[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA leader Raila Odinga in Nairobi came as a surprise to many Kenyans, including their closest allies.
A statement issued after the Harambee House meeting indicated the two leaders will establish a joint office to be headed by Ambassador Martin Kimani and Mr Paul Mwangi, which will bring together a retinue of advisors that would help implement their new-found shared agenda.
Given the nature of Kenya’s politics, one can easily conclude they have taken baby steps that could as well yield a coalition or government of national unity ahead of the 2022 elections. Tellingly, the fiercely radical forces on both sides were absent even on the steps of the President’s Office.
Among the issues the team would tackle include ending ethnic antagonism and competition, promoting national ethos, enhancing inclusivity, strengthening devolution, ending the cancer of divisive elections, promoting security and safety, the war on corruption, promoting shared prosperity and protecting the rights as well as embracing responsibilities of all Kenyans.
Hitherto, while NASA has been amenable to structured dialogue that would yield what it terms as electoral justice ( which refers to radical reforms to the country’s electoral architecture including the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission), the Jubilee side has been adamant that it would not indulge in any talks with the Opposition unless they were on matters development.
Western powers, fearing a repeat of the 2007/08 post-election fallout that nearly plunged the country down the abyss, have been nudging NASA to accept President Kenyatta’s legitimacy as a basis for any dialogue, something which Raila and radical elements in his corner flatly refused.
There threats to impose sanctions, including visa bans, failed to work. A government clampdown on the Opposition and the media following Raila’s mock installation as the ‘People’s President’ on January 30, which saw elements around the NASA supremo’s passports, firearms and bodyguards withdrawn and lawyer Miguna Miguna deported to Canada despite being a Kenyan by birth only served to portray a picture of a government that was determined to hold on to the reigns of power by whatever means.
The saving grace was that the courts have been consistent in flagging down some of these outrageous decisions even earning judges reprimands from ruling party stalwarts such as Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju.
LISTEN TO THE FULL SPEECHES
Raila and his NASA supporters had refused to recognise President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win in the fresh October 26 election and have instead sought to recognise him as the legitimate winner of last year’s contest on account of his ‘stolen’ victory in the August 8 presidential contest, whose results were overturned by the Supreme Court due to “irregularities and illegalities” committed by IEBC during the tallying and transmission processes.
Both sides were also adamant they would not be party to a coalition government akin the one that was birthed out of the 2007/08 crisis.
Even after two renowned US diplomats Johnie Carson and Michael Bellamy, both of whom served as ambassadors to Nairobi, recently penned an opinion piece calling on Washington to work behind the scenes to resolve the political crisis, Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau laughed off the idea.
However, with the latest development, which came hours before the US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson was to land in the country, it is now clear that Washington’s weight had come to bear on Kenya’s leaders.
Whether this latest initiative will be the mark the birth of a better Kenya, only time would tell.
But it is instructive that both leaders referred to each other as “my brother” while the official statement assigned both of them the title H.E (His Excellency.)
Here is the full statement issued after the meeting, which was titled ‘Building bridges to a new Kenyan nation‘.