Uhuru, Raila: Report’s launch opens new chapter for Kenya

Thursday, November 28th, 2019 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative task force report at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi. Photo/PD/PSCU

Emeka-Mayaka Gekara

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga threw their national cohesion campaign to Kenyans, projecting the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative report as the beginning of a new journey for the country.

It was apparent the two had staked uniting the country as a critical issue in their legacies, painting the initiative as an opportunity for Kenyans to chart their future.

They challenged Kenyans to read and debate the document which proposes radical changes to the country’s power structure, devolution, the fight against corruption, management of elections and inclusivity. It also outlines proposal on youth empowerment and national ethos.

The two appeared keen to directly speak to ordinary Kenyans and dispelled murmurs that their campaign was about sharing of political seats. 

They also cautioned the political elite not to  hijack the initiative and asked them to let ordinary wananchi to make their own decisions on the report. 

“I appeal especially to the political class. Do not divide Kenyans, they do not deserve it. We are here talking about their wellbeing. We are here talking about their peace,” said the President.

He added: “This is not about us as leaders but it is about the 47 million Kenyans.” 

Election conflicts

Tanzania’s  Foreign Affairs minister Palamagamba Kabudi urged Kenyans to embrace nationhood and discard tribalism.

“Kenya  is a great nation full of great people who have been messed up by tribalism. We in Tanzania have more tribes than Kenya but still manage to exist peacefully. Why do you Kenyans fight after every election?”  Kabudi wondered.

The BBI report, which was a result of the March 9, 2018 Handshake  between Uhuru and Raila, is proposing an amendment of the Constitution to create the position of prime minister, disbandment of the electoral commission, increase of allocation to counties and banning of public servants from doing business.

The journey towards the implementation of the report, however, appeared to begin on shaky ground when some of Deputy President William Ruto’s allies complained of being sidelined at yesterday’s event. 

Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen claimed the list of speakers at the event favoured leaders allied to the Kieleweke faction.

Attempts by Murkomen to raise the issue was greeted with boos  from the crowd gathered at the Bomas of Kenya auditorium.

It took the intervention of Senator Yusuf Haji who chairs the BBI team for Murkommen to speak. 

In their appeal to the delegates, Uhuru and Raila said their truce was not easy but was reached for the sake of peace and unity in the country.

He also said he had reached out to Ruto in 2010 to reconcile their communities which  had  harboured animosity following the 2007/08 post-election violence.

And for the first time, the President revealed their first meeting with Raila after exchanging harsh words in the 2017 election was awkward and tense.

“The initiative is not about an individual or sharing of seats. I reached out to Raila because I wanted peace,” he told thousands of delegates at the historic Bomas of Kenya.

Opposition leaders Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula and several governors also attended the event.

Uhuru said after Kenyans read the BBI report, he will convene a national meeting in January to “reflect” on their views in order to improve the document.

 He, however, cautioned the political class against divisive politics saying desire for power should not be allowed to override national interests. 

Raila reflected on the famous 2003 Bomas Constitution talks that never yielded a Constitution but expressed optimism that the BBI will succeed. 

He also stressed that the reforms suggested in the report were not meant to benefit any individual politician. 

“The positions are not being created for any particular person. We want to start a new Kenya where we will be working as one people,” he said.

The former PM also indicated that after a national debate, experts will improve the document and build national consensus

Build institutions

Ruto, who has expressed reservations about the BBI initiative, struck a reconciliatory note, but warned that process should not take a costly route that could divide the country further. 

MPs allied to Ruto have been voicing opposition to the document which they perceive as calculated to block him from ascending to the presidency in the next election.

Yesterday, the DP described the Uhuru-Raila truce as an “act of courage and patriotism”.

“Even as we discuss reconciliation, we should strive to build institutions, not personalities and for us to build institutions, we must submit to the rule of law,” he said.

The divisions in Jubilee Party over the BBI played out at the ceremony where Ruto’s allies, otherwise known as the Tanga Tanga  team, appeared to have been sidelined. Majority of the politicians who spoke at the event were pro-BBI.

The senator said that while he would support the BBI, it should not be used to create political alliances.

The only other Ruto ally who spoke apart from Murkomen was National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale who warned politicians and other public servants against hijacking the BBI initiative.

“We should not allow some leaders and bureaucrats to sabotage the process. They are around you. They are your friends. These are the people who will sabotage the process,” Duale told the President.

Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi called for sobriety while debating the report and cautioned it should not be about sharing positions of power.

“Let us not convert the BBI to a political elite document. Everybody here is talking about sharing political seats. What about motivating the civil servants, teachers, the private sector?” Musalia said.

More on National