Kenya: Uhuru and Raila in Surprise Pledge to Heal Poll Divisions

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Nasa leader Raila Odinga (file photo).

Kenya's unpredictable political environment was jolted Friday after President Uhuru Kenyatta and his main political challenger, Mr Raila Odinga, held a surprise meeting whose planning and organisation will go down as one of the best-kept secrets of the recent political developments.

Even though Mr Odinga did not publicly recognise Mr Kenyatta as the duly elected President, only referring to him as "my brother", the handshake that followed their joint statement on the steps of Harambee House was an indication that the closing of ranks between the two most antagonistic political families could be in the offing.

However, the short-lived honeymoon was further jolted when Mr Odinga's allies said they had been kept in the dark about the talks.

CONFIDENTIAL

So secret was the organisation of the meeting that sources have told the Saturday Nation that not even Mr Kinuthia Mbugua, the man who handles the President's diary as Comptroller of State House, knew of its planning.

So was Interior minister Fred Matiang'i and the Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr Njee Muturi, both who were at Harambee House.

They, too, looked on in shock as Mr Odinga and his entourage arrived at the Office of the President and went straight to the President's second floor office.

On the other hand, Mr Odinga's entourage to the meeting consisted of lawyer Paul Mwangi, who served as his adviser on constitutional matters when he (Mr Odinga) served as Prime Minister, the Minority Whip in the National Assembly, Mr Junet Mohammed, Mr Odinga's daughter Winnie and spokesman Dennis Onyango.

HARAMBEE HOUSE

Sources have told the Saturday Nation that the President arrived at his office at about 9am but did not as much as hint to his aides the purpose of his early arrival in an office he hardly visits.

Mr Odinga later made his way in at about 10.30am.

Those who sat in the meeting included President Kenyatta and Mr Martin Kimani, on the one side, and Mr Odinga, Mr Junet, Mr Mwangi and Ms Winnie on the other.

The talks lasted for two and half hours. When the leaders emerged to make a televised address, they told the nation of their desire to work together to halt the country's descent following a divisive general election last year.

"We must confront and resolve our differences," Mr Odinga said, referring to the President as "ndugu yangu (my brother). "We want to unite Kenya."

UNITY

When it was his turn to speak, President Kenyatta said that he and Mr Odinga had come to a common understanding that Kenya was greater than any one individual.

"We will begin the process of bringing our people together," he said and pledged talks on what ails the country and find solutions.

"The future must be dictated by the stability of our country," he said.

It was the first time the two leaders were meeting after the divisive 2017 elections that was characterised by personalised attacks, violent protests and the nullification of the outcome of the first presidential election by the Supreme Court.

In their joint statement, the two leaders expressed their desire to set aside their differences and rebuild the nation and make it responsive to the urgent need for prosperity, fairness and dignity for all Kenyans.

"The two leaders have been competitors and even used hard language at times but they have always been friends and respected one another as individuals and leaders," the statement read by Mr Odinga said.

DIVISIONS

They regretted that Kenya was today being defined internationally by its negative politics, pointing out that violence and corruption are the main characteristics by which Kenyans are defined by the international community.

"There are changes that are required in our system of governance for us to succeed and we have been in the process of reform to deal with them for the last twenty years," Mr Odinga said.

"Yet, despite all the reforms, we continue to have deep and bitter disagreements. Ethnic antagonism and divisive political competition have become a way of life."

The two leaders agreed to rollout a programme that will implement their shared objectives revolving around the war on corruption, ethnic antagonism and competition, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution and divisive elections as part of the grand scheme to unite the country.

In implementing the programme, the two agreed to set up an office and retain a retinue of advisers to assist in the implementation.

INCLUSION

They picked Mr Martin Kimani and Mr Paul Mwangi to oversee the establishment of the programme.

"The two leaders urged the Kenyan public to overcome the negative cycle by acting on the understanding that elections on their own are not solution to our national challenges," they said, while pleading with the nation to faithfully adhere to the Constitution, halting antagonism and profiling and ensuring the promotion of inclusivity.

When he learnt about the meeting, Deputy President William Ruto congratulated the two for rising above divisions.

"Congratulations Pres. Uhuru and Raila for being statesmen," Mr Ruto said on his Twitter handle.

"You have risen to the moment for Kenya and against hate, negative ethnicity and division. The unity, stability and transformation of Kenya supersedes all other partisan interests. Wangwana mbarikiwe mpaka mshangae (may you be abundantly blessed)."

It later emerged that Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement has organised a Parliamentary Group meeting for Monday next week in which it is expected that the talks between the two leaders will feature prominently.

Mr Kalonzo, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang'ula also said they would meet with Mr Odinga on Monday to discuss the talks.

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