Handshake, BBI accelerate more than impede national development
By Milan Kiplagat
Dethroned US President Donald Trump and Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto appear to have something in common.
Trump, one of the worst presidents in living memory, has spent four years in the White House barraging the world with misinformation and disinformation.
He kicked off his reign with a verifiable lie about the size of his inaugural crowd, a falsehood that Kellyanne Conway, a counselor of the president, infamously referred to as “alternative facts”.
An “alternative fact” may be loosely defined as an alternative interpretation of a fact to suit one’s one political or ideological purposes.
Just like Trump, Ruto has embraced the somewhat dishonorable art of barefacedly bombarding the masses with ‘alternative facts’.
For instance, on at least two occasions last week, the DP sought to blame the Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga for the Jubilee administration’s failure to fulfill its development pledges.
The gospel, according to Ruto, is that he and Kenyatta were able to achieve a lot on the development front during their first term in office, but that the 2018 Handshake and the resultant Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) has made them lose focus.
He claims initiatives such as the Big Four Agenda have consequently been derailed and thus the opposition cannot escape blame if the government fails to deliver on its promises to enhance local manufacturing and deliver food security, affordable housing and universal health coverage.
This is a verifiable lie; nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that Kenyatta is lagging behind in fulfilling some of his campaign pledges because Ruto himself launched premature campaigns for the 2022 presidential contest immediately after the 2017 election.
Indeed, part of the reason Kenyatta acceded to the Handshake deal is because he wanted to safeguard himself from an ambitious deputy who by all intents and purposes was out to render him a lame duck President, rock the Jubilee boat and jeopardise his legacy, all of which have become a reality.
As it stands, the DP, having even identified the political outfit he is likely to use as his 2022 vehicle, is all but nominally in Jubilee Party. He is only bidding time before he decamps at the appropriate time.
Time and again, Raila has made it clear that his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party is not in government but is in a partnership with Jubilee to deliver policy, legal and constitutional changes that would address issues that have historically held the country back, including in matters development.
By blaming the opposition, specifically Raila and his ODM party, Ruto is simply engaged in scapegoating for purposes of promoting his 2022 ambitions.
Indeed, it is because Ruto was abusing his almost daily forays across the country under the guise of launching and inspecting national government projects in 2022 campaign tours that the President created the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee vide Executive Order No.1 of 2019 and appointed Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i to chair it.
Realising that he had been denied a platform to promote his 2022 bid and endear himself to the electorate through the “launch” of various projects, it did not take long for Ruto and his allies in Tanga Tanga to turn their guns on Dr Matiang'i, accusing him of being used to undermine him.
This was despite the President making it clear that the mandate of the committee, comprising all Cabinet Secretaries, Attorney General, Kihara Kariuki, and Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, was to supervise the execution of national government development projects and programmes and report directly to him.
In essence then, they were accusing the President of undermining his deputy, a rather preposterous charge!
What Ruto also appears to forget is that the Handshake deal resulted in rare national unity that is conducive for development. It helped cool political temperatures in the country and thus enabled Kenyatta to concentrate on his legacy projects, key among them the BBI.
It transformed ODM and other opposition parties that subsequently came onboard, including Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Democratic Movement, Gideon Moi's Kanu, Musalia Mudavadi's Amani National Congress and Isaac Ruto's Chama cha Mashinani, to a constructive opposition.
By its definition, a constructive opposition plays a significant role in setting the government on right track, for instance, by ensuring that it follows broader national agenda rather than focusing on regional development. It cannot be equated to a friendly opposition as Ruto would want Kenyans to believe.
And there is no denying that since the Handshake deal, regions that were previously marginalised such as Luo Nyanza, Western and the Coast have been beneficiaries of massive infrastructure projects that would ensure their people realise rapid economic development.
Examples include the refurbished Kisumu Port, Dongo-Kundu Bypass Highway (Mombasa Southern Bypass), Malindi-Sala Gate Road, Mombasa-Isiolo-Addis Ababa Transport Corridor, Kisumu-Chemelil-Muhoroni (Mamboleo-Kisumu) Road and the Isiolo-Mandera Highway (which at a cost of Ksh91 billion will be the most expensive road infrastructure project in the country’s history) just to mention but a few.
But instead of joining the rest of Kenyans in celebrating these accomplishments, Ruto has chosen to perpetuate lies and play the tribal card while seriously polarizing the country.
But just as Trump recently found out, Ruto will soon realize that you can fool some people sometimes, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Mr Kiplagat is a regular commentator on social, economic and political affairs.