Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga has called upon Kenyans to embrace the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) stating that it will unlock the economic potential of the country and spur development.
The former Prime Minister said BBI was a unifying initiative that would succeed in taking development to the most marginalized areas to ensure that no region was left behind.
Raila was speaking at Mwakishimba village in Wundanyi sub-county Wednesday during day one of his two-day tour in the county.
This is the ODM leader’s first trip in the region to popularize BBI.
“This document is aimed at making sure everyone gets their fair share of development. It will eliminate corruption and tribalism that have always hampered development,” said the former PM.
Raila cited the current revenue-sharing stalemate at the Senate as one of the maladies that will be permanently addressed by the BBI.
He said the senate battle was over revenue allocation to the counties yet the amount being debated upon was less that Sh400 billion.
“The senate is still locked in revenue debate yet that amount is a paltry ten per cent of the total national budget of over three trillion shillings. With BBI, the proposal is to have a minimum of 35 per cent of the national funds taken to counties. This will cure the issue of revenue sharing,” he stated.
Earlier on, Raila had landed at Taita Hills Safari Hotel’s airstrip where he was received by a large delegation of local leaders led by Governor Granton Samboja.
Later, he was driven out along the Bura-Mghange road where he made brief stops to address enthusiastic supporters who had gathered to see him.
At Bura Mission, Raila said BBI was unstoppable and said he was back in his element to ensure the initiative was fully backed by Kenyans.
“There was a brief lull in the BBI momentum because of coronavirus but now I am back and we will engage further on this initiative,” he stated.
His 40-vehicle convoy snaked past several villages to Mghange where he also addressed the crowds. He finally drove to Mwakishimba for the final public address. Mwakishimba is the home of Samboja.
During his address, Raila took a swipe at leaders opposed to the BBI and chided them for being self-centered. He further dismissed as ‘trash’ the drive by leaders who have started doling out handouts to churches and groups terming such acts as creating a dependency syndrome.
He stated that the government had elaborate plans to empower all Kenyans because they were equally important. Borrowing from the famous clarion call by US activists that Black Lives Matter, the former PM said all tribes mattered in the country and that BBI would ensure everyone felt equally Kenyan.
“Every community matters and this is the spirit of the BBI,” he explained.
Raila added that the government was committed to recovering all monies lost through corruption and consolidating them into a national kitty from where all development initiatives will be managed from.
Other leaders who accompanied him were Voi MP Johnes Mlolwa, Deputy Governor Majala Mlaghui, the speaker of the county assembly and several MCAs.
Raila is expected to hold several meetings with various groups including religious leaders, youth and business community.
He is also set to meet MCAs today where the issues of wrangles and infighting amongst them will feature. During the meetings, the local leaders are expected to push for several issues to be addressed including the issue of water provision, human-wildlife conflict and the issues of management of Tsavo National Park.
“We have agreed to have a unified push to table our agenda to the party leader. He has the ability to push it to the highest levels of government,” said an MCA who requested anonymity for he is not authorized to speak before the meeting.
Raila’s visit comes barely a week after Deputy President William Ruto visited the region and hosted religious leaders for a prayer meeting at Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary in Mwatate. The meeting was coordinated by Women Representative Lydia Haika. Leaders who attended the Deputy President’s meeting included former Governor John Mruttu and former Senator Dan Mwazo.
Observers say the visits to the region by such top leaders are not by default. Maurice Nganda, a youth leader in Mwatate, says the visits show the county has become a strategic political battleground in the Coast region.
He added that unlike in the past where Taita-Taveta County was viewed as a political afterthought, the constant visits show an awakening in the political class that the region could no longer be ignored.
“We are going to be the center of politics from now onwards. The time when leaders took us for granted are long gone,” he said.
Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho is also expected to join Raila Odinga Thursday for meetings with local leaders.
By Wagema Mwangi