The March 9 ‘handshake’ between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Premier Raila Odinga was momentous no doubt, but it will mount to nought if it doesn’t deliver any tangible benefits to Kenyans, and soon.
Depending on how well it is managed and received, it could be Kenya’s defining moment – to make or break.
It could be Kenya’s take-off to Canaan, or its water-shed to oblivion. Either way, consequences could be dire – not just for the region, but global geo-politics as well.
For the President, here are five crucial reasons he cannot let the opportunity flounder:
First, the handshake presents a rare opportunity for Kenya to rise and be great again and stand tall amidst stellar performers like Singapore, Korea, Mauritius, and Botswana. Kenya helped mid-wife the UN SDG’s and subscribes to AU’s Agenda 2063.
Our own long-term Vision 2030 anticipates mid-income status in little over 10 years, a time by which global poverty should also have reduced by half. To attain the 2-digit growth anticipated, all the three pillars – economic, social and political – must shine.
This means, and indeed only possible, if no Kenyan is left behind. Besides, the only way to secure and realize the Big 4 Agenda is to sustain the ‘9 Point Agenda’ of the handshake initiative.
Second, the President needs to secure his future, that of his children, descendants, family, lieutenants, and the larger communities. Our humanity means that leaders come and go; nothing (expect diamonds perhaps) is forever.
The President had the humility to ‘say sorry’ to Kenyans. Subsequent to the senior Kenyatta’s reign, the son had a typical opportunity to right any wrongs previous governments may have done. The 2017 elections polarized Kenyans like no other before.
The intractable animosity between the protagonist sides led one to demand even for secession.
The surprise handshake breathed a sigh of relief, and gave Jubilee a legitimacy that could have dogged the entire remainder of its rein, with unpredictable consequences. It was therefore very statesmanly of the two to tango. With the very remote chance of Kenya’s next leader coming from the President’s backyard, this is the time to secure the future of all Kenyans, including his dominant support base. Murmurs in Jubilee must be promptly nabbed.
Third, the region is in dire straits and sorely needs Kenya as a ‘big sister’ to show leadership and direction.
All round us, perhaps with the exception of Rwanda and, to an extent Uganda, there is trouble. Kenya can serve as a model for the region and beyond, especially with its home-grown solution that thawed the ice.
But, we are not out of the woods yet. Even though some foreign investors have started coming back, there are many still asking: “What if it erupts again in 2022?”
The loud scepticism in certain regions attests to the uneasy calm and entrenched mistrust. Only an all-inclusive, genuine, people-centered national dialogue can guarantee lasting peace and prosperity.
There’s tranquillity not witnessed for a long time, only comparable to 1964 (independence) and 2002 (Rainbow sensation). There could be no better time to build bridges that last.
Fourth, if the handshake backfires, 2007/8 and 2017 will be child-play. Jubilee needs to slay the dragons that have become its hallmark: massive graft, rule by exclusion, unbridled impunity, shameless opulence, blatant ‘ukabila’, nepotism and cronyism.
It will be extremely reckless, naive and dangerous to facilitate or let the heir presumptive – in this case Deputy President Ruto or Former PM Odinga, or anybody else for that matter – assume office with the current structures, norms and practices in place. The President cannot do Kenya any greater disservice.
Finally, this might be the last opportunity the President, and indeed the Kenyatta Family, have to chart Kenya’s destiny and secure a legacy that will live beyond generations.
It allows him to tower high and stand shoulder to shoulder with the all-time sages like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Mandela, Obama, etcetera.
If he squanders it, he will be paired with the likes of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, grabber Sani Abacha, disgraced Siad Barre, subdued Najib Razak and others whose names can’t even be remembered.
He has this opportunity to decide, and we hope Solomonic wisdom will prevail for the good of all.
Dr Ochuodho is Convenor, Tushauriane WaKenya.