Kenya: Handshake, Roads Built Will Be My Legacy - President Uhuru Kenyatta

13 October 2021

President Uhuru Kenyatta says he will retire a happy man because he has lessened ethnic tensions revolving around Kenya's national politics.

In an interview with a think tank in New York yesterday, the President said his handshake with then opposition leader Raila Odinga in 2018 will remain the biggest mark on his administration as it helped cool down political temperatures.

"The first is bringing our people much closer together than they have been and to reduce some of the tensions that have existed in the local politics," he said at a session with the International Peace Institute, a US think tank that specialises on peace, security and sustainable development issues.

"The other is having seen a lot of the infrastructure projects across the country that we have been able to achieve, and the kind of development that we have been able to achieve in our country."

He spoke at a session moderated by Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, president and CEO of the International Peace Institute.

The President used the platform to market his alliance with Mr Odinga, which has been controversial at home. His critics argue that while it cooled tempers, the hardships for ordinary folk have persisted, and worsened in the pandemic. They also say that while his administration paved more roads, they came at a cost: more debt.

The President argues that his administration can also be remembered for "internationally being able to see Kenya on a different stage and level in terms of our global engagements". He did not clarify but Kenya is the current president of the UN Security Council until the end of October, and will serve on the Council until December 31 next year.

He spoke on "leadership in implementing our common agenda", a call by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to rally the world on equity.

Africa as a partner

The Kenyan leader called for what he described as a positive engagement with a "global Africa" where he said the international system must treat the continent as a partner and listen to the warning signs there, especially on the challenges of climate change and insecurity.

"We need a new multilateralism with global Africa at its heart. It will reject discrimination and racism as part of our way of doing business," he told the audience.

"The problems are too serious, our future too important to leave out any country, no matter its size; any race; and any gender. We all need to have a stake in the solutions humanity is yearning for."

President Kenyatta, who said he regards himself a pan-Africanist, argues that Africa had been ignored in the past and forced to adopt systems that were alien, especially after independence. It has remained one of the causes of conflicts today, he argued.

"If we display the same attitude in our pursuit to overcome the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss, the results will be disastrous," he said.

"From where we sit, we need a new multilateralism that puts global Africa at its heart, if we are to respond adequately to the Secretary-General's call for meaningful change. I want to explain what I mean and why it is so urgent."

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