Politicising Building Bridges Initiative beats objective of process

Monday, January 20th, 2020 07:30 |
Deputy President Ruto, President Uhuru and Raila Odinga during BBI Report launch. Photo/Courtesy

The two forums organised in Kisii and Kakamega to drum up support for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) taskforce report have exposed divisions that could threaten the project ironically aimed at fostering national cohesion. 

In Kisii, some leaders not only boycotted a forum convened by Governor James Ongwae, but also threatened to disrupt it.

Those opposed to the Kisii forum raised suspicion that it was meant to frustrate Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential ambitions and endorse Opposition leader Raila Odinga. 

Similarly in Kakamega, some local leaders attempted to hold a parallel rally, saying the one at Bukhungu Stadium was calculated to impose a certain leader on the Luyha community.

Ugly incidents were witnessed as police dispersed politicians opposed to the BBI conference.

Yet the Bukhungu meeting itself turned into a political platform, whose debate majorly focusing on the report’s proposal to expand the Executive. 

While launching the BBI taskforce formed following the March 9, 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila, the two leaders indicated the initiative was meant to address some of the country’s most pressing issues, notably inclusivity, political tension and violence, electoral reforms, corruption and sharing of national wealth.

The BBI report among other things proposes expansion of the Execution through creation of the position of Prime Minister and two deputies.

And even though the BBI report made critical proposals on the other salient issues, it is the recommendations on governance that have generated the most heat. 

And given the conduct of politicians in the two forums which were punctuated with more rhetoric than substance on the subject matter, there is legitimate concern among Kenyans, who warned that the political elite would hijack the BBI to pursue selfish interests. This was apparent in both the Kakamega and Kisii forums. 

It is worth noting that the President recently  extended the terms of the BBI taskforce, with an expanded mandate to steer the second phase of public debate.  

To avoid the confusion witnessed in the initial BBI hearings, the task force should move swiftly assemble a secretariat to lead the process, if it is to meet its June 30 deadline.

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