Stop using BBI rallies to propagate division

Monday, February 24th, 2020 06:11 |
Deputy President Ruto, President Uhuru and Raila Odinga during BBI Report launch. Photo/Courtesy

The unfortunate comments by Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina to the effect that the national cohesion rally held in Narok county was ‘a Maasai affair’ negates the spirit of the Building Bridges Initiative that is being spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga.

It is notable that the seven Maasai-speaking regions represented at the Saturday meeting are cosmopolitan, with a heavy population from Kenyans from other parts of the country.

Narok, Kajiado and Samburu counties are cases in point. These communities have bought land and invested in these areas. The Constitution allows Kenyans to work and live in any part of the country.

Though ancestral communities may have legitimate and unique problems that they would want addressed through the initiative, their concerns  must be sensitively expressed to ensure they do not overshadow or exclude other communities. 

One of the cardinal goals of the BBI is national cohesion. The other is the need to address the five-year electoral violence cycle that has been the bane of the country’s multi-party democracy.

The issues of land in Kenya remains thorny, especially among the Maasai who lost vast swathes to British colonialists. The same emotive issue concerns the residents of Coast region. 

It would be remembered that land ownership, especially in the Rift Valley was among causes of the 2007/08 post-election violence that led to the death of more than a thousand Kenyans and displacement of hundreds of thousands of families. 

It was also at the heart of the post-1992 land clashes in the Rift Valley and  Coast regions. That is why the debate around the issues should be addressed with a great deal of sensitivity.

And this places particular responsibility on Raila, who is not only one of the moral guides of the process, but also an experienced hand in Kenyan politics. The former premier must provide leadership to ensure the BBI platforms are not used to sow seeds of discord. He must tame people preaching division  at the rallies.

The other body that must wake up from its slumber is the National Cohesion and Integration Commission. It must  stop issuing sterile statements from the comfort of its boardrooms. It must directly monitor the BBI forums and promptly take action against  hatemongers.

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