New political chapter as President Uhuru, Raila cement handshake in Nyanza

President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime minister Raila Odinga hug as other leaders watch at the Kisumu Innternational Airport on December 13, 2018. President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived in Kisumu for a two-day development agenda trip which is aimed at uniting Kenyans. [Photo: Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared a new beginning in Kenyan politics. The President said this yesterday in Kisumu, where he was joined by various politicians, including Opposition leader Raila Odinga, for public meetings. 

And in what is likely to cause political waves in the country, the President also announced that Kenya no longer had an Opposition following a new wave of cooperation with political leaders from other parties.

“Leaders have spoken here and they have called for a new beginning. I know Kenyans support us in this. I’m happy because yesterday during Jamhuri Day celebrations, for the first time in Kenya’s history, we had both NASA and Jubilee leaders in attendance,” the President said as he asked Kenyans to forget the past and focus on the future.  

Amid cheers from mammoth crowds in the Opposition stronghold that held violent protests against his re-election last year, resulting in deaths and destruction of property, Uhuru said Raila was fully in Government.

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Pilot phase

Uhuru, who was visiting Kisumu for the launch of the pilot phase of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), said since the famous March 9 handshake, Raila had been actively participating in running the Government.

In what seemed to be the beginning of the end of long-drawn political hostilities in Kenya, the President and his Deputy William Ruto fondly hugged Raila amid song and dance from the same people who only months ago staged violent anti-Government demonstrations, resulting in deaths and massive destruction of property.

Amid shouts of “Ruto! Ruto! tell us your stand!”, from the crowds, Deputy President William Ruto said the handshake had opened a new chapter in the country. “It is a new beginning,” Ruto declared.

Speaking at Mamboleo showground where the President launched the UHC programme to be implemented in Kisumu, Isiolo, Nyeri and Machakos, Ruto and Raila said the handshake was irreversible and told those opposing to prepare for a shock.

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“Today, I have come to Kisumu. Some people have been saying that I don’t support the handshake. I want to tell you today that I support the handshake,” Ruto said, referring to the March 9 truce between the President and his main rival in last year’s disputed presidential vote, Raila.

Ruto added: “Let us leave the old politics of enmity. Let’s embrace the politics of maturity and development. When you see the President and Baba here, know that I, the hustler, is there in the middle,” he added.

Raila sent the crowd into a frenzy through slogans of “Handshake Tibim, handshake Tialala!” two slogans that he used often during last year’s campaigns against the Jubilee government.

Yesterday Raila said Kenyans needed a conversation on the country’s political future.

“The problem in the country has been the winner-take it-all syndrome. We should ask ourselves whether this is a good thing or not,” he said.

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Earlier, there were historic scenes at Ahero and Kisumu, where more than 20 people were shot dead by police in October last year after Nyanza boycotted the repeat presidential elections after Raila successfully petitioned against Uhuru’s victory in August 2017 presidential vote.

The 2017 revolutionary songs of “Resist! Uhuru must Go! No Raila, no peace! were replaced by peace narratives as residents and MPs hailed the March 9  handshake.

No-go-zone for Jubilee

In August and October last year, Nyanza was a no-go-zone for Jubilee politicians, as locals protested what they termed police brutality and schemes to deny Raila a chance to become the country’s fifth President.

In the chaos, Kisumu literally went into an economic shutdown, as police engaged residents in bloody confrontations, leading to deaths and injuries.

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Those killed included six-month-old baby Samantha Pendo. Her killing exhibited the face of brutality by security forces.

The President said his move to make peace with Raila was aimed at bringing an end to the confrontational politics, which had bedeviled the country since the introduction of multiparty politics, a situation he said had seen the country divided along tribal lines.

Uhuru’s statement validated Raila’s recent actions and comments on issues affecting the country, especially the fight against corruption, on which he has taken the Executive’s position.

“We have opened a new page in which even with stiff political competition, nobody is left out of Government. I confirm to you that Raila is in Government, and this marks the end of Opposition politics in the country. Our role as leaders is now to look into how Kenyans get development,” said Uhuru.

He added: “With my big brother (Raila), we have decided that politics can no longer supersede the needs of our people. We have decided that we will never preside over any divisive politics in this country.” 

And for the first time, Uhuru opened the lid over Raila’s recent continental appointment.

The President said he had to make a hard choice of having the ODM leader appointed the High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa.

He said after the handshake, his Government saw it fit to have Raila extend the unity campaign across the borders, a move that saw the former Premier land the continental assignment.

“We declared that our unity journey will not end here in Kenya, but we wanted to push it to East Africa and Africa at large. And that is why we decided that the person who can do the work of uniting Africans and promoting infrastructural development is Raila Odinga,” he said.

Uhuru landed in Kisumu a couple of minutes past 11 am, where he was received by among others, Raila and Ruto, who had arrived at the lakeside city an hour before.

The President then proceeded to Ahero, where he received a thunderous welcome from the residents who had congregated at the venue as early as 8 am.

The President and Raila could not address the residents on the podium after the latter surged towards the dais, causing a security scare.

They had to make their addresses from the tops of their vehicles, where the President took the opportunity to reconnect with the people, who months ago blocked the road at the same point to burn his effigy following the controversial August 2017 presidential election results.

Dressed casually, the leaders embraced one another, a scene that excited the thousands of residents at Ahero and Kondele.

Uhuru unveiled the Sh300 million Ahero Interchange, which is expected to connect to the Ahero-Kisii, and Kisii-Isbania roads, whose construction commenced in May last year and are expected to be completed in mid-2020.

Great things

Uhuru, in his address to the people, noted that having Raila in his Government was not all the handshake meant, clarifying that the move was the beginning of great things for the country.

“I sat down with my brother Raila, and we looked into how we can ensure that our country traces its lost glory of the 1960s when we were united to fight the colonialists and gained independence,” he said, telling those doubting the handshake to sit back and watch “this space”.

Raila took the opportunity to rally his supporters behind the handshake, saying together with the President they would unveil a nationwide campaign to spread the benefits of the handshake.

Raila, who enjoys a near fanatic support in Nyanza, justified his new-found relationship with Uhuru.

“In 1961, Jaramogi and Jomo Kenyatta shook hands here in  Ahero, and this is the reason why we have decided to commence our handshake campaigns here,” he said.

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President Uhuru KenyattaRaila OdingaUHCWilliam RutoKisumuHandshake