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Uhuru, his 'traitors' and shaky peace bid

Former president Uhuru Kenyatta at the ordination of Catholic bishops Peter Kamomoe and Wallace Ng'ang'a. [John Muchucha, Standard]

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta has teeming oratory skills. His words often come with heavy meanings. When he speaks, you risk hearing and concluding your own things.

At the ordination of bishops Simon Kamomoe and Wallace Ng’ang’a in Nairobi last week, he cautioned ‘traitors’ sabotaging Kenya in what largely pointed to bubbling political tensions.

He drew a metaphorical parallel to Judas betraying Jesus, saying: “There’s betrayal on the other side. Remind them how Judas betrayed Jesus but left the money for the rope.”

He made his point. But Mr Kenyatta didn’t seethe like he did when a typing error added Sh9 billion to a supplementary budget under his watch in 2009 and when the ‘demon’ tried to cheat him out of the 2013 Jubilee coalition ticket.

The other times he smelt ‘betrayal’ was in 2017 when ‘wakora’ courts nullified his win and last year when his farm and son’s home were raided, and his mum’s security detail scaled down. Still, his latest caution has left us dry, gazing at the sky.

But as the fourth president condemns betrayal domestically, concerns arise over ‘traitors’ of a kind on the regional scene, who may jolt his peace efforts. Mr Kenyatta has been lauded for his peace-making bid in Eastern Africa, mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Yet, recent developments seem to undermine his solid efforts. Armed groups in the DRC have been implicated in grave violations. Despite international sanctions, some have continued to gain legitimacy within the DRC ‘reserve force,’ complicating matters further.

With FARDC, the DRC national army failing to contain M23, President Felix Tshisekedi sought the help of some armed groups. Then Parliament endorsed the president’s emergency framework, which categorised some rebels as state allies. The move instantly sanitised these groups. They have not only grown in numbers but are also better armed and more dangerous, and unwilling to lose their newly state-sanctioned power. Their atrocities and violations are well documented by United Nations and independent rights lobbies, and speak volumes.

The Nairobi peace process led by Mr Kenyatta, aimed at demobilising and resettling the armed groups, isn’t sitting pretty. His headache lies in whether the DRC government will cooperate in disarming ‘friendly’ groups and whether the factions will surrender their newfound ‘power’.

Moreover, proliferation of weapons in Eastern DRC complicates the peace quest. Addressing the triggers of conflict like historical injustices and political exclusion, is vital. But leaders must also go beyond acknowledging the problem to work with Mr Kenyatta and every ally to bring truce.

For the record, fear around instability extends beyond the DRC, with Ethiopia, Sudan, Burundi, and others experiencing turmoil. Burundi is locked in a row with Rwanda which led to the closure of their common border. The DRC, on the other hand, blames Rwanda for its costly woes. When will the unhelpful blame game end?

Now, a lot is at stake. Mr Kenyatta’s recent warning that ‘no country can grow through the barrel of the gun’ resonates deeply. It highlights need for relentless regional cooperation. Addressing conflicts comprehensively, rather than in isolation, is the answer.  

Observers agree that if a sustainable solution to theses conflicts is to be attained, the region and the international community must devise an ingenious approach that will first and foremost address the root causes of the conflict, which is simply poor governance.

In navigating these setbacks, however, Mr Kenyatta’s leadership and forte against ‘traitors’ will be tested. He must not fail. No one wants to be remembered in ignominy. As a communication expert, my plea to leaders is to embrace dialogue and diplomacy, then collective action. The wise say that the opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands.

This side of Africa, distending conflicts must forever be prevented from shrinking our harmony levels. They could sink us all. The region must put its house in order.

The writer is a communications practitioner.

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