Reaching out to political rivals unites a country

President Uhuru Kenyatta (C) his deputy William Ruto (L) and Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative report at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on November 27, 2019.[Stafford Ondego,Standard]

It is not easy to tell why, but President Uhuru Kenyatta has this thing that attracts him to people who do not seem to really like him. It could be the fabled concept of unlike charges attracting, but for Uhuru, even the like ones seem to attract. How else would one explain his dalliance with political nemeses like ODM’s Raila Odinga and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho?

But the charm that pulls him towards lower Eastern and its people is most intriguing. Other than the adage attributed to former US President Barrack Obama to the effect that “even you who didn’t vote for me, I am still your president” one can’t put a finger to the pulse that connects Kenyatta to the Kamba nation.

Sample these

In 2013 and 2017 elections, Ukambani overwhelmingly voted for the Opposition led by Raila and Kalonzo Musyoka. Despite this open defiance to President Kenyatta’s bids, the region has remained at the heart of his administration, with a host of its leaders getting top state appointments.

In 2013, Kalonzo rallied key political players from the region to support Raila, under CORD. Among those who backed Raila’s bid from Ukambani were Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana and former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama.

Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu supported Uhuru and Jubilee even as she vied for Senator. She was punished for that.

However, when the political dust settled, Uhuru appointed Ngilu Cabinet Secretary for Land, Housing and Urban Development. Other leaders who got slots in the Cabinet were Cleopa Mailu and Monica Juma.

The president also considered the region in most of his parastatal appointments. For instance, Raymond Kibwana was appointed to chair Kenya Trade Network Agency Board, Wavinya Ndeti as trustee of the Water Services Trust Fund, Kalembe Ndile to the Water Services Regulatory Board, while youthful Fred Muteti chaired Sports Kenya.

Angelina Kioko, Mary Matu, Florence Muthee also served as parastatals board members. Despite this, the region still dumped him in 2017.

But the region never felt the pinch, and landed more state appointments. After shaking hands with Raila on March 9 2018, Uhuru embarked on a mission to bring Kalonzo and his allies on board. He would later appoint him Kenya’s special envoy to South Sudan.

Former Mwingi Central MP Joe Mutambu was appointed chairman of Water Resources Authority. Wavinya was later appointed Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) in the Ministry of Transport.

Hate or love him, Uhuru’s tendency to reach out to opponents should be emulated, for the sake of unity among citizens. 

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