, 06 December, 2019 / 2:51 AM
A week after the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, a much-awaited document with recommendations on ending post-election conflicts in Kenya, representatives of religious leaders in the East Africa country have, during their two-day meeting in Nairobi, endorsed the 156-page report, making some proposals for “further consultations and refinement.”
“Having taken time to review and understand the report by the BBI Taskforce, we have recognized that there are many recommendations that have the potential to transform Kenya to a better nation,” the religious leaders who met for their “Second Religious Leaders Convocation” at Nairobi’s Ufungamano House stated in their communique dated December 5.
“On this, we recognize our concurrence with the taskforce on: the need for expansion of the Executive (and) the need to dignify the opposition to deflate the Winner Takes All nature of politics,” the body of over 300 religious leaders from different faiths across Kenya said in a statement signed by their representatives including Archbishop Martin Kivuva Musonde on behalf of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB).
The leaders also concurred with recommendations for “tax relief for small businesses established by young Kenyans and efforts to curb unemployment, strengthening of devolution by increasing the capacity of County Governments to deliver services (and) the fight against corruption.”
On November 27, the BBI report, a document detailing recommendations that foster the building of a national ethos, the ending of negative ethnicity, political antagonism and a host of other ills, which have bedeviled Kenya over the years was launched before over 5,000 delegates in the country’s capital, Nairobi.
Kenya’s Standard Digital has described the document put together by a 14-member task force as carrying with it the hope of heralding “a new Kenya that is free of divisive political hostilities.” Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta described it as a new chapter in the East African nation’s history, setting the ground for political tolerance, unity and inclusivity.
Created in the aftermath of Kenya’s two controversy-ridden and quite divisive 2017 elections, the 14-member taskforce that produced the BBI report was particularly constituted following the unexpected March 9, 2018 “handshake” when the country’s key political rivals, President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga came together, shook hands pledging reconciliation.
In their six-page communique, the religious leaders have outlined, based on the BBI report, what they have termed “proposals which require further consultations and refinement.”
The leaders recommend dialogue around the proposed “establishment of the office of the Prime Minister to ensure it reflects national consensus on an inclusive executive.”
Proposed “strategies and solutions for national reconciliation, healing and cohesion” as well as “strategies for implementation of gender equity at all levels” would require refinement, the religious leaders have stated.
The leaders also propose further consultations with regard to the “involvement of political parties in the appointment of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioners” as well as whatever BBI has suggested for the “implementation of Chapter 6 of the Constitution in its entirety,” a section of the Kenya’s 2010 constitution that deals with corruption.
To ensure that all citizens understand the document and are able to engage in discussions on the same, the religious leaders have urged all Kenyans to “read, discuss and debate the BBI report, whether individually or in groups.”
The leaders have cautioned against “divisive debates on the BBI Report” and urged the Kenyan “government to speak as one to avoid dividing the people.”
Acknowledging that no single institution or person has the legitimacy to conclusively resolve conflicts in the country, the leaders reiterated, “A national dialogue process that gives all Kenyans opportunity to build consensus is the pathway to national cohesion, equity and justice as envisaged in the Constitution of Kenya 2010.”
Convened under the theme, “Reconcile and Restore Kenya Through Structured Dialogue,” the forum of the religious leaders resolved to among other things, to “prepare and issue comprehensive proposals on the Building Bridges Initiative Report with a view to enhancing and strengthening the national dialogue process,” as well as to “hold consultations with the government and key stakeholders to move national dialogue process forward.”
Religious institutions represented at the December 4-5 convocation that signed the collective statement include KCCB, Evangelical Alliance of Kenya (EAK), Hindu Council of Kenya (HCK), National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), Organization of African Instituted Churches, Shia Asna Ashri Jamaat, and the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM).
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa