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Uhuru and Raila atone for sins of their fathers

NATIONAL
By Jacob Ng'etich | June 2nd 2021

President Uhuru Kenyatta and former prime minister Raila Odinga hugs as Deputy President William Ruto (right) and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka (left) look on during the National Prayer Breakfastat the Safari Park hotel.[PSCU]

The Madaraka Day celebrations in Kisumu was preceded by President Uhuru Kenyatta's extensive tour of the Nyanza region. The occasion could easily pass as a culmination of an end of an era for Kenya's historic political rivalry that has lasted five decades. 

Uhuru's ecstatic welcome by thousands of jubilant Nyanza residents radiated warmth and peace. In essence, the mountain has curved to meet the lake. ODM leader Raila Odinga played the political host.

The political feud marked by hedonistic pursuit for power and supremacy marinated by bloodshed that began in the 1960s by founding fathers Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramori Oginga Odinga and escalated by their sons, seemed to have evaporated and replaced by hope.

“The war is over, turn around, lay your weapons on the ground, the smoke is fading, before the light...” the rendition of the Bethel Music songwriter and singer Kalley Heiligenthal bares it all.

Kalley's song best describes Uhuru and Raila's jubilant welcome by thousands of people heading to Jomo Kenyatta Stadium for the 58th Madaraka Day fete, a total contrast to an event 52 years ago in 1969 where scores of people were killed when the presidential guard and police forces opened fire on a hostile crowd during the launch of 'Russia' New Nyanza Provincial General Hospital.

The hostility stemmed from Tom Mboya's assassination just four months before, and the agitated crowd blamed Mzee Kenyatta's administration. This was exacerbated by an exchange of words between the president and Jaramogi.

Yesterday, President Kenyatta thanked Raila for embracing national pain over personal comfort in the handshake. "Many did not know that he did this without demanding anything. I look forward to working with him to build a better Kenya for East Africa," said President Kenyatta.

Uhuru honoured Jaramogi as a freedom fighter and Mboya as the architect of the Kenyan economy.

Earlier, Uhuru broke protocol and invited Raila to speak after Deputy President William Ruto had finished his address. The former PM reminded the country of the journey of freedom struggle.

The March 9, 2018 handshake culminated in what could significantly be termed as the thawing of political competition between the Kenyattas and Odingas, characterised by a love-hate relationship. The rivalry between the two families has been among the weakest link in Kenya's political harmony.

Strategically, Uhuru and Raila have used events of the last three years to atone for their sins and those of their fathers.

It is instructive to note that on October 26, 2017, the political air was most foul in Nyanza region of Migori, Kisumu, Homa Bay and Siaya when they boycotted a repeat presidential election.

Perceptively, the two leaders were unconsciously acknowledging the tribulation the two families’ chauvinistic battle had caused the nation.

The Uhuru-Raila dalliance has walked the country, which was on the brink of abyss, back to vibrancy and a promising, cohesive future.

It will be for historians to evaluate the impact of the rivalry and award the best starring performance to either Jaramogi and Kenyatta or their sons.

Is the Uhuru-Raila union a dormant political volcano that could still erupt like Mount Nyiragongo in DR Congo did a few weeks ago after 19 years, or is it a permanent calm?

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