Africa is a common ground where you find arch enemies based on lines of different political ideologies. Examples of such countries include Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Kizza Besigye, Zambia’s Edgar Lungu and Hakainde Hichilema, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga among others.
However, with the quest to instill trust and unity for the good of its people and the wind of change blowing across Africa, political opponents in Kenya, President Kenyatta and main opposition leader, also former vice president Raila Odinga have reconciled their differences for the common good of Kenyans. But the question remains, is this reconciliation for Kenyans or personal interest?
Historic Kenyatta/Odinga Handshake
March 9, 2018, will remain a very historic date in Kenyan political history. Kenyans were taken aback by a historic political reconciliation or what has been widely termed as ‘’a political handshake” between incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and his main political rival Raila Odinga. The public handshake by Uhuru Kenyatta who is at the helm of presidential affairs in Kenya and Raila Odinga, perceived as ‘’the peoples’ president’’ followed an indoor meeting at the Harambee House in Nairobi.
Till date, the plight of National Super Alliance-Nasa and its fate under defiant opposition figure Raila Odinga remains in the dark, given the seemingly unending marriage or alliance between President Kenyatta and Mr. Odinga. Notwithstanding, while many have perceived the Kenyatta-Odinga marriage as philosophical and problematic, others perceive it as a rebirth of a new Kenya. A Kenya senator from Baringo Gideon Moi said: “The handshake changed the landscape of the country, as the two leaders taught us that as citizens of this great nation, selflessness triumphs over selfishness and personal ambitions.”
According to an independent researcher who spoke on condition of anonymity, in the physical, Kenyatta/Odinga union implies an end to political infighting and a ceasefire between opposing Jubilee leader and Nasa leaders respectively, peace advocates in Kenya saw this as a ‘’dawn of a new Kenya’’. However, political pundits have expressed doubts as to why arch enemies can mend ties so easily without political interests attached to it; terming it ‘’a political manoeuvre”.
Post-electoral violence in Kenya (2007-2008)
The political history of the east African nation of Kenya will be void and null if we belittle the two renowned posts of electoral violence in the country in the years 2007 and 2017. The 2007-2008 crisis that engulfed Kenya was largely seen as political, stemming from a disputed election that year. The post-electoral violence emanated when then President Mwai Kibaki was declared a winner of the December 27, 2007 polls against his main challenger and flag bearer of the Orange Democratic Movement Raila Odinga. The post-election violence was severe as many Kenyans showed their anger on the government bemoaning their living conditions, which saw the death of about 1200 Kenyans mostly the ‘Kikuyus’ including women and children. This political squabble, however, culminated a month later with the intervention in 2008 of former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Atta Annan.
The results of the post-electoral violence was the creation of a unity government or a power-sharing agreement termed as ‘’ National accord and reconciliation act 2008’’ after intense talks with the Kibaki-led administration and Mr Odinga. The fruit of this was the creation of the position of the Prime Minister. Defiant Raila Odinga then became the first prime of Jomo Kenyatta’s nation in April 2008.
Uhuru/Ruto ICC case
After thorough investigations into the political violence, incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto became wanted by Judges of The Hague based International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity perpetrated during the 2007 post-election violence. Notwithstanding, the case was later dropped by the ICC in 2014, on the basis that the Kenyan government could not provide vital evidence that found Kenyatta and Ruto culpable.
The 2017 election saga
The 2007 scenario repeated itself in 2017. Raila Odinga who stood as Kenyatta’s main challenger refused to accept the reelection of Uhuru Kenyatta in the August 2017 presidential polls. Odinga invalidated the votes citing illegalities and irregularities and also slamming the partiality and unauthentic nature of the Independent Electoral and boundaries commission, IEBC.
The electoral body declared Uhuru Kenyatta front runner of the Jubilee party conqueror with a 54.17% and Raila Odinga who led the coalition of opposition parties under the banner of the National Super Alliance (Nasa). The vote results were however challenged in Court by Odinga, prompting the constitutional court to declare the August election void and null. A run-off election was therefore set for the month of October 2017, Uhuru Kenyatta astoundingly won with over 90% of the total votes cast Mr Odinga and his Nasa Party boycotted the vote. Many people lost their lives and others injured as a result of the post-election violence.
Even though Odinga supporters remain in the dark as to what he must have discussed with President Kenyatta behind closed doors, the incumbent of recent reiterated his commitment to work together with his newfound political friend, Raila Odinga in realizing his ‘Big Four’’ project for the betterment of the lives of Kenyans. The big four includes; Manufacturing, affordable housing, Universal health coverage, and food security. Kenyatta was recently quoted as saying “I will continue working with Raila Odinga. We need to be inclusive on how we manage our affairs. We must be inclusive to foster peace, development and prosperity,” “We must move together as a nation where no Kenyan feels being left out.” Amid speculations that President Kenyatta will favour his rival Odinga in the 2022 elections in place of William Ruto his deputy, many things remain in the dark. William Ruto’s political future remains shaky.
Analyzing the handshake, International Centre for Policy and Conflict (ICPC), Right2Know Initiative and Uhaki Dialogue Group bemoaned that the truce didn’t define major areas of the Constitution that could enhance democracy among other things.
The historic handshake however, has turned things around for Kenya. The country does not only enjoy political stability, but it has become a potential market for investors. There has equally been an upsurge in the number of tourists visiting the nation among other things. ‘’Peace is actually relevant for economic transformation of a nation.’’
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Credit image: google images/kenya