Kenyatta, Odinga Make the Handshake Deal Public

Opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta when they met at Harambee House in Nairobi on March 9, 2018.
19 October 2019

The handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga has singularly attracted criticism because it is shrouded in mystery.

Since the two erstwhile political rivals entered a truce in March last year after two calamitous presidential elections in 2017, beyond ending vicious conflicts and violence, details of the rapprochement remain a guarded secret.

The only manifest and public outcome is the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which has since gone round the country collecting and collating views from the public on governance and stability.


It is this mystique around the covenant between the two leaders that has elicited cynicism and scepticism, with the less charitable viewing it as a pact of scions of Kenya's Independence leaders, but nothing to do with citizens.

Speaking in Suswa, Narok, this week, President Kenyatta took exception to BBI's critics, condemning them for speculations about the initiative.

Specifically, he is agitated that some pessimists purport that the BBI is a ploy to change the Constitution and create a position for him after his second presidential term ends in 2022.

For good measure, he declared that he is not interested in any job and would exit when the time comes.

That is reassuring and serves to debunk the lies being peddled by some conspiracy theorists.

Even so, President Kenyatta and his newfound friend Mr Odinga have to be ready to take the flak because they have failed to explain to Kenyans what the handshake is all about.


Speculators have coined all sorts of explanations and wove self-gratifying narratives around the whole thing. For example, some Odinga loyalists have interpreted the deal as a ticket for them to enter government and resorted to behaving as state functionaries.

Conversely, some Jubilee politicians see it as a ploy to throw them out of the party and consequently taken to fighting the government from within. That is the danger of information dearth.

There must be something far deeper in the accord. Ending the post-election chaos was critical but temporal. Even though it has worked, the country needs a well-grounded formula that guarantees lasting peace.

That elections should not be the genesis of violence. Whenever opinions conflict, there are civilised ways of resolving them.

But the destiny of an entire nation ought not to be left in the hands of two individuals. President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have an obligation to explain to the public what their agreement is all about.

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