When all roads led to Bomas to chart future of the country
The excitement surrounding the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report was comparable to the birth of the new Constitution in 2010; devoid of name-calling, divisive nuances and tribal undertones.
Speeches at the Bomas of Kenya auditorium yesterday focused on unity, cohesion and need for a national conversation aimed at bringing the country together.
The colourful launch of the report by President Uhuru Kenyatta brought together leaders from all walks of life, religious groups, independence veterans, scholars, youths and citizens as the country marked a new dawn which gives the people an opening to chart the future.
Bomas of Kenya has become synonymous with historic events going back to the days of constitution making. Yesterday marked yet another landmark event.
Kenyans started trooping to the centre as early as 7am and sat at open tents erected outside the auditorium, where they were kept busy by the popular Muungano Choir and the Kenya Police Band.
And unlike other presidential functions, which run like clockwork, yesterday’s was marked with glitches and some drama. Dignitaries including diplomats had to find their way to the auditorium.
Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu was caught in the confusion after her driver was stopped at the main entry. Her attempts to force her way in fell on deaf ears as presidential guards stuck to their guns, forcing her to alight and walk to the entrance.
“You should know who is talking to you. You cannot pretend that you do not know me!” Ngilu said.
Later MPs, independent commissions heads, members of the diplomatic corps and invited guests started arriving at around 9.30am.
A few minutes later the men of the day were driven in led by Opposition leader Raila Odinga at 10.34am followed shortly by Deputy President William Ruto who checked in at 10.42am.
Differences between Ruto and Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho played out in public as the PS walked out of the holding room immediately the DP entered.
President Kenyatta’s motorcade snaked in at 10.56am. He was met by the BBI task force team and later ushered into the holding room to join Ruto and Raila.
After a 15-minute meeting, the trio strode into the auditorium as the audience cheered. At the podium, Uhuru sat in the middle, with Ruto on his right, Raila on the left and visiting Tanzania Foreign minister Palamagamba Kabudi on the far right.
After brief prayers, Suna East MP Junet Mohammed took the MC’s role. First to be called was Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege followed by her Homa Bay counterpart Gladys Wanga, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Ngilu and Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga).
All was well until Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen protested that the programme excluded leaders with divergent views. “I am shocked that those thought to be having different opinions have been left out of the programme. I demanded a right to be heard as a citizen of this country,” he said.
The statement did not go well as the crowd jeered him, drowning his speech and forcing Haji to intervene and call for order.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko also protested, saying as the host governor, he should have been be given a chance to welcome the guests.
National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale said: “We may have this good report Mr President, but there are some bureaucrats in your office who are engaging in politics and taking sides, which could be detrimental to the unity we want.”
“We will lose it if we allow the political class to use public forums to start discrediting the contents of the report. If you are not contented say it here,” he added.
Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Musalia Mudavadi stole the thunder when he hit at those who spoke before him for dwelling on sharing of positions at the expense of cohesion and improvement of the dwindling economy.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions secretary general Francis Atwoli also found himself on the receiving end after he suggested the creation of two deputies for premier’s position.
The Tanzanian envoy Kabudi moved the audience with his wit and obvious mastery of Kiswahili. The crowd laughed each time he used unfamiliar words and phrases with Ruto, saying in jest that he would not attempt to speak Kiswahili as the “visitor” had set the bar “very high.”
Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka said he had forgiven Uhuru for the unkind words he had ever mentioned.