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One year later: The handshake and renewed nationalism

By Amos Kareithi | Published Sun, August 12th 2018 at 10:07, Updated August 12th 2018 at 10:14 GMT +3

When millions of opposition supporters euphorically chanted “naona mabadaliko (I can see change) last year, they had no idea how Kenya would look like if God answered their prayers.

Although their anthem borrowed from gospel singer Helena Ken’s Mwaka wa Mabadiliko (Year of change) hit song is no longer ruling the airwaves, its words have been given meaning 12 months later.

ALSO READ: Raila Odinga's 180-degree turn

It is as if the country has undergone a rebirth following last year’s ominous whirlwind that was highly charged and divisive elections.

A cross section of leaders we talked to agree that after the divisive campaigns which almost plunged the country into anarchy, there has been some political stability and a semblance of renewed nationalism.

The leaders agree that Kenya’s defining moment came as a result of the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga, heralding a new era of building bridges that is only starting to yield fruits.

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed says courtesy of the handshake, there has been a significant change in the tone of our politics, allowing Kenyans to go about their daily business without disruptions.

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“In the past, Kenyans did not even agree there was corruption in this country that needed to be fought. Today, we are in agreement that we need to deal with such issues jointly as a nation,” he said.

While the country was in the past perceived as a bedrock of warlords and war mongers, Junet says Kenya is now viewed internationally as a nation of peacemakers.

Road to Canaan

Explaining the fluidity of the political alliances and the confusing after effects of the handshake, the Suna East MP says ODM has not abandoned its quest for the Canaan it promised its supporters last year but had instead taken a different path that includes all nations.

ALSO READ: Handshake politics: How long will the peace hold?

Raila is not in government, he says, but helping to re-imagine the nation and how to tackle its challenges.

According to Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, the first time MPs can discharge their duties without fear of being disciplined for “closing” the party line.

“You have seen how the debate on sugar was carried out. National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi sided with Leader of Government Business Aden Duale. If this was in the past, he would have been hanged at noon by his party,” Gachagua told Sunday Standard.

But other leaders are not enthusiastic. Former Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim grudgingly says other vices are still being witnessed in the country unabated, citing the eruption of mega scandals.

Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma is confident things have improved.

“There was a lot of tension and some people felt that they were not part of Kenya. After the handshake, things have changed. That is how some people from Homa Bay have been appointed to senior government positions,” he says.

The handshake, he says, has made opposition leaders and their supporters realise that President Kenyatta meant well for the country but was being held hostage by some factions in government.

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“Some people believed the government belonged to them and that is why they wanted it populated with their tribesmen. Now there is unanimity of purpose in dealing with issues.” he says.


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