, NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 27 – The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report was officially launched Wednesday, with calls from President Uhuru Kenyatta to leaders not to polarize the country during debate.
President Kenyatta, who was accompanied by his Deputy William Ruto and Opposition chief Raila Odinga, calls for sober discussions at all levels in dissecting the report, “because it is good for all of us.”
“I am urging Kenyans to read this (BBI) book. Don’t let anyone read for you. Read and understand it and make your own decision on the way forward,” the president pleaded and warned leaders not to be overtaken by their own ambitions for power.
In a veiled statement directed at his deputy who has been campaigning to take over from him in 2022, President Kenyatta said, “It is only God who knows who will be Kenya’s fifth president.”
“I appeal to you today, don’t let your ambitions to overshadow progress.”
The president who spoke for more than an hour, without referring to any written speech, said the BBI report was key in uniting the country and spurring development.
“This (BBI) report is proposing that more money be put in SME’s. That is an important proposal,” let us look at it objectively and decide.”
On Kenya’s 5-year election cycle, the president said, there is need to build a conducive environment for businesses to enable successive governments to chat long term development plans, because “there is no nation that can develop if we only have a plan for five years. We need development plans that stretch over 20 years.”
“And that is why we need to eliminate fears among Kenyans,” he said, “We want to have a conducive environment for everyone for even banks to be able to lend money to Kenyans without fear of the unknown after every five years.”
Opposition chief Odinga told Kenyans the BBI report is not about anyone.
“This is a document for us all. Let us stop looking at it as a document aimed at creating positions for myself and President Kenyatta,” he said, on claims from a section of politicians that the report that proposes the creation of a Prime Minister’s post was specially designed to ensure President Kenyatta remains in office even after 2022 when he is set to quit after serving two terms as president.
“Raila is here today. Tomorrow he will not be there. Let us interrogate this report in a sober manner. Let us look at the benefits it has for Kenyans for the better. It is about Kenya not any specific individual.”
President Kenyatta and Odinga recalled their handshake that gave birth to the BBI task force, saying it was all about uniting the country.
DP Ruto pleaded to leaders not to polarize the country as they embark on debate about it.
“I am very confident that we have what it takes to ensure we make the best of this document,” he said, “As this process moves to the next stage, a majority of the issues that were canvassed by Kenyans were about the ordinary Kenyans-jobs, agriculture, business and this is important. Let us discuss them soberly.”
Amani National Congress party leader Musalia Mudavadi called for sobriety while debating the report and cautioned his counterparts against making it about sharing positions.
“Listening to the earlier speeches here, let us not convert the BBI to a political elite document. Everybody here is talking about sharing political seats, what about motivating the civil servants, teachers, the private sector?” Musalia said, “We are here today because there is a moment, we can seize to correct the shortcoming that were there.”
Ford Kenya Party leader Moses Wetangula urged Kenyans to read the report and make recommendations on how to improve it for the better so that it can “achieve the intended goal of uniting Kenyans and addressing historical injustices.”
“Let us read it carefully, let us analyze it carefully and improve where there is need, so that we get a country that it is at peace with itself,” he said.
Central Organization of Trade Union (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli said there is need for the report to include a proposal for the expansion of the Executive, to accommodate two deputies for both Deputy President and the Prime Minister.
Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, who is also the NARC Kenya party leader, welcomed the proposals in the BBI report on empowering women but said gender balance must be observed at the top leadership cadre.
The Chairman of the BBI taskforce Yusuf Haji pleaded for the implementation to ensure it does not gather dust in shelves like others prepared in the past.
“We hope this report will be implemented so that it doesn’t end up gathering dust in the shelves,” Haji said. “It is a good report because it has views from all Kenyans, and it is aimed at ensuring inclusivity for a better Kenya.”