Uhuru, Raila finally take handshake gospel to Kisumu

President Uhuru Kenyatta with opposition leader Raila Odinga while commissioning the construction of Kisumu -Kakamega road on December 13th 2018. [Photo: Collins Oduor, Standard]

The spirit of the March 9 Uhuru Kenyatta-Raila Odinga patch-up was evident in Kisumu when the two former archrivals addressed a huge crowd as the President launched Universal Healthcare Coverage project.

Even Deputy President William Ruto, who has been seen as being not very enthusiastic about the handshake, declared his total support for the reconciliation that put months of post-election bad blood behind.

"We are supporting the handshake to unite Kenyans and promote peace in the country," said Mr Ruto.

Raila brought the reconciliation message by recalling the detention of Uhuru's father Jomo Kenyatta and a 1961 meeting in Kisumu hosted by Jaramogi Odinga (Raila's father) that pushed for Kenyatta's release.

 It was a Pan-African affair attended by Presidents Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi among others.

Raila the explained that the handshake was necessitated by the need to avoid the blood-letting that Kenya's election cycle has become.

"Nobody should lose his life because of an election," he said.

He recalled the fluid situation in Kisumu last year when traders removed the president's portraits from their shops and urged him to be unilaterally sworn-in as the president.

"They wanted to burn the portraits….  I was sworn in. Uhuru on the hand was urged to have me hanged for treason," said Raila.

On his part Uhuru said the spirit of the handshake was there to stay even for hundred years. He said they were determined to do away with the winner-takes-it all mentality that comes after every election; that all Kenyan communities were entitled to an equitable share of jobs and other national resources.

The occasion was devoid of the pre-handshake animosities with both Ruto and Uhuru referring to Raila as "Baba". At one time, Ruto even addressed him as Prime Minister a.k.a Baba.

  The war on graft and unity calls dominated speeches. The President urged Kenyans to unite against graft, saying that it is time for all 'thieves to be accorded same treatment' under the law.

He gave the analogy of a petty thief who has just stolen a chicken at Kondele wondering whether the locals would bother to know his ethnicity before punishing him.

 He said those committing economic crimes should be handled in same way.

"Hata yule anaiba mali ya umma tunamchukulia hatua kama vile tunamchukulia mwizi wa kuku," he said in Kiswahili.

Uhuru however seemed to be alleviating the fears that the war on graft was targeting anyone.

He and former premier Raila appeared to be reading from the same script, pointing out that the fight against graft was not against a community.

He said: "As my brother Raila Odinga said, this is not a fight against an individual."

Raila had earlier had criticised politicians who claim the war on graft was targeting their communities.

"If someone steals, let them carry their own cross. This is not a war against an individual. It's not against Uhuru, Raila, Ruto, Kuria or even Joho," Odinga said.

President Uhuru has challenged county governments to invest in proper human resources and continue allocating 30 percent of their annual budgets to healthcare.

He said that the Government had made positive strides in the sector by introducing new policies for improved services.

Uhuru cited the removal of user fees, free maternal healthcare (Linda Mama), equipping two hospitals in every county and providing insurance subsidies to over 200,000 households in the country as gains made so far.

The UHC launched in Kisumu will see residents access free maternal healthcare, in and outpatient services, child healthcare, emergency services and community health services.

UHC is a pilot healthcare project which will also be rolled out in other counties such as Nyeri, Machakos, and Isiolo.

Additional reporting by Japheth Ogila