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Uhuru and Raila take handshake to US prayer talks

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga during the launch of Building Bridges Initiative report at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on November 27, 2019. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga have been invited to share their experience of their handshake at a key event in the United States.

If they honour the invite, it will mark the first time the two leaders, who struck a political truce following the disputed 2017 presidential election, will take to the international stage to extol the agreement that united their feuding political camps, and which has led to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) expected to yield constitutional reforms.

Reports suggest Uhuru and Raila have been invited to a sideline event during the 2020 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, US.

The two leaders, according to report, have been invited to a connected event referred to as the International Lunch, slated for February 5 and 6 and they are expected to talk about the handshake and the BBI.

Speaking during a BBI public consultative meeting at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega recently, Raila said that he and the president Uhuru had been invited to Washington for two days.

Raila said the March 9, 2018 handshake has earned respect globally and they have been invited by other countries to share an experience centred on transformation.

“Handshake has been hailed globally. I was recently invited to Togo to go and help them have a ‘Handshake’ between the government and the opposition,” said Raila.

“We have now been invited with my brother Uhuru in Washington next month to a National Prayer Breakfast between February 4 and 6. We will go and talk about the handshake. The handshake is good example and unique and it’s only Kenya who have done such a thing globally," he said.

In the invite, US Congress National Breakfast Co-chairs John Moolenaar and Thomas Suozzi asked President Uhuru and Raila to be the joint keynote speakers for the lunch.

Journey of faith

“As the keynote speakers for the lunch, we would like to ask you to share your personal journey of faith and reconciliation,” the invite reads in part.

According to the American Guest House, the event is hosted by members of the United States Congress and is an invite-only affair attended by elite individuals in politics, society, and business. 

“The prestigious two-day event is more than just breakfast. It includes a day full of meetings and forums punctuated by lunch and dinner. Over 100 countries are represented among the 3,500 attendees,” the hotel's website reads.

But when The Standard contacted State House Spokesperson Ms Kanze Dena on the matter, she replied: “No comment."

The president is banking on the BBI among his legacy programmes to deliver reforms to secure the nation's stability and end the cycle of violence witnessed after every election.

On the day of the launch of the BBI report in Nairobi last November, the president explained the BBI report is meant to address some of the challenges facing the country such as unemployment, electoral violence, poverty and corruption.

Cautioned politicians

He said the BBI process is not against any one politician and cautioned the political class against divisive politics saying individual thirst for power should never be allowed to override national interests.  

“I appeal especially to the political class. Do not divide Kenyans, they do not deserve it. We are here talking about their well being. We are here talking about their peace,” said the President. 

“This is not about us as leaders but it is about the 47 million Kenyan patriots. Let us read it and we can come back here at a time around early next year,” said the president.

The report by the Presidential task force headed by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji recommends that the president nominate a prime minister from the largest party or coalition in parliament who will be in charge of the daily running of government. 

The report, which has been subjected to second round of public participation, also recommends that Cabinet secretaries be selected from within and outside parliament. It also contains proposals aimed at tackling corruption, with a recommendation to bar civil servants from doing business with the government.

Last month, the US, through its Ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter,  announced support for the implementation of the report to ensure unity before the 2022 General Election.