President William Ruto and former President Uhuru Kenyatta met for the first time in public since the inauguration in September.
The two leaders shared the floor at the third Inter-Congolese Consultations of the Nairobi Peace Process at Safari Park Hotel, marking Kenya’s commitment to having a peaceful region and ending the conflict in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
During the cordial interaction, the two leaders who fell out during the second term of the Jubilee administration seemed to have a new shared mission that will shape the region’s economic and political stability.
President Ruto reminded the audience how a political rift soured his relationship with Uhuru ahead of the August 9 General Election but they had to find a way to work together.
“I looked at him in the eye and told him, Mr President, you have started a very important process at East African Community, I want you to continue that process and he told me he was ready to do it,” Ruto said.
Despite a heated campaign season that saw the former president place his bet on Azimio leader Raila Odinga and even openly campaign for him, the body language of Ruto and his predecessor told a story of bygones even as they exchanged notes on the panel table and laughed.
During his inauguration on September 13, President Ruto appointed Uhuru as peace envoy for the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa.
So far, the former president has been involved in peace talks that have brought an end to the two-year-long Tigray conflict in Ethiopia after the Ethiopian government and Tigray People’s Liberation Front signed a deal for cessation of hostilities.
Uhuru has also taken a leading role as the Facilitator of the EAC, and has organised peace talks in Bujumbura where he met with Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye who is also Chairperson of the EAC Summit.
The former president yesterday said that the solution to the conflict in DRC can only be solved by the people of DRC with the help of friends.
“Peace cannot be brought to DRC by foreigners but from the people of DRC. The wealth of Congo is meant to help you and not to make the country and its people bleed,” said Uhuru.
During the event attended by Ndayishimiye and virtually by Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan and DRC counterparts Yoweri Museveni and Felix Tshisekedi, Ruto stated that their devotion to the peace mission is a sign of political goodwill to restore peace in DRC.
“We have taken a decisive position as heads of state of EAC to do everything possible to find a lasting peaceful solution to this conflict and we will not relent,” said Ruto.
Kenya and Burundi have already deployed troops to DRC as part of the regional forces.
Having joined the EAC on April 8, DRC’s newfound family has taken prompt action to restore order in a country that has experience conflict for decades.