Unity talks welcomed by Kenyans from across the political divide as some leaders caution against reneging on agreement
A section of leaders now view the surprise meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga as the beginning of national dialogue.
The meeting has elicited mixed reactions and is perceived as an ice breaker to the dialogue stalemate between the Government and the Opposition since the August 8 General Election.
Yesterday, Kenyans applauded the two leaders for putting aside their ego for the betterment of the country, but cautioned them against reneging on their agreement.
Religious leaders, a section of diplomats and trade unionists have been calling for dialogue between the Jubilee government and National Super Alliance (NASA) since the August polls and the October 26 repeat presidential election.
Senate Leader of Majority Kipchumba Murkomen told Saturday Standard that plans for the two leaders’ meeting started long ago.
“This was a big win for President Kenyatta in his responsibility of uniting the country. This is good for the nation and also Uhuru’s legacy,” he said.
In Meru, Governor Kiraitu Murungi and Senator Mithika Linturi lauded the move as one that will foster development and unity. “At first, l did not believe it. l thought someone was playing games but after l confirmed both were on TV to bring the country together and to fight the demons of tribalism, l was happy. l really welcome that move,” Kiraitu said.
Linturi said the meeting was a milestone as far as national unity and development were concerned.
“It is my wish that the country will now move forward,” the senator said.
Retired Mumias Anglican Church Bishop Beneah Salala termed the meeting at Harambee House a big score for the country. “We hope it was not a public relations stunt to please the top US diplomat visiting the country but a commitment to taking the country to the next level of social, economic and political development,” he said.
He said the focus should now be on how to promote national integration, expand infrastructure in schools and grow the economy.
Nyeri Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria said it was time for Kenyans to address issues that have been tearing the country apart since independence. Yesterday’s talks, he said, would be a first step to reconciliation and way forward as a nation.
“We ask Kenyans to also open their hearts to forgive and dialogue as well and let us reach out to one another to forge a solution to the problems plaguing our country,” Muheria said.
Kitale Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) Bishop Stephen Kewasis and his Bungoma counterpart Bishop George Mechumo termed the latest development as “bold and patriotic” by the President and NASA leader.
Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma asked NASA leaders across the country to support Raila’s “ceasefire” with President Kenyatta. Likoni MP Mishi Mboko said the unity shown by Uhuru and Raila will steer development.
Central Organisation Trade Union (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli said the meeting was long overdue and that had it taken place in September, more than 100,000 people could not have lost their jobs.
“It has been Cotu’s position from the word go that the two put their differences aside and sit on one table for the sake of the country. People should know that we can only have one leader at a time and it is now time to embark on building the economy,” he said.
Veteran politician Koigi wa Wamwere, who supported Raila’s presidential bid in the last elections, said if the two leaders succeed in uniting the country and commit themselves to the ideologies of nationalism, they would have achieved what Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga failed.
Yesterday’s events caught Kenyans by surprise, coming barely a week after Raila told his supporters to tighten their belts for tougher political times ahead.
Call for peace
Although church leaders, governors and MPs from all regions praised the new found alliance, Kenyans on the streets, who have suffered police brutality over their hostility against President Kenyatta’s government, remained sharply divided with some describing the move as a betrayal.
Nyanza has borne the brunt of the Uhuru-Raila rivalry, with anti-government demonstrations since the August 8 elections leaving close to 20 people dead, hundreds injured and businesses destroyed.
“I am shocked beyond words. People have died, hundreds of others maimed by bullets and police batons because of this rivalry. But if the new deal will bring peace, then let it be,” said Cosmas Okoth, a plumber. Henry Otieno, an ODM supporter at the coast, was disappointed by Raila’s latest move. “Where are Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetangula?” Otieno said.