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Former MP stirs online debate over BBI nicknames

Ann Wanjiku Wa Kibe, the former Gatundu North Member of Parliament, has sparked an online conversation by recalling comical nicknames that were given to supporters of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

BBI was a popular initiative established by former President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM party leader Raila Odinga in 2018, to review and change the current constitution.

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Although the Supreme Court later shot it down, it led to a heated political debate that divided the country.

In her post on Facebook, Wa Kibe posed the question, “Apart from kuitwa tukunia, ni matusi ingine gani unakumbuka wale tulikua tunasupport BBI tuliekelewa?” (Apart from being called sacks of cereals, what other insults do you remember us, the BBI supporters, being called?).”

Tukunia is a Kikuyu name referring to sacks of cereals.

Her post generated a hot debate, with some of her fans reminiscing about the names they were called.

Former Nyeri town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri replied with “#Ngati” (referring to a mean person). The BBI debate led to the formation of two rival political factions: Kieleweke, siding with President Kenyatta and Odinga, and Tangatanga, led by William Ruto, who was then the Deputy President.

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The debate over BBI played a significant role in the 2022 general elections, with some attributing their loss to the initiative. Wa Kibe lost her seat to an independent candidate, Mr Elijah Njoroge alias Kururia.

She vied to defend her seat on a Jubilee party ticket. Mr Wambugu Ngunjiri also lost his seat to a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) candidate Duncan Mathenge, Ruto-led Party.

The BBI controversy was centered on allegations that Kenyatta did not want to relinquish power. However, he defended the initiative, stating that it intended to address historical injustices, promote power-sharing among competing ethnic groups, and offer a platform for an equitable distribution of resources.

In May 2021, the Supreme Court declared the initiative unconstitutional, citing that a sitting head of state was not supposed to initiate the discussion to amend the Constitution.

Despite the controversy, the BBI initiative remains an important topic in Kenyan politics, with some still advocating for its implementation. The online conversation sparked by Wa Kibe’s post highlights the lingering division caused by the initiative and how it continues to be a subject of interest in the political sphere.

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