In a move likely to cause unease within Deputy President William Ruto’s camp, leaders in his Rift Valley backyard have kicked off campaigns to popularise the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report in the region.
The region’s support for the BBI, spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga after their truce in 2018, had largely remained lukewarm.
In a change of heart, however, a section of leaders in the region say it could be the solution to the ailing agriculture sector and the threat of violence experienced in Rift Valley during elections.
The region’s BBI Steering Committee, chaired by Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos, has already started engaging the people to seek their support.
Terming the BBI discussion “an important discourse”, Governor Tolgos said mobilisation is meant to put the region at par with rest of the country.
He noted that it will enable residents to join “likeminded Kenyans who have a transformational vision for this country”, as only the people can best represent themselves.
According to the close ally of Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, the BBI will specifically address the violence that grips the region every election cycle.
Mr Tolgos, in a hard-hitting statement likely to upset the DP and his supporters, vowed that they will not watch as their people are exposed to the torments of electoral and ethnic violence.
He said they will not tolerate “endemic runaway corruption because of an individual’s insatiable greed for imperial powers”.
“We do not wish to continue being casualties of senseless violence because of divisive politics,” he said.
The governor further lamented that the agriculture sector, the region’s mainstay, has been ailing.
“Our harvests have been fetching low market prices, a problem compounded by the unscrupulous dealings of cartels,” Mr Tolgos said, citing unreliable supply and poor quality of farm inputs as the other factors to blame for farmers’ woes.
“Our regional economy has been on a downward spiral, effectively spelling doom and an uncertain future for our people.”
Mr Tolgos said the committee will hold town hall forums throughout the Rift Valley.
Plans are also under way for a major BBI rally in Nakuru and other counties in the region in the coming weeks.
The Nakuru rally will be a litmus test for a region widely considered the DP’s bastion of support.
Politicians in Jubilee Party’s Tangatanga faction are planning to hold a rally in the coastal town of Mombasa to drum up support for the report.
Their counterparts in Kieleweke, who are organising a similar rally in the town, have cautioned them against any form of confrontation, saying they must only unite Kenyans, not divide them.
Dr Ruto initially opposed the BBI, saying it was Mr Odinga’s plot to permeate the government through the backdoor, but now says he fully supports it.
After its launch in November 2019 at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi, a ceremony at which he cut the figure of an isolated man, the DP immediately changed tune and threw his weight behind the report.
Critics have termed the move dishonest.