans can read, understand it and decide whether to support it or not,” Prof Munene said.
The air is pregnant with expectation that the President could use today’s occasion to set the stage for release of the report that could change the country’s governance structure and improve representation.
However, reached for comment, one of the joint secretaries of the BBI Steering Committee was non-committal on when the report would be unveiled, though he confirmed that the entire team had been invited to the occasion being marked in Kisii county.
“All our members have been invited for the celebrations, but I cannot comment on whether we are going there to hand over the report or not. All I can say is that the report is ready,” said Paul Mwangi.
ODM chairman John Mbadi was more optimistic about the report being unveiled, stating that their party is prepared for its release.
Mbadi disclosed that all indications are the report could be released before end of the week.
“Who in his mind will oppose a report that advocates that 35 per cent of government revenue goes to the counties.
Why should people oppose a report that will ensure that 30 per cent of the development funds are directly allocated to Ward Development Boards?” Mbadi posed.
The President appeared to set the BBI ball rolling on Saturday during a meeting with the Senate and National Assembly leadership when he asked MPs to back the document when it is tabled in Parliament.
In an indication of the looming constitutional debate, the President attributed delay in unveiling the document to the Covid-19 pandemic and urged politicians to support it once it’s released because it holds the key to ending electoral fraud and violence.
And reading from the same script, ODM leader Raila told Kenyans to brace themselves for intense mobilisation to change the Constitution through BBI.
“Our people should prepare. We are preparing for the future and we will blow the whistle very soon. It is only a few days before we bring reggae back,” Raila said while addressing mourners in Siaya county.
But DP Ruto has maintained his hardline stand against BBI, dismissing it as an agenda being pushed by people seeking to secure jobs for a few individuals.
“The focus right now is not the BBI, which will create jobs for only four people who already have jobs and abandoned the Big Four agenda, where the housing projects alone would have created four million jobs. Really, do we have the right priorities?” he said in Embu.
Besides BBI, the President is also likely to focus on Covid-19 infections which are spiking again after the country seemed to have flattened the infection curve, with medics calling for reintroduction of restrictions to control the new surge.
It remains to be seen whether the Head of State will use the occasion to outline new measures at a time the first batch of students has returned to school and the government is mulling ordering the resumption of all classes by end of the month.
Yesterday, the head of the Infectious Diseases Unit at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) Dr Loise Ombajo, said a spike in new cases of Covid-19 is worrying, and called on the government to act fast.
Dr Ombajo said the number of new patients in need of hospital admission indicates a worrying trend.
“The number of sick people seeking hospitalisation is going up daily. This trend has been noted even in counties that have previously recorded low numbers,” she said.
Dr Fred Jonyo, the chairman of Political and Administration Department at the University of Nairobi, observes that the President could use his address to call on politicians to tone down their rhetoric and reduce tension among their supporters.
“The President’s greatest legacy would be leaving behind a united country. Can he marshal his CSs, including his deputy and MPs, for unity of purpose? It does not augur well for Ruto to read from a different script from his boss,” said Jonyo.
“The apparent internal differences (in the ruling Jubilee Party) are not good for the country at the moment,” the don said.