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‘We must honestly discuss our successes, failures as a nation’

By Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga | Mar 10th 2018 | 6 min read
President Uhuru Kenyatta and National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga have publicly reconciled and agreed to work together in the interest of Kenyans. They announced the burying of the hatchet after talks at Harambee House Nairobi. 9/3/2018. [Photo/WILLIS AWANDU/STANDARD]

President Kenyatta and NASA leader Raila Odinga yesterday held talks for the first time since the emotive last year elections. Here is an abridged statement they released after the Harambee House meeting.

In the 55 years since independence, Kenya has constantly sought to live up to its promise and the dreams its founding mothers and fathers had for us. We have achieved a lot but also fallen short of our goals. Our people are crying out for leadership that shows the path to dignity, prosperity and security.

There are changes that are required in our system of governance for us to succeed, and we have been in a process of reform to deal with them for the last 20 years. Yet despite all the reforms, we continue to have deep and bitter disagreements. Ethnic antagonism and divisive political competition have become a way of life.

We are grateful for our fathers, we stand on their shoulders. Yet we can also see that the promise of our nation has not been met as fully as it should have been; we know there are different measures our founding fathers should have taken as they forged this young nation.

Over the last fifty-five years, since independence, the people, and their leaders, have sometimes taken sharply differing positions regarding the best road to travel towards this commonly agreed destination. This has led to the lack of a collective approach in the management of public affairs, and has fostered feelings of exclusion, and, ultimately, animosity.

We, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, are the two leaders who symbolize the many ways in which the country has gone full circle in its divisions. They were witness to the unity and hope that was followed by discord and division.

Intent on not witnessing the country suffer similar future cycles of the same tribulations it has since 1963, they are determined to offer the leadership that prevents future generations inheriting dangerous division and offers them a path to a bright future for all.

We have agreed to launch this initiative that aims to create a united nation for all Kenyans living today, and all future generations

Kenya is witnessing a continued deterioration of relationships between ethnic communities and political formations. These relationships are too often characterised by aggressive antagonism and competition.

A strong nation cannot develop in this way. We are standing together to urge every Kenyan, every political leader and formation to compete without using ethnic profiling or by promoting

Respect for all

We have been competitors and even used hard language at times against each other, but we have always been friends and respected one another. We respect each other as individuals and as leaders. We respect each other’s communities. We respect Kenyans, and we respect our nation.

Kenya is today increasingly being defined internationally by its negative politics and the challenges that they create. Corruption and violence are the main characteristics by which Kenyans are defined by the international community.

Despite the many positive attributes of our country, we are yet to define and promote its national ethos. Nationhood and patriotism requires that people feel they enjoy a commonality beyond the sharing of residency in a country, and that they feel they have common characteristics, beliefs and aspirations.

Inclusivity is one of the greatest challenges Kenyans face. We as Kenyans have failed to appreciate our God-given differences in how we think, the languages we speak, the regions we come from, and the way we worship. We have failed to appreciate that we are as the fingers of the hand: weak alone, and as strong as a fist when folded together. Our political system has been unable to respond to feelings of alienation in sections of our people. Many feel alienated from the mainstream national development initiatives and political activity. Such real and imagined exclusion is anathema to effective nation-building.

We commit themselves to make the strongest efforts to find the right skills and attitudes from as many backgrounds and identities as possible. We commit to fight hard for inclusivity and to make sure, in an accountable and impactful way, that public institutions work to deliver to all Kenyans at the national and county level. And, crucially, we will work together to guarantee that all Kenyans are served equally by public institutions, no matter who leads them.

Devolution has so far been the most successful story in the recent process of building a strong nation. Yet a lot remains to be done in enhancing its political viability and economic sustainability. We will work together to bring counties together regardless of the political affiliation of their Governors, Senators and MCAs. We will make sure that counties are delivering to the people. We will work together to hold all county governments accountable to the people. We will continually promote a common approach that helps citizens understand the role of devolution in creating the Kenyan nation and its significance to their development.

Elections in Kenya have now become a threat to lives, our economy and our standing as a nation. Kenyans need to overcome this negative cycle by acting on the understanding that elections on their own are not the solution to our national challenges. By faithfully adhering to the Constitution and the law, halting ethnic antagonism and profiling, by promoting inclusivity, by strengthening devolution, by fighting corruption, and caring about safety and security, we will have elections that are not marred by mistrust and conflict.

We have been in institutional reform mode for many years now, and for sure that there will be more to come in the future. But today, it is time to acknowledge the other critical items we have not put enough work into.

We must seek to shift our terms of engagement as leaders, as individuals and as citizens, if we are to have competitive and constructive elections.

That should be our first priority.

Too many Kenyans lives are afflicted by natural and man-made disasters. Today, there is a long drought that has settled over the country, risking the lives of many Kenyans and their livelihoods. We are asking all leaders, no matter at what level, in every part of the country, to stand up and demonstrate their leadership by making a practical effort to ensure that those who are hungry or in distress are aided.

We will work together to ensure that all warring communities reject violence as a way of settling inter-communal conflict or advancing any political, ethnic or religious cause.

Proud living

Corruption is an existential threat to our Kenya. It is destroying lives, public trust and prosperity. It is being passed to the young generation, making a mockery of their hopes and their need to forge an honest and proud living. It is undermining our public and private institutions, and will destroy them and our aspirations as a nation.

The fight against corruption has to be carried out from a wide and common front to eliminate any sanctuary for perpetrators.

We will strongly support efforts to support whistleblowing from all Kenyans, and they urge all of you to loudly report the corruption you witness no matter where it is. Our fighting and reporting corruption should itself not be corrupt, it must not be a witch hunt but instead should reflect integrity. We will stand together to ensure that political affiliation shall not be used to shield those who are found to be corrupt.

In parts of the country, there are many who are doing well, and Kenya continues to be a leading destination for investment into the region. There are blockages, and perverse incentives against innovation, growth and job creation in our economic system. We will work together to clear them from every part of the country so that prosperity comes to us all.

Finally, Kenyans must have their human and civil rights respected and enforced. There is no Kenyan whose rights should be compromised no matter the interests against them. Kenyans have struggled hard for these rights and they are not for anybody to take for granted. At the same time, to attain and protect our rights, we must embrace our responsibilities. 5. How it will work

We have agreed to roll out a programme that will implement our shared objectives. The programme shall establish an office and retain a retinue of advisors to assist in this implementation. We have mandated both ambassador Martin Kimani and Mr Paul Mwangi to oversee the establishment of this programme. An official launch shall be held soon.

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