• The report that emerged from the deliberations has undergone many panel beating moments.
• The process itself is obscured with a dark cloud of mystery hanging over it.
The Building Bridges Initiative is a by-product of the March 9, 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
The agenda that has been sold to Kenyans is that the handshake seeks to address ethnocentric politics, exclusivity and corruption, among other ills that have bedevilled Kenya since independence.
Besides, BBI also seeks to cure the winner-takes-all during elections to prevent electoral violence in future.
That notwithstanding, the report that emerged from the deliberations has undergone many panel beating moments. The process itself is obscured with a dark cloud of mystery hanging over it.
This invisible hand of betrayal engulfing the initiative has engendered intense debate about the real intended purpose.
Uhuru and Raila envisage one indivisible nation with a vibrant democracy and values that promote democracy, according to the nine-point agenda. But Raila is undoubtedly the biggest beneficially of the handshake as he seems to have made a return to the top table of Kenya’s politics.
As it is, Raila's position in the handshake appears to represent the opposition’s long struggle for electoral justice, whereas, Uhuru seems to play for an alternative modern view of the country’s governance.
The question we must all ask ourselves is; why did the President wait for the handshake to institute these changes? Why did he not start his walk right after he was sworn-in in 2013?
These are legit questions that shouldn’t be wished away, even as many Kenyans sense a sinister motive in the entire process. Perhaps this is Uhuru’s greatest fault — and not Raila’s. The latter is innately preparing a smooth ascension to power. But the President is seen by many as strangling the Constitution to create an avenue to hold on to power as Prime Minister should the proposed BBI referendum go through.
Uhuru has further been engaged in a tussle with his deputy, William Ruto, over the control of the Jubilee Party. The President seems to aim at consolidating the party gains in the hope this will strengthen its ideological coherence — if any! The President’s allies are today dictating activities at the Jubilee House. We are yet to see the last of these friendly fire exchanges.
These are some of the actions that inform DP Ruto’s skepticism of the process dubbed to build a coherent nation. It stems from a deep feeling of betrayal by Uhuru as the 2022 succession nears.
Ruto and Uhuru are hinged on crossroads; each with different views of what a prosperous Kenya should look like.
To Ruto, the ideas informing the BBI process were controversial from the word go as his priority lays elsewhere, particularly empowering the poor to own small sustainable businesses. He believes investing in ‘hustlers’ will deliver the young generation to a promising future of economic prosperity — the more reason that the BBI should be modelled along such lines.
This demographic change has created two distinct strands of political debate. Those who believe that the youth should be patient and work their way up to success gradually; and others, who want empowerment to happen ‘now’ as they contend that Kenyans have been denied reasonable expectations of future prosperity.
Ruto argues that economic empowerment is the answer to the unity of Kenya. And it’s no wonder his idea is resonating with many. His potential strength is in his ability to appeal to the frustrated and disillusioned populace — something he hopes to capitalise on in furtherance to his 2022 ambitions. His fight bares the hallmarks of a conservative, yet radical faction within Jubilee. In addition, he enjoys the political capital accumulated over the years.
The third force is made of a civil society crusading against the BBI. It has stated in no uncertain terms that not a single hastily webbed together document is going to deliver Kenya from poor leadership. It argues that if 15 per cent of the national revenue that should be devolved has not been smoothly achieved yet, what guarantee the proposed 35 per cent will be actualised? What required is genuine economic empowerment devoid of theatrics.
All said, I echo Jill Cottrell Ghai words, “BBI lists many problems, but fails to engage with the ones that really matter. Nothing proposed seems likely to seriously change people’s unfortunate situation. So, despite all the talk, we still lack a solution to the issues that really matter”.
Whatever the handshake duo hope for a new Kenya under the BBI is a matter of wait and see. But all who do not wish to be part of a retrogressive Kenya should avoid the BBI.
Antony Nkuubi is a governance expert and Obama Foundation Leader's Fellow