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How the handshake saved Kenya’s economy from ruin

By Ayoki Onyango | Dec 27th 2018 | 2 min read
By Ayoki Onyango | December 27th 2018
President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and Opposition leader Raila Odinga shake hands after addressing a press conference on March 9, 2018 at Harambee house office in Nairobi.

As 2019 draws near, Kenyans must not forget the events of 2018.

The political heat was too much in the early days of the year. The mock swearing-in of NASA leader Raila Odinga and the subsequent events almost brought economic collapse.

“The mass protests against what was believed to be stolen Presidential elections and the violence, which went hand in hand with the civil disobedience, brought business and monetary losses that ran into billions”, says policy and financial analyst John Otieno Ochiel.

He adds that the January 30 swearing in of Raila as the People’s President worsened the already volatile situation. Multinational firms were leaving Kenya in masses because of the political instability.

Raila had earlier on called for the boycott of goods from certain companies whose owners, he said, aided the rigging of elections. This led to significant job and monetary losses.

Roads were blocked, transport from Mombasa to Nairobi and western Kenya was paralysed; public service vehicles could not go to Nyanza and parts of Western. Cargo and goods could not leave the port of Mombasa to other countries and counties.

Landlords and tenants were not comfortable with some people due to their political affiliations and houses belonging to certain communities were burnt down in different towns.

Tourists avoided Kenya as hotels in Mombasa, Naivasha and Kisumu recorded the lowest turnout.

“We were casual workers at one of the beach hotels at the South Coast and we were told to stop working until the political temperatures cooled down,” says Joe Kamau from Githunguri, Kiambu County. His colleague Gloria Mwendwa from Meru County also had to suspend work at the hotel.

But they reveal that one month after the famous ‘handshake’ they were both recalled by the hotel management to resume duty.

“Without the handshake, there was no ship in the horizon to rescue Kenyans,” says Ms Mwendwa.

Fish, horticulture and other products could not be exported while imported goods were taking long before clearance because many places became no-go zones.

At the international level, the European Union and America put pressure on Uhuru and Raila to negotiate so that Kenya would not go the Somalia way.

Mr Ochiel says two hours after the March 9 handshake, the shilling gained against international currencies, with dollar exchanging at Sh104 falling to Sh100.

This, he says, went on for six months.

It is thus evident that the handshake between saved Kenya’s economy from total collapse.

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