19-01-2020 by Freddie del Curatolo
BBI is the acronym that those who read and are interested in Kenya's political moment (and those who live, work or frequent this country assiduously should do so anyway) see every day in the headlines or hear in the words of those who manage or aspire to public affairs.
But also supporters, opposition, Church, associations as well as public opinion.
But what does BBI mean?
BBI stands for "Building Bridges Initiative", literally "Initiative to build bridges".
In fact it is the tangible result of the famous handshake two years ago, March 2018, between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his lifelong rival, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
The two, after facing the elections, amid accusations of fraud, repetitions of the election, insults and low blows, decided that for the good of the country they should work together and put aside their personal interests. So they set up the BBI.
The initiative led to the formation of a Task Force of 14 people, including the two political leaders, some senators of the Republic, personalities from the religious, judicial and civil society world.
The aim of this committee is to harmonize existing institutions and combine efforts to address the most difficult issues that are holding back Kenya from sustainable growth, and to address critical issues in an inclusive manner.
The BBI was given one year to prepare a report and provide information to the President and former Prime Minister on the situation in the country with regard to political, social, tribal and corruption tensions. The task force requested more time to visit all counties to gather the views of Kenyans and the deadline was extended to September 2019.
In the meantime, citizens applauded the initiative, believing it to be a great test of democracy, while some parliamentarians and activists severely criticized the BBI, reducing it to a "filing cabinet" of politicians who were not aligned or invicted to the Kenyatta-Odinga couple.
In practice, the BBI has been mandated to collect data from Kenyans and to offer recommendations on how to implement controversial issues of vital importance for the future.
Among the issues that need to be addressed by the BBI, as we have mentioned, there is primarily ethnic antagonism. Tribalism is the big elephant in the Kenyan house. The relationship between the various communities has always been at the center of the divisions between factions and there is always the risk that it will deteriorate with time. During elections this risk often becomes real. The communities have been antagonistic to each other and are often in unhealthy competition. Therefore, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga have tried to urge Kenyans to engage in healthy competition without ethnic profiles.
All this, on an international level, leads to the image of a lack of unity and nationalist spirit, with the fear that governments will fail to manage their people and the challenges of the present and future. Although Kenya can be patriotic, citizens have never been able to define and promote their national ethos. The BBI was to determine how Kenyans could enjoy the nation and patriotism through common paths and aspirations.
Inclusiveness has been identified as one of the greatest challenges facing Kenyans. Diversity has been used to divide the country rather than unite it. Kenyans are separated, among other things, by geographical location, language and religion. Many parts of Kenya feel excluded and alienated from significant communities, especially those who have held leadership positions. The BBI has been mandated to ensure that public institutions are accountable and impactful to all Kenyans at the national and county levels.
Devolution was one of the cornerstones of the Kenyan constitution in 2010. To the extent that it has had its successes, several impediments have prevented the devolved units from effectively serving their voters. There have been calls for the national government to cede some powers and more funds to the county governments. Some governors even suggested that they should be responsible for the security apparatus within counties.
County governments are also struggling to be economically viable, but the shadow of corruption and fragmentation of resources is a real danger limiting autonomy.
The BBI was trained to work under the leadership of the president and former prime minister to promote a universal approach that helps Kenyans understand the true role of devolution in contributing to the nation's development.
Corruption has been identified as an existential threat to Kenya.
It is not only destroying lives, but also the trust and prosperity of the poorer classes. It has been a generational phenomenon in the country since independence, and is now being passed on to the younger generations. Corruption has been identified as an existential threat to Kenya.
It seriously risks destroying the hopes of young people to live honestly and proudly. The evil has undermined both public and private institutions that need urgent action if hope is to be restored. This fight must receive the support of both political leaders and citizens if it is to succeed.
Elections are an emotional issue in Kenya. The cycle of elections has unfortunately been accompanied by violence. The country becomes paralysed during election campaigns and remains paralysed long after the election exercise has been completed. This has an impact on investment and economic activity, as well as being a threat to human life. The divided elections have cost Kenyans their jobs and livelihoods, and ethnic polarization is unsuitable for development. With the help of the BBI, Kenya should be able to overcome the negative cycle by understanding that, in itself, an election is not the solution to national challenges.
Kenyans should respect their Constitution and laws. In this way, it would be easy to put an end to ethnic antagonism and profiling, while promoting inclusion, devolution and transparency.
It is a fundamental government mandate to ensure the Kenyans are safe. Unfortunately, many Kenyans are left at the mercy of natural and man-made disasters. The Kenyans are constantly fighting hunger and drought. Lives are threatened, which is why practical efforts must be made to ensure that Kenyans in distress receive the help they need. Solutions should be put forward to ensure that communities at war reject violence and embrace alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. The government must also work with Kenyans to unite them against terrorism and related challenges.
Simply put, the BBI can represent a new dawn in Kenyan politics, as the task force seeks to find long-term solutions to critical challenges that bring to the surface the negative soul of a nation that also has the antidotes to get out of it. This is why it scares those who have skeletons in their closets and those who thrive on the alibi of ethnic divisions, corruption and the business of fear, fomenting rivalry and hatred. And some aspects and modus operandi we Italians know well.
The long-awaited report will therefore mark a fundamental chapter and the hope is that it will unite Kenya once and for all and guide it towards a better future.
Journalists for passion, with a desire to tell and the need to do so freely.
by Freddie del Curatolo
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