• Some politicians have now realised that the people are firmly behind the BBI and have jumped onto the bandwagon.
• They have attempted to own parts of BBI and even manipulate them to advance their own agenda.
The recent news that some interested parties have tried to register the handshake and the Building Bridges Initiative as official entities with the acting Registrar of Political Parties is indicative of all that is wrong with Kenyan politics.
These initiatives were never meant to be mere empty slogans.
When President Uhuru Kenyatta reached out to ODM leader Raila Odinga on March 9, 2018, after the contentious 2017 elections, it was meant to end years, if not decades, of divisive and tribal politics. Here were the two heavyweights of Kenyan politics, each representing a political dynasty, putting aside animosity and the past for the good of the country.
This unprecedented and bold step has led to some extremely creative and innovative ideas about how to better sculpt a more developed, prosperous and unified future.
The most tangible result of the handshake is the Building Bridges Initiative, which has become a milestone in consultative and inclusive politics. Not only were the initial steps shared between the two main leaders and their parties, but the bulk of the work has also been done by the people who have contributed in their thousands to this historic undertaking.
The subjects it sought to address are also not mere slogans, but issues that get to the heart of the challenges the country faces — ethnic antagonism, lack of a national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, divisive elections, security, corruption, shared prosperity and responsibility.
It is not going to change our society today or tomorrow but it is an effort to shape the discourse, find the problems and fix them for the betterment of all Kenyans for the future.
These initiatives have resonated with the people and while there were previously many opponents, many have dropped away and turned into supporters.
Some politicians have now realised that the people are firmly behind the BBI and have jumped onto the bandwagon. They have attempted to own parts of it and even manipulate them to advance their own agenda.
There is barely a week that passes without some figures broadcasting that while these initiatives are good and important, they are being used as a tool for political machinations.
The irony, though, is that those who claim political intrigues are usually those involved.
Now, some have taken it a step further and tried to use these initiatives to positively brand whatever they wish. These individuals who played no role previously in creating and promoting these initiatives are trying to cash in on the work of Uhuru, Raila and others.
They feel threatened that we are moving past the politics of slogans and now have leaders who have put significant meat on the bones. They see that Kenyans are supportive and contributing to making Kenya a better place. They now want a part without doing the hard work.
It is good that the Registrar's office has rejected all of these applications.
There is no shortcut to hard work and decision-making in politics. There needs to be strategic thinking and problem-solving involved. Results do not occur overnight, and ideas, initiatives and proposals of this magnitude require constant attention and reassessment.
Unfortunately, around the world, politics is being dumbed down to empty and meaningless slogans.
We see it in campaigns where leaders or potential candidates keep repeating phrases that enjoin and move the people at rallies but have no substance.
Politicians are forgetting what it takes to bring about real change and, in its stead, they are paying people a lot of money to formulate these catchphrases and mantras.
Fortunately, in Kenya we have leaders who have not forgotten and are leading the way towards real substantive progress. Not the type of change that is fleeting for the headlines, but the type that creates new foundations for our society and clears away set obstacles.
It will take a lot of work and patience from the leaders and the people.
Real change does not occur in a month or even a year. It can take as much as a generation. But there are no alternative routes in this type of holistic change.
Those trying to cheaply hijack this progress will put all of these gains in jeopardy just so they can ride the wave of popularity.
Adopting the names of succeeding initiatives is not just a low trick, it is a threat to our progress and development.