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Kenyans eagerly waiting for BBI touted as a make or break for top politicians

President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga hug during a past event in Nyanza. /PSCU-FILE.

NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 26 – Kenyans were anxiously waiting Tuesday for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), whose climax is an event at the Bomas of Kenya Wednesday when it will be formally released to the public.

“We are waiting for it, we want to know what it contains,” said Samuel Kimani, a shoe shiner on Banda Street in Nairobi, “the president said we read and understand it.”

But for Wilson Aketch, a security guard in the capital Nairobi, “We already know what they are planning, it is all about expanding the Executive, that is what I have heard politicians say. We are waiting to see when it is released to us so that we make a decision.”

The report compiled by the BBI Taskforce was set to be handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at 1pm Tuesday, but there was no word from State House which remained guarded on the formal activity of the handover.

The Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU) only invited media houses to nominate journalists to cover the BBI report’s official release to the public set for Wednesday at the Bomas of Kenya.

Officials aware of the planning and logistics involved told Capital FM News that apart from President Kenyatta and Odinga, various senior government officials, politicians, envoys, church leaders and other stakeholders had been invited to attend.

It is understood that Deputy President William Ruto, who is seen as being against the report, was also invited but it was not clear if he will attend.

The much-awaited BBI report has already raised political temperatures in the country, drawing lines down the middle among politicians.

Leaders allied to Ruto have already made it clear they will not support it, claiming it is only benefiting a few with the aim of expanding the Executive by creating a Prime Minister’s position.

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While he is seen opposing the report, Ruto publicly states that he is waiting to read it before making a decision but those around him are clear on their resolve to shoot it down.

The report is a culmination of the handshake that took place between President Kenyatta and Odinga and was aimed at restoring unity after last year’s disputed presidential election in which both vied. Odinga successfully petitioned the Supreme Court over alleged fraud in the final results, leading to the cancellation of Kenyatta’s win before a repeat poll was ordered.

Kenyatta won in the second vote after Odinga said he was boycotting the polls even though his name was on the ballot.

Last week, President Kenyatta urged Kenyans to read the report “in order to engage in meaningful and peaceful discourse”.

“Let us just take time, to go through it together and come out with good things that can make our country even better and united, and our institutions even more inclusive,” he appealed.

Ultimately, the report will be proposing a national referendum to amend the Constitution, in what sections of leaders allied to Ruto are opposed to.

“My only prayer, especially to the political class, let us read it. This is an opportunity to engage in meaningful and peaceful discourse. We don’t want to divide the country,” the President said last week, soon after the Yusuf Haji-led task force notified him of its intent to hand it over to him.

He pointed out that, “only a fool will say that there are no issues in this country that do not require to be addressed. Let us address them as adults, as civilized human beings and let us appreciate that we might have divergent views, but our objective is to make our motherland better and improve it. There is no need for insults.”

Odinga has warned that there will be a ‘political tsunami’ to those opposed to the BBI report recommendations, in what was seen as a message to his archrival Ruto.

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But Ruto has told him, including at the weekend in Thika when he said “what tsunami is he talking about, the president has told us to read and understand the report how can someone speak of a tsunami.”

He said the BBI report will not derail the country’s development.

“The most important thing to Kenyans is the fixing of the infrastructure, fighting poverty and generating jobs for youths,” he said Sunday, during a prayer service at the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa in Thika, Kiambu County.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria warned that some of the leaders that were fronting the idea of a review of the constitution were not committed to the country’s unity.

“I could not believe it that the BBI that was supposed to bring Kenyans together would be implemented by use of threats and exclusion,” Kuria said.

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, a close ally of Ruto, has cautioned politicians against using BBI to settle political scores, saying such a scheme would not succeed.

He said Kenyans would have the final say on either the adoption or the rejection of the long-awaited report.

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