Uhuru, Raila unveil 14-member team on unity talks

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga outside Harambee House in Nairobi last month when they agreed to work together. [Willis Awandu, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga yesterday named a 14-member team to help implement their unity deal.

Uhuru and Raila turned to senior politicians, the clergy, elders, and academicians to spearhead the initiative dubbed 'Building Bridges', which is designed to address various national concerns.

Those selected join Martin Kimani and Paul Mwangi as advisers to lead national dialogue.

This comes a few days after the President and Raila told mourners at the funeral service of politician Kenneth Matiba that their journey to unite the country would be undeterred.

Those nominated from the political class include senators Amos Wako (Busia) and Yusuf Haji (Garissa), Makueni Woman Representative Rose Museo and her Samburu counterpart, Maison Leshomo.

Clergy members

Members of the clergy will be represented by Catholic Archbishop of Kisumu Zacchaeus Okoth, Bishop Lawi Imathiu (Methodist), and retired Anglican Bishop Peter Njenga.

The elders will be represented by Kisii Council of Elders Chairman James Matundura and his Kalenjin Council of Elders counterpart, Major (Rtd) John Seii

Journalist Morompi ole Ronkei and Raila’s strategist, Adams Oloo, will join academicians Florence Omose and Saeed Mwanguni in the team that will also have Agnes Kavindu.

“It is notified for the general information of the public that President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga have appointed a team of 14 advisers to assist in the work of the Building Brides initiative,” read a statement sent out by Raila’s spokesman, Dennis Onyango.

Fourteen advisers

“The 14 advisers shall work under the direction of the Building of Bridges initiative secretariat which is headed by ambassador Martin Kimani and Paul Mwangi.” 

In a joint statement outside the President’s Harambee House office on March 9, the two leaders promised to roll out a programme to unite and heal the country following the divisive 2017 General Election.

But the delay had raised concerns that the deal could collapse amid claims of sabotage from both sides.

The selection of the team was said to have been informed by Uhuru and Raila’s desire to involve the country’s elderly statesmen and women who possess vast experience in public life.

The two leaders resolved to include religious leaders and representatives of the councils of elders as part of their assurance that the talks had nothing to do with the 2022 elections, but instead were meant to find ways of uniting the country.

Senators Wako and Haji are among the senior-most politicians in the country, with Wako having served the longest as the country’s Attorney General (20 years). He is now serving his second term as elected senator.

Wako had warned that if not swiftly acted upon, the fruits of the deal, would be drowned by noise about 2022 succession politics.

“I suggest that where constitutional and legal provisions will require to be enacted, the target should be that those provisions be enacted by mid-2020, before the 2022 election fever takes over,” Wako said.

Haji, who has been in Parliament for 20 years, joined the civil service as a district officer in 1970, rising to the position of provincial commissioner in 1997, when he retired. He joined Parliament as a nominated MP in 1998.

Bishop Imathiu brings to the table his skills as a clergyman and an elder. He is the Gikuyu Embu Meru Association chairman. 

Two weeks ago, Archbishop Okoth and Anglican Church of Kenya Bondo Diocese Bishop David Kodia asked leaders to stop reckless talk that could raise political temperatures. They said this would revive ethnic tensions that could jeopardise Uhuru's and Raila’s unity bid.

Council of Elders

Bishop Njenga (rtd), Major (rtd) Seii, and Mzee Matundura have been among those who were instrumental in the formation of the Kenya Council of Elders Association, which is charged with bringing the country’s communities together.

Ms Leshomo is serving her third term in Parliament, having first been nominated by Kanu in the 10th Parliament. She was elected as the Samburu Woman Representative in 2013, a position she successfully defended. The former civic leader is a community mobiliser.

Ms Museo, who is serving her second term as Makueni woman representative, is a key ally of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka. She comes on board not only to represent women but also the disabled.

Ms Kavindu unsuccessfully contested the Machakos woman representative position on a Jubilee ticket in the NASA stronghold.

Dr Oloo, who teaches political science at the University of Nairobi, has been one of Raila’s key strategist, as has been Ms Omose, who served in the ODM Elections Appeals Tribunal last year.

Dr Ronkei, an ally of Raila from Trans Mara and the chairman of the Taita Taveta University Council, holds a PhD in journalism and communication from the University of Oregon in the US.