Kenya: Handshake - BBI Oxymoron 2 Years After March 2018 Accord

President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga conclude a joint press conference on March 9, 2018 (file photo).

Nairobi — Two years after President Uhuru Kenyatta and his then political nemesis Raila Odinga shook hands signalling an end to acrimony following the 2017 presidential election, a lot has happened.

The two have become a dynamic duo while Deputy President William Ruto seems to be an isolated man.

In his own words, "the system wants to slow me down."

The two leaders came together, two years ago, to unite the country and chart a path for national healing, with a pledge to bring to an end historical and electoral injustices.

But despite Kenyatta and Odinga's efforts, unity among leaders is increasingly becoming elusive a reflection of divisions among their supporters. The divisions are particularly widening within the ruling Jubilee Party where tow camps have emerged - one allied to Kenyatta and the other to Deputy President William Ruto.

A taskforce on Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), led by Senator Yusuf Haji, is currently fine-tuning a document that will thereafter be converted into a referendum bill, ahead of a plebiscite.

It is the solution to all of Kenya's problems, the President and former Prime Minister have declared.

"We shook hands and embraced, and that one single moment changed the whole country. Since then, we have walked as brothers, we have brought on board (Kenyans) and the process that we started is not a political process but rather a process that seeks to entrench our democracy," President Kenyatta said last week on Friday, during a trip in Nyeri County.

This is a trip down the memory lane:

The anniversary comes at a time of heightened political tension, DP Ruto declaring "enough is enough" over what he termed as incessant efforts to intimidate him.

"I want to tell those who are driving this agenda, they rather kill me but I will not be intimidated or slow down," Ruto said Saturday in Solai where he attended the funeral of Sergeant Kipyegon Kenei, an Administration Police officer who worked in his Harambee House Annex office.

Kenei was murdered before he could record a statement with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) investigating a Sh39 billion fake arms deal orchestrated by former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa.

"If they Killed Kenei so that they can intimidate me then I want to tell them that I am ready but keep in mind that his blood will not rest," Ruto said, sensationally claiming that, "I am aware of what has been planned for me but I am ready."

While the handshake -- the political union between the President and Orange Democratic leader gave birth to BBI, it has also sired two deply divided political factions; Kieleweke an anti-Ruto formation and Tanga Tanga, which consists of leaders allied to the Deputy President.

Both are amorphous groups but known for viciously protecting what they believe in.

"The country is now peaceful since our leaders shook hands," Nyeri legislator Ngunjiri Wambugu, a Kieleweke diehard, said on Monday.

While all politicians have declared their support for the BBI initiative, they are sharply divided on what it should achieve, more so on the proposed expansion of the executive.

"The biggest problem in Kenya is not political positions but the needs of the people. That should be our driving force," DP Ruto said over the weekend during an event Muranga hosted by Kandara MP Alice Wahome.

MP Wahome noted that, "There is no value addition to the people coming from BBI. That is why President Kenyatta and his deputy have left it to Raila Odinga who is using it to divide the country."

But according to Odinga, "Kenyans are feeling the pinch of an economy that is not meeting their expectations. The truth is that prosperous nations share one thing in common: they came up with an economic model that got implemented consistently over a sustained period of time. This is what BBI is pursuing."

He made the sentiments during the BBI public rally in Kakamega County on January 17.

As 2022 succession politics heightens, will the handshake 'spirit' thrive?

According to Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi, " The war between DP Ruto and his opponents (the system) is regulated by Newton's Laws of Motion.

"Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." The more Ruto is humiliated and humbled by the system, the more popular he becomes with peasants and the people."

Prof Makau Mutua, Kenyan-American professor of law, is of the opinion that the Deputy President is in a 'war' with his boss- the President.

"It's clear William Ruto is at WAR with Uhuru Kenyatta. Otherwise how can you ACCUSE your BOSS of DESTROYING you? It's time to RESIGN. That's what Oginga Odinga did under Mzee Kenyatta," he said in a tweet.

Layman's and scholars alike are divided on what BBI has achieved two years since the unity pact was unveiled, begging the question, will the much sought after unity under the BBI be realized?

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