Political rivals soften stances, but will it last?

Opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Wiliam Ruto. [Standard]

The Easter festivities have seemingly ushered in a spirit of reconciliation and peace between leaders across the political divide and the religious community.

Amid the escalating war of words in the ongoing standoff between President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga, a cross-section of leaders on Friday, April 7 embraced a ceasefire and spoke in one voice to advocate tolerance and compassion.

In his two-minute message to Kenyans, President Ruto noted that the country had in recent past endured its fair share of difficulties amid political disagreements ranging from weakened economic growth, depleted resources to debt and drought.

Ruto said Kenyans have now been given the divine gift of an opportunity to set things right and get the country going at the right pace, in the right direction.

“Once more, there is goodwill and commitment to resolving the issues that affect us as a country. The enduring message of Easter is manifest in our collective and individual experiences as Kenyans in our own different ways,” the President said.

Ruto reiterated that his administration was making progress in delivering its commitments to transform the economy and ensure passage of Kenyans from struggle and adversity to victory and tranquility and from deprivation to prosperity and fulfillment.

“It is a holy period when we suddenly commemorate an extraordinarily intense moment in Christianity, when Jesus Christ endured trial and temptation, hatred and prejudice, violence and punishment, loneliness and betrayal, crucifixion and death.

Yet, in the cold darkness of his tone, after the turmoil and injury, the promise of resurrection and eternal life shone like a light at the end of a tunnel. It is this promise that we live by and live for,” he added.

On his part, Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga called on Kenyans to embrace the spirit of compassion.  

“The events that we Christians have been celebrating this week, culminating in Easter weekend, take us back to the inspiring, courageous, and peace-loving leader humanity has been blessed to have.

Raila added,” In his short but impactful mission, Jesus Christ saw an opportunity in every challenge he faced and that became the key to his success.”

The opposition chief said: “It is my hope that this Easter, and the many more to follow, we can learn to seize opportunities out of our challenges like Jesus did. It is also my hope that we can continue promising ourselves to always follow what he preached, which is summarised as courage in the middle of terror, hopes in the middle of hopelessness, humility in spite of power, grace, mercy, love and peace.”

Their foot soldiers were also not left behind as they sought to remind Kenyans that irrespective of their political affiliations, there is a need for unity and retrospection as a nation.

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said: ” The Easter holiday brings with it hope of a brighter future and I pray that it imparts a spirit of reconciliation not only among political leaders but Kenyans in general.”

Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa said Easter is a time for renewal and rebirth and a time to celebrate hope and joy.

“Let us celebrate and remember the importance of love, kindness, and forgiveness in our lives. Wishing you a happy and blessed Easter,” he tweeted.

National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula said: “Easter is a time to reflect on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ in us. May we all rejoice and celebrate this season with love and joy as we strengthen our beliefs and faith in Christ Jesus.”

Good Friday was ushered in against the backdrop of a face-off between the Azimio and Kenya Kwanza coalitions and the fear of resuming the bi-weekly anti-government protests if the bipartisan talks do not bear any fruit.

In the lead-up to Easter weekend, the olive branch extended by President Ruto to Azimio leaders seemed to have withered and been replaced by grandstanding and a war of words.

At stake too, were the bipartisan talks between the ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance and Azimio, perceived as panacea for the street protests which had left a trail of death and destruction. A stalemate over the terms of engagement on the talks on Thursday saw President Ruto and Raila read from different scripts with each standing their ground.

It also comes as religious leaders implored the antagonists to tone down their political rhetoric and embrace dialogue to avoid plunging the country into anarchy.

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