Referendum on Building Bridges Initiative unstoppable, Raila declares
Robert Ochoro and Hillary Mageka
The quest for a referendum to decide the fate of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) proposals is unstoppable, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has declared.
The ODM leader said Kenyans are tired and want change, hinting that the BBI taskforce report could be subject to a popular vote before June.
Speaking during the first consultative forum since the report was launched, Raila said he, together with President Uhuru Kenyatta are determined to heal the country’s socio-political and economic ills.
“My brother Uhuru and I are confident the problems we are facing are man-made and can be solved by man,” he said.
He added that the fight against poverty, ignorance and diseases was the main reason behind the formation of the BBI taskforce after their March 2018 Handshake.
Raila, who was the chief guest at the BBI conference in Kisii on Friday, said the gathering was the starting point to a path to inclusivity and unity of the country.
He noted that Kisii was crucial to the BBI cause given that it was the headquarter of South Kavirondo in the 60s, adding that the Friday meeting had once again united Nyanza region residents to speak in one voice.
“The lake has come to the mountain. We have started the journey of BBI together and urge locals to support it for the country to have a fresh start,” said Raila.
The ODM leader said it was shameful Kenyans were still grappling with the same problems that the founding fathers sought to tackle, 56 years after the country attained independence.
Addressing more than 3,000 delegates drawn from across Nyanza region at both Kisii Sports Club and a rally at Gusii Stadium on Friday, Raila said he and the President took the journey down the memory lane and insisted that it was possible to empower citizens economically through BBI document.
“We asked ourselves on the three post-independence enemies (poverty, ignorance and diseases) before we put them down in the nine points agenda, if we look at this we will have solved the Kenyan problem,” he said.
“There is no country in the world similar to Kenya. Therefore, each country must find own solutions for every specific problem, we cannot copy how America or China did it, we must deal with these issues ourselves.
“We are building bridges to get our people from poverty, diseases and ignorance,” he added.
The ODM leader said like China, which had managed to empower 300 million impoverished citizens in 20 years to middle-class status, Kenya can lift her people from poverty.
“Our youth are demoralised and have lost hope. We need to empower them to create wealth.
They can be a curse or a blessing depending on the way you treat them,” said Raila, noting that some youth had turned to abusing drugs and alcohol because of poverty and hopelessness.
Raila, was accompanied by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Devolution counterpart Eugene Wamalwa and other senior government officials.
All governors from Nyanza counties, Anyang Nyong’o (Kisumu) Cornel Rasanga (Siaya), Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay) Okoth Obado (Migori) James Ongwae (Kisii) and John Nyangarama (Nyamira) attended the meeting.
Others were governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) Sospeter Ojamoong (Busia), Hassan Joho (Mombasa) and Amason Kingi (Kilifi).
Matiang’i and Wamalwa urged MPs and MCAs to sensitise the public at the grassroots to embrace the BBI and give their feedback on the report.
Matiang’i said it was the first time Nyanza people were speaking in one voice and lauded Raila and Uhuru for calling for a truce.
Raila maintained the BBI will strengthen devolution as envisioned in the Constitution.