In a rare show of unity on Friday, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga told Kenyans they had set their differences aside and would work to unite the public.
The two met at Harambee House office of the President before addressing the press. They neither specified their strategies nor took any questions.
Raila, who was first to speak, noted ethnic division came to an end today and that he and his ‘brother’ will bridge the existing gap.
Kenya has faced tumultuous times since the disputed August 8, 2017 presidential election, whose outcome Raila objected and termed Uhuru an illegitimate President.
But today, the Nasa chief and ODM party leader said they resolved to end animosity before Kenya sinks.
“We refuse to allow our diversity to kill our nation. We have travelled so far … we cannot make it to our destination without bridging the gap,” he said.
“… we have to come together and solve the animosity that we have been pouring into the boat before we all sink. We shall not fail. If we stand firm we shall not fail.”
In his passionate address, Raila noted Kenyans cannot fathom why they are disagreeing as politicians fight for their souls.
“We need to save our children from ourselves. My brother and I have come together to say ‘this dissent stops here’. We refuse to allow our diversity to kill the nation.”
The veteran Opposition chief went on to speak about self-reflection, which he said was one of the factors that motivated his and Uhuru’s decision.
He said they want change and warned that “so long as we remain divided, selfish and corrupt, no amount of reforms will prosper [and attention will be diverted] to blame games.
“We have been pouring new wine into old wine skins. We need leaders to secure the goals of peace, unity and justice. Such a time has come for Kenya,” he said.
In his address, the President assured Kenyans of a new political beginning following his meeting with Raila – he noted they had an opportunity to extensively discuss matters affecting Kenya.
“All we want is a common understanding that Kenya is greater than any one individual. Leaders must come together to discuss their differences and what ails the country … like ethnic divisions.”
Uhuru noted the meeting with Raila will be key to ending the political indifference that has triggered inter-communal conflicts in counties such as Wajir, West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet.
“We have a responsibility to discuss and find solutions that will bind, unify and give a lifecycle beyond the five years we have given ourselves. Elections come and go but Kenya will remain,” he noted.
“Our future cannot be dictated by an election but by stability and the well-being of the people. An election is only a process in which the will of the people is heard. We now mark a new beginning as we march together to bring our people together. We look forward to the support of every leader and every Kenyan.”
The President further noted that their moves will ensure no individual feels left behind or left out.
“We can differ politically but we must remain united on matters affecting Kenyans.”
Earlier this year, Uhuru said he was willing to engage the Opposition but cautioned that his government would not hesitate to take stern action against anybody who breaches the Constitution.
“The Constitution is the general will of all. No one is above it. No matter who you are, you are subject to its authority. Anything outside the Constitution is a hostile intrusion,” he said at the time.
Uhuru had ruled out any talks with the Opposition leader but he changed his position after he was sworn-in for the second term, saying he would talk to all Kenyans – including Nasa leaders, on the nation’s transformation.
It was not clear that he would ever meet Raila and/or the other Nasa principals – Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress) and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya).
Jubilee has frequently accused the former Prime Minister of creating intolerable turmoil as a way of getting into government through the backdoor.
Raila’s next-steps had also been unclear – it was said his inauguration was meaningless as Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto remain in power.
Earlier in the week, the ODM boss said the Opposition would use “other ways” to end electoral injustice if Uhuru’s Jubilee Party doesn’t want to dialogue.
Kenyans have been fearful of violence since the 2007/8 killings of at least 1,300 people and displacement of more than 600,000 over a disputed election that saw Raila vie against Mwai KIbaki.
After last year’s election, Raila said at least 250 of his supporters were killed, especially in Nasa strongholds of Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori, Siaya and parts of Nairobi.
Raila earlier said Nasa and Jubilee must sit down and talk to formulate a way to deliver the country from the current political stalemate.
He said he won the August 8 poll and cannot engage in talks for another a nusu mkate (coalition) government. He noted Ruto pushed for coalition talks in 2008.
The two leaders met after months of pressure by people including 11 envoys who asked Raila to accept Uhuru’s presidency as legitimate.
Close allies of the Opposition leader had disclosed that Nasa was working on a petition to challenge Uhuru’s legitimacy at the New York-based global agency.-TheStar