Politicians must not use BBI report to incite Kenyans

Monday, November 4th, 2019 07:05 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga. Photo/File

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Report has finally been completed, and is awaiting formal handover to the so-called handshake partners, President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief, Raila Odinga.

A brief history is in order because it is germane to the events that are unfolding with the completion of the report. Uhuru and Raila shook hands in March 2018, following an election in which the latter was resoundingly beaten, but, as is his wont, rejected the results claiming he was rigged out. He then proceeded to swear himself in a the “People’s President,” whatever that means, and set the stage for disruption of the everyday life of Kenyans.

When the two shook hands, they stated that their aim was to unite all Kenyans, so that the perennial conflicts Kenya experiences after the polls become a thing of the past. This birthed the BBI, which was charged with finding out what issues Kenyans think cause these perennial conflicts, and make recommendations on how to address them.

A team was compiled, bringing together a plethora of political and religious figures. This team has been going round the country collecting views, and has finally compiled a report. It is now waiting to hand over this report to the two politicians that commissioned it.

But even before the report has been released, ominous rumblings have rent the skies.  Tensions are already growing, as politicians traverse the country speculating on the content of the report, and sabre rattling. This is not the way to go!

For better or for worse, the BBI team has actually gone round the country and spoken to a wide cross section of Kenyan constituencies. It now has a report ready. Let the country wait patiently until the report is released to enable Kenyans engage with its contents. Critically, politicians must hold their cool. It’s also critical that the two handshake partners release this report without further delay, to stem the growing anxiety especially within the political class. 

Once the BBI Report is released, Kenyans will then be able to read, evaluate and determine whether the report meets the threshold of the very lofty aspirations the “handshake partners” promised Kenyans it was aiming at. 

All major players, Uhuru, Raila and Deputy President, William Ruto, must stand down their troops, and pacify them. 

After the report is released, Kenyans must be allowed to debate it in a sober manner. Sabre rattling, denunciations, threats of tsunami and other incendiary rhetoric, must be strongly discouraged. It is only these three leaders that have the capacity to tame their hounds.  For the sake of Kenyans, they must hold their political allies and sycophants in check. None of them can win a zero-sum game.

Finally, the three leaders must be ready to accept whatever verdict the people of Kenya render over the BBI report. Kenyans could either accept or reject the recommendations, or any subsequent processes. The 2022 elections are not the end of the world, that leaders must completely polarize Kenyans if things do  not go their way.

The memories of the 2015 failed referendum are still very fresh in the minds of Kenyans, when these three leaders were all on one side. That referendum raised the country’s political temperatures to boiling point, and politicians kept them flaring through to the 2007 elections, where the faultlines that had been created exploded into a conflagration. Kenyans must not forget the harsh lessons of history.

The release of the BBI Report must not be the event that gives birth to major faultlines that will fuel civil strife in 2022. It would be the ultimate irony, and a cruel joke on Kenyans, if the very initiative touted as the panacea for election violence in 2022, became its very catalyst.

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