HANDSHAKE

Uhuru, Raila won the battle but losing the war

The two have squandered opportunity to demonstrate the unifying factor of BBI

In Summary
  • Simply put BBI is about power-sharing and particularly between the two tribes of the handshake principals
  • If Jubilee and ODM can agree to front candidates from any of the least known tribes of Kenya then I would be persuaded otherwise
President Uhuru Kenyatta when he was hosted by ODM leader Raila Odinga during a tour of Kisumu county on October 22, 2020.
President Uhuru Kenyatta when he was hosted by ODM leader Raila Odinga during a tour of Kisumu county on October 22, 2020.
Image: RAILA ODINGA

March 9, 2018, heralded a political ceasefire of sorts when President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga shook hands outside Harambee House. The photo of the two political rivals caught the country by surprise but it was a welcome gesture.

The nation was polarised following two disputed presidential elections. However, in this one show of statesmanship the country breathed a sigh of relief. To give credit where due, it would be in order to show gratitude to the two leaders for demonstrating leadership at a time when we were experiencing a crisis. We have since enjoyed political tranquillity as a result of their selflessness.

The handshake has since evolved into Building Bridges Initiative. Unfortunately, it seems the handshake won the battle but is losing the war. The BBI task force committee says that “it is a journey to accomplish Kenya’s dreams since its Independence.” I wish that was true. Nothing is more important than accomplishing the elusive Kenyan dream.

I am not a prophet of doom but a realist. I like putting things into perspective. In their own words, “the Building Bridges Initiative was to look at nine issues including: ethnic antagonism, corruption and devolution – thought to be among the greatest challenges since the country became independent in 1963.” The principals should walk the talk.

Let me interrogate just two examples which are tell-tale signs that BBI is going against the very ideals it was initiated to tackle.

First, are the reports doing rounds about the Jubilee/ODM pact for the Nairobi governor seat. It is thought that the President’s Jubilee Party is fronting Anne Kananu Mwenda for governor while Raila’s ODM is fronting Elizabeth Ongoro for deputy governor. The former is Kikuyu while the latter is Luo. This is not a coincidence. It is political scheming.

Simply put BBI is about power-sharing and particularly between the two tribes of the handshake principals. If Jubilee and ODM can agree to front candidates from any of the least known tribes of Kenya then I would be persuaded otherwise. For now, I am suspicious of BBI. The two principals have squandered an opportunity to demonstrate the unifying factor of BBI by going for candidates not from their communities. I know the two women are equal to the task but so are others from Samburu, Turkana, Meru, Taita, etc.

Actions speak louder than words. Could this be a sign of things to come? As it is, it seems crystal clear that the other Kenyan tribes will come second in BBI. The BBI has terribly failed the test of unity. Unity comes through equity and fairness.

Second, did you not see the Nairobi county assembly speaker and deputy speaker pact follow the same pattern? The script was the same. The two tribes of the principals nominated the candidates for speaker and deputy speaker respectively as the rest of Kenyans were reduced to cheering squad. I am afraid.

The two examples have set a bad precedent. If the principals are not exercising faithfulness in little tasks, they won’t do it with bigger assignments. I don’t want to imagine that the presidency will follow the same script.

Big and small tribes must experience the benefits of the BBI so everybody can have faith in it. Bridges must be built across all the Kenyan communities and not just the two represented by the handshake principals.

MA student at UoN