As the Building Bridges Initiative Report release fever rises, its contents remain subject of great public speculation. Kenyans’ cannot be faulted for this anticipation. The 9th March 2018 Handshake, which was the precursor to the formation of the BBI Task Force came on the backdrop of high political temperatures and fears of an eruption of violence to the scale only seen after the 2007/8 Post Election Violence. This was to the detriment of the country’s economic performance and press freedom, following the media shutdown of 30th January 2018. The 9-Points Agenda identified by the Principals, coined in the joint communique issued after their March 9th 2018, were therefore seen as the panacea for recurrent election antagonism in every election cycle.
By launching a programme that will address shared values, the two parties believed that the country will steer in the right direction and away from ethnic animosity that has existed because of political tension and insecurity. Since the March 9, 2018 pact, the country has been at a trajectory point of healing and resemblance of tranquillity. While this has been commendable, it is important that as a country, we do not lose sight of the factors that got us into the pre-handshake state in the first place. Electoral malfunctions, distrust of the electoral management processes and ethnic divisions as well as perceived non-equitable and equal sharing of natural resources were some of the driving forces to these challenges.
Violence in Kenya has unfolded from general elections such as the one in 2017 in different forms, these include the use of excessive force against protestors and even innocent individuals by police, ethnic-based killings and counterattacks by supporters to both the ruling and opposition parties. This in most instances has been fueled by a great sense of political manipulation of ethnic tensions, impunity with longstanding grievances over land, corruption, and lastly political, social and economic inequality.
The handshake that caught many by surprise brought a halt to the post-electoral drama with a final rapprochement between the two parties. This dramatically changed the simmering political under-currents nationwide between the opposition and the governing party. To date it is viewed by citizens as one of the most constructive idea for the common good, that was watered away by political tensions putting the country at the verge of collapse each electoral period.