Kibaki, Raila deal that ended 2008 post-election standoff

On February 28, 2008, war-weary Kenyans trained their eyes on the steps of Harambee House, holding their breath, their destiny resting on the hands of two men.

The two men, who had been hip in 2002 but fought fierce political battle in 2007 on opposing sides, were caged in the Office of the President – under  the stewardship of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan – to  end a political turmoil that was ravaging the nation.

When they eventually emerged, after hours of back and forth negotiations, the handshake between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga threw the country into deliriuos partying as they finally put pen to paper to call a truce on the standoff.

Prior to signing of the deal, the country had been on a cliffhanger and the political and commercial capital of East Africa virtually remained a ghost town with only police officers, journalists and Red Cross officials racing up the numerous streets of Nairobi.

National Accord Bill

So heavy was the responsibility on the two that when time came for Parliament to endorse the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill, 2008, Raila and Kibaki marshalled their troops to post a unanimous approval of the Bill to pave the way for the Grand Coalition.

The legal framework created the Offices of the Prime Minister and his two deputies.

Before passing of the Bill, the two principals had to convince a deeply divided House that the country was more important and that the bloodletting that had been witnessed had to stop.

Raila, who claimed his victory was snatched, struck a conciliatory tone telling the legislators that Kenya was greater than any individual and paid glowing tribute to the international community for its role in bringing peace to the country.

The African Union had tasked Dr Annan to lead mediate talks between Raila’s ODM and Kibaki’s PNU following the disputed presidential vote.

White smoke

Contributing to the Bill, Kibaki reiterated that the MPs should not lose sight of a changing world and told the MPs how God loves Kenya.

“I tell you that God loves this country…The way we were headed a little while ago was terrible!” Kibaki told the House.

Raila recalled the intense negotiations at Harambee House and equated it to a conclave of Catholic cardinals electing a Pope, saying finally a white smoke had emerged from Harambee House.

“Mr Kibaki said ‘we must finish this matter today before we leave this room’”, Raila told the MPs.

Despite the wrangles that marked the Grand Coalition Government, the two recorded noteworthy achievements.

Raila and Kibaki, for instance, would be credited for the spearheading the passage of the new Constitution, which had been elusive for two decades.