What our leaders' new found camaraderie should do for Kenyans

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga when they met at Harambee House, Nairobi. (File, Standard)
Social media discourse following last week's Harambee House meeting between opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta was instructive. After months of acrimony post the August 8, 2017 general election, the last thing Kenyans expected at this point in time was camaraderie.

Many in the disjointed NASA vented their venom on Odinga, branding him a traitor to those who died supporting his call for electoral justice. Others derogatively said Odinga had found Canaan at Harambee House. Fellow NASA principals disassociated themselves, averring they were neither consulted nor apprised of the meeting. The duplicity in this is apparent. If truly they sought justice, it was pointless engaging Jubilee in more physical fights; occasioning more deaths. Jubilee has demonstrated that when it comes to violence, it is up there with the most vicious of them.

Last week's meeting, more of a replay of the 2008 situation that called for international mediation to cool tempers affirmed that Kenya's political problems are compounded by scheming hardliners on both sides of the political divide. The 2008 mediation teams could not chart the way forward until President Mwai Kibaki agreed to meet Raila Odinga personally, paving way for mediator Kofi Annan’s famous words: "We have a deal".

Amazingly, the very people in Jubilee who were strenuously opposed to dialogue with the opposition were quick to hail last week’s meeting. Others, like Kithure Kindiki, have expressed their reservations. To them, baba is too smooth to be trusted. You cannot fault them; the Kenya African National Union party has a story to tell about Odinga.

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A lot has happened in the months after August 8, 2017 to change Jubilees refrain on the politics of succession. While Deputy President William Ruto should be the most aggrieved, seeing his plans to inherit the mantle of leadership in 2022 being chipped by powerful forces he cannot ignore, he has taken it in his stride.

Arguably, Rift Valley’s support base is drifting.Some past injudicious remark on the invasion of the Mau Forest makes it difficult for many to lay much stock in his new found zeal in the conservation efforts. Political machinations put him between a rock and a hard place. He can choose to go with his kinsmen where ideological differences arise or risk losing Central Kenya's political backing.

One such case is the KNH saga that has seen Rift Valley MPs cry foul after Lily Koros, the hospitals administrator was sent on compulsory leave following a series of bad happenings at the hospital. When the MPs threatened to have Health CS Sicily Kariuki impeached, the situation became dicey for Ruto. Had he failed to defend the action against Ms. Koros, he would have been seen to be fighting government decisions and Uhuru's big four agenda, yet he is part of government.

End game

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Nevertheless, we must ask questions of the recent meeting between Uhuru and Odinga. What did it seek to accomplish? Was it for personal gain or will it address the myriad problems that act as triggers of the violence we experience every five years during election time? Before they get too cosy with each other, the issues that have been the cause of upheaval must be addressed.

Particularly, the reconstitution of the Electoral Commission should be top on the agenda. We cannot afford to perpetually blame bad laws and a seemingly partisan electoral commission, yet fail to address the underlying causes for political expediency. Leaders must genuinely endeavour to solve the canker of tribal hegemony in national leadership and skewed public appointments.

Mediocrity and incompetence in the public service are a consequence of clogging the sector with the 'politically correct’, their handicap notwithstanding. The 2008 coalition government, plagued by mistrust, did not deign to work on bringing a divided country together.

Having assuaged a restless public then, it was business as usual. Uhuru and Odinga must be in the vanguard, genuinely fighting corruption, rather than allowing looters to hide behind their immense clout to continue fleecing the country. Let's not delude ourselves; corruption is a big boys and girls’ game. Tackling it should start at the very top where a few individuals have miraculously transformed into billionaires.

We need to develop modalities of governance that are all encompassing to edge us away from the pernicious winner takes it all tendency. Too often the opposition feels short-changed. When everybody is assured of a share of the spoils, the need for animosity will be precluded. Uhuru and Raila will have betrayed their supporters if what they seek is to propagate the stranglehold their families have had on Kenyan politics. A temporal truce is not good enough. More than anything else, Kenyans need an assurance that in 2022, regardless of who will have won the trophy, we will not shed blood again.

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Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]

Harambee HouseRaila OdingaNASAUhuru Kenyatta