In our series of letters from African writers, journalist Waihiga Mwaura asks whether Kenya’s divides can ever be bridged.
Twenty-one months ago, Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga and his bitter rival President Uhuru Kenyatta kissed and made up – metaphorically.
In fact they shook hands for the cameras – in what became known as “the Handshake”.
It ended months of tensions following disputed elections, which always tend to be highly divisive and deadly in Kenya.
The two leaders agreed to put together a team to find a way to end such instability.
This taskforce, known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), was to look at nine issues – including ethnic antagonism, corruption and devolution – thought to be among the greatest challenges since the country became independent in 1963.
After 18 months travelling around the East African nation, the BBI has just delivered its finding – to much fanfare.
Mr Odinga told those gathered for the launch that before the process began, the nation had been on the “brink of a precipice”.
The president added: “We were not in a good place as a country. We were divided. There were no-go zones for certain communities.”
Some have hailed the report as unifying, comprehensive and the beginning of the process of rebuilding the nation.
They also applaud the taskforce for not substantially increasing the tax burden on Kenyans by introducing many constitutional posts as had been rumoured would happen.
Some critics say that in the aftermath of the 2007 election, there were various reports and committees that looked into the causes of the violence that pointed to irregular land allocation and various economic crimes and human rights abuses.
The report comes at a time when the government is facing a financial squeeze – as the finance minister has put in place austerity measures to contain spending.
I was particularly struck by the sentiments of one security guard on the day the report was released.
He asked me about its content and I gave him a brief summary.
He then complained that what he had heard so far did not in any way address his current challenge – long working hours (usually 12-hour shifts, six days a week) with little pay.
In a job where the minimum monthly wage of $131 is rarely honoured and where you are penalised for being off-duty even if you are sick, he had hoped that the report would address his working conditions and those of thousands of his colleagues in the security sector.