OPINION: BBI and the problem with Kenya


OPINION: BBI and the problem with Kenya
President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), his Deputy William Ruto (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga during the launch of the BBI report in November 2019

The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, which is a product of the famous ‘handshake’ between long political antagonists President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition maestro Raila Odinga, did as widely expected, out varied opinions some of extreme range.

The BBI report was bound to cause some ruckus more so within the political class. It is also engulfed in 2022 Presidential succession battles of subtle nature and others quite well known widely in the public.

The gazettement of a 14 (fourteen) member BBI steering committee to oversee the implementation of the Building Bridges Initiative Report to a United Kenya Taskforce Report by President Kenyatta was a clear indication of the seriousness taken on the matter from the high echelons of political power.

Indeed the ongoing campaigns for BBI led by politicians and other influential members of the society associated with President Kenyatta and Raila Odinga sends clear pointers of the direction likely the president want the nation to take.

But one has also to take cognizance of Kenya’s political and economic history to understand the imports of the moves.

Though opposed even if on subtle and not so subtle by political players supportive of Deputy President William Ruto, there are signs of push and pull on matters future of the nation in terms of politics and dispensation thereof.

That Kenya has had a difficult history politically and its adverse impacts on economy and social cohesion are not in doubt. Politics of exclusions that have been perfected all along since the colonial era has had huge negative impacts to the Kenyan society.

This not to say that the era before was any better as the society still had plenty of negative influence more so during the slave trade period.

Nonetheless, as independence and more modern global engagements caught up and after gaining independence from the colonialists, so much was expected of many countries that includes Kenya.

Closely looking at Kenya it promised so much but unfortunately like many others has had too many misses politically and economically. Unless fundamental changes happen this is bound to continue. Will BBI address this? Not sure but hopefully.

If the reasoning of BBI is as stated then it can help address the long problems that have besieged Kenya. The challenge like many other good initiatives before remains in the implementation of the proposed action points.

We had the Ndungu’ report, probably the once in a while mentioned Kroll report, the 2010 constitution which though implemented still leaves gap and so on.

Yet still we can’t afford to keep quiet in the face of the mess that we can easily find the country in.

The future is uncertain for Kenya as there are many unaddressed issues that create an atmosphere of huge political divisions, politics that promote hate for another or other segments of the society or people of differing political persuasion etc.

Yet as we pursue matters around BBI, current politics and 2022 succession politics will obviously cloud everything around the whole process.

The pro President Uhuru and Raila Odinga group of legislators, political actors and their networks are up against a group revolving around Deputy President William Ruto obviously.

The 2022 and post 2022 political and economic considerations are seriously coming into play and will have huge impacts on the BBI initiative.

The BBI initiative itself cannot be divorced from current and future politics going by the realities of today politics.

The Presidential succession and potential changes in top leadership formations are being fought around the BBI and so is positioning for post 2022 politics and economic fortunes.

As all this is happening so much is happening in the economic front. Jobs being shed off, businesses closing or downsizing, poor returns to farmers, graduates who can’t get jobs, growing population amidst poverty, low opportunities for self-development for many etc.

This is an indicator of all not well in the economy. Kenya is grappling with growing unemployment and underemployment crisis.

With so many people graduating or exiting schools to a jobless job market the economic cum political relations are bound to get more risky and potentially volatile.

Unfortunately, it is in circumstances like this buffoons and popularists some of shady, dubious or evil character and of low potential to help the nation get very good political opportunities for power or positions of influence.

Consequently, you can easily end up in circles of political quagmire and unyielding search for change to a better country into endless cycles like has happened to several nations.

It happened during the Arab spring which was inspired by poor economic dispensation and unemployment crisis. The resultant political dispensation has not been anywhere any better.

Germany which is an economic powerhouse nowadays had its messy period in the 1930’s after a spell of economic mess that inspired the rise of Adolf Hitler into power between 1933 -1945.

The horrid period of his rule is a historical game change in the world of politics and economy. The situation in Kenya may not be anywhere near what happened to some of these countries and not probably likely to mimic that but it can also yield to a similar or even a worse political dispensation in future if certain maters especially of political and economic nature are not addressed now.

Yet still it is not possible to address the economic problems bedeviling Kenya without fixing or completely destroying corruption and its networks and addressing these and other root causes of poverty that lead to people carried by political emotions that just yield to another set of bad political mistakes or deeper subjugation in an economic and political mess.

Corruption remains the biggest threat and danger to Kenya’s political future just ahead of tribalism. The two remains key risks to Kenya’s future.

So with politics of 2022 crowding everything and so many political players talking various positions and signs of adverse relations or fueling of hate simmering, a lot need to be done to salvage this county.

Whether it is BBI and whether that can create a safe structure or it is another simple political settlement is a point of conjecture. But as various people of whatever orientation, it is high time that politics is not just left to politicians.

We have a rendezvous with a future we need to also a play a part in. It is President Uhuru Kenyatta’s best moment to build a worthwhile legacy as he has the opportunity.

From the looks of Kenya’s history and present there is need for changes in the political architecture and behaviours so that we can guarantees we don’t get to similar of some past periods of political and economic destruction.

Failure to seize such moments to engineer a better society does also engineer a bad future.

Germany of the 1930’s did not just find themselves in a mess, it was a systematic failure of a political process and a society that lost itself in difficult or confusing circumstances that created the path to self-destruction.

For Kenya, if BBI can sort our future so be it. If not it will be another unfortunate circumstance in our history. Well, someone said politics is harder than Physics.

Let’s see, but let us influence a decent and safe future with an open mind as we are quite a resourceful nation.

Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda is a Political, Economic and Social Analyst and Commentator.

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