Uhuru: BBI will secure nation’s bright future
President Uhuru Kenyatta used his Seventh State of the Nation to rally Kenyans behind the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) even as he sought to give some hope that the country will recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The President who was addressing the two Houses of Parliament was keen to calm the nerves of a country dithering under the weight of the pandemic, saying the key pillars of the nation were strong.
Uhuru took the country through the measures his administration had taken to save lives, protect business and cushion families, expressing confidence that the country will be back on its feet due to the resilience of its people.
The President also used the address to highlight the central role Parliament is set to play in the implementation of the BBI proposals and challenged lawmakers to rise to the occasion.
The President spoke as BBI co-principal Raila Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto, Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and his Amani National Congress counterpart Musalia Mudavadi listened from the public gallery.
Chief Justice David Maraga, who has issued an advisory for the dissolution of the two Houses of Parliament, did not attend the address, for the second time in a row.
“I wish from the onset to assure you that the State of our Nation is strong, resilient and brimming the promise of an even brighter tomorrow,” he said.
Uhuru painted the BBI proposals, which will see radical constitutional changes, as the future, and the way to “the Promised Land”.
“Like Moses in the Bible who sat at the top of Mount Nebo and saw the future that the people of Israel were about to Cross into the promised land, I too, have seen our future,” he told lawmakers amidst cheers.
“Let us engage in positive discourse with a view to effecting far-reaching changes that will address the perennial challenges we have faced as a nation – negative ethnicity; inclusion; equitable development and our fight against corruption,” he said.
Kenyans have for the past eight months been battling the effects of the pandemic which the President said had by yesterday claimed 1,203 lives with 66,723 confirmed cases.
But even then, the President said the government had reinforced measures to fight the pandemic and grow the economy.
“The State of our Nation is Strong, Steady, and Resilient. Similarly, the state of our economic development is and remains on course despite unexpected disruptions to our economy and way of life, chiefly from Covid-19. Kenya remains vigilant and capable of defeating this invisible enemy.”
The President built a strong case for the BBI proposals that have been tabled in Parliament and asked lawmakers to build consensus on the sticky issues.
The BBI final report has, among other things, proposed the creation of the post of prime minister with two deputies with the aim of ensuring inclusivity in national governance.
It has also suggested creation of additional seats to address gender equity.
However, Ruto and a section of the church have raised strong reservations about the document proposing further amendments.
Yesterday, Catholic bishops fell short of rejecting the BBI report accusing it of seeking to entrench an imperial presidency and overburdening Kenyans.
Under the aegis of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), the bishops led by Rt Rev Philip Anyolo insisted that the document must be subjected to a robust debate and further amendments before it is subjected to a referendum.
“To give the President the power to appoint a Prime Minister and two Deputies risks consolidating more power around the president thereby creating an imperial presidency,” warned Anyolo in a session attended by over twenty catholic bishops including John Cardinal Njue.
But in his address, President Uhuru implored that the BBI project which is a result of their March 2018 handshake with Raila will put the country on path to greater national unity, inclusivity, peace, reconciliation and underlined a sense of urgency.
Meeting with destiny
“This moment in time is our meeting with destiny. When generations come long after we are gone, let them say that we made the right decision at this moment; that we chose unity over division; that we dreamt of and birthed a happier, more harmonious and more prosperous nation.”
He also asked MPs to hasten the Bill on management of the referendum.
Besides the BBI, the President sought to spell out some of the measures the government will be taking as the country strives to return to normalcy.
On the re-opening of schools, he asked the Education ministry to announce the 2021 academic calendar within the next 14 days.
The President said the calendar would be ready soon, as all other classes are expected to resume in January 2021.
He acknowledged the pain and frustration of most parents in having children home for nearly an entire year but explained that the government put the health and safety of children as the paramount consideration.
“The Ministry of Education will, within 14 days from the date hereof announce the 2021 academic calendar, with all other classes expected to resume learning in January 2021,” the President said, during the seventh State of the Nation address.
He assured the gradual and phased reopening of schools that began with examination classes is being carefully monitored at all levels to ensure learners are safe and secure, as they continue preparing for their national examinations.
Uhuru also called on Kenyans not to let their guard down in the fight against Covid-19, warning that “we are not yet out of the woods.”
“We must not succumb to Covid fatigue. We must not ‘back truck’ from our vigilant fight against this pandemic.
On our part as leaders, our stamina for discipline must not diminish. If the people fall short of giving their best at this time, we the leaders have no option but to give our all. We must “…know the way, go the way, and show the way.”
He asked Parliament to prioritise the passing of key bills such as the National Aviation Management Bill, which once enacted, will anchor the turnaround of national carrier, Kenya Airways.