The much-anticipated report of the Building Bridges Initiative was launched on Wednesday to great pomp and circumstance in the Kenyan capital. The initiative – the brainchild of President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader, Raila Odinga – was conceived nearly in March 2018 in the famous “Handshake” agreement that ended months of post-election violence and confrontations that had seen dozens killed by the police.
The BBI was tasked with inquiring into and making recommendations about nine areas that Kenyatta and Odinga had decided were crucial to the effort to “create a united nation for all Kenyans living today, and all future generations”.
The report has come up with a wide-ranging series of recommendations, including restructuring government to re-introduce a hybrid system of government featuring shared power between a president and a prime minister with members of Kenya’s Parliament now allowed to become part of the Cabinet. Election losers have been tossed a bone with the runner-up in the presidential elections automatically gaining a seat in Parliament as leader of the official opposition.
Kenyans would be forgiven if they thought this was deja vu. We have been here before. In early 2008, in the aftermath of another presidential election gone wrong and sparking widespread bloodletting, then-President Mwai Kibaki and his rival, Odinga, shook hands on what came to be known as the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) agreement. The Agreement had four parts. The first three were about overcoming the immediate crisis, ending the violence, dealing with the humanitarian crisis it had occasioned and dealing with the political crisis occasioned by the electoral crisis.