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Uhuru, Raila night talks calm fears over Handshake crisis

President Uhuru Kenyatta on a tour of development projects in Nairobi with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Infrastructure CS James Macharia.

A two-hour meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga on Wednesday night set the stage for a day-long public show of camaraderie to dispel speculation that the Handshake was failing.

President Kenyatta drove to Raila’s Karen residence in Nairobi and they held talks on rejigging the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and supporting the fight against Covid-19.

The ODM leader yesterday said the Head of State got him out of bed where he had been convalescing after contracting coronavirus a few weeks ago.

“The president and the former premier discussed his health, the status of the Handshake and the anxiety created by the partial lockdown to contain Covid-19 which has angered some Kenyans,” said a source close to Raila.

“The leaders agreed to appear in public together in a show of unity to affirm to Kenyans that the BBI process is on course and calm the country down following speculations that they are doubting the BBI process.”

Around 5pm on Wednesday, President Kenyatta’s motorcade snaked its way to Karen and left way past 8pm. Security officers lined up along Ngong Road to clear the way for the motorcade.

The Head of State was reportedly accompanied by three other people.

Placed a call

The president found the ODM leader with his daughter Rosemary and party stalwart Junet Mohamed.

On Wednesday morning, Kenyatta telephoned Raila to find out how he was fairing and reassured him of his commitment to the BBI process before notifying him of the visit.

Later in the day, Raila met the ODM brigade before releasing a public statement about his health and the BBI process.

When they eventually met in the evening, Kenyatta also talked about the Covid-19 measures and the economy. The Head of State regretted that despite taking measures in the best interest of the country, they had been misunderstood as a punishment.

He wanted Raila to lend full support to the government measures in curbing the spread of the virus. 

“The two leaders agreed that the mitigation measures should be enforced as a matter of urgency.

“Also, seeing them together will inspire confidence that they are committed to finding solutions instead of leaving Kenyans suffering on their own,” said a source.

Yesterday, the pair displayed brotherly affection, as they toured various government projects in Nairobi. 

At one of the projects, Raila opened up about his fight with Covid-19 that has kept him out of the limelight for weeks.

“I want to thank my brother for inviting me to State House and for giving me the chance to finally come out of my home so that Kenyans may see my face.

“My condition was critical for three weeks,” Raila said. 

The ODM leader was taken ill on March 11, days after the president and him were scheduled to hold an event marking three years of the Handshake on the porch of Harambee House.

His ailment also came in the wake of a rally that he had planned for Kamukunji grounds in Kibra, where he was to address speculation that there was a problem with the Handshake.

The city tour, on the eve of Good Friday, was a perfect way to quell fears that their relationship was facing turbulence.

“I asked my brother to accompany me today as we continue to work together to improve not just infrastructure but the well-being of our nation… I am happy to be with my brother,” Uhuru said.

Their day started at State House and ended there. Uhuru was more than elated to host Raila, and praised their relationship.

“It is the unity between the two of us that drives this country forward. I am glad that you have spent the day with me inspecting various projects on the day you received your Covid-19 negative certificate.

“I am also glad that we will go back to carry on working together,” Uhuru said and congratulated Raila on his recovery.

Dr Timothy Onduru, a lecturer of history at Moi University, said that the pair’s show of unity yesterday was important for the stability of the country.

“It is good that the two leaders have demonstrated that they are working together to end fears that resulted from the sudden lull in their relationship,” he told The Standard.

The president used the moment to affirm Covid-19 mitigation measures and to offer a justification for the same. 

“Had the experts had their way we would have locked the entire country down.

“We instead chose to lock the most affected counties so that we minimise the effects to the livelihoods of our people,” he said.

Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi, a confidant of Raila said he has consistently pronounced himself on the BBI and the Handshake.

ODM chair John Mbadi indicated that the two leaders agreed to shelve their political ambitions and support the BBI.

Raila and Uhuru’s city tour and the public display of affection enthralled the country. In Machakos as well as other parts of the country, residents milled around television sets watching the pair.

Kenyans who spoke to The Standard said there were indications in the past few days that the marriage between the two was strained.

“The complaining by some of Raila’s close allies over dissatisfaction with the government had sent a message that the two leaders were not reading from the same script” said an ODM supporter.

Rev Daniel Kaveva of Family Chapel in Machakos, said the picture portrayed by the leaders brought relief in the face of heightened political temperatures in the country.

“Other Kenyans should emulate such a positive atmosphere that was occasioned by God  through  the two,” he said.

Rev Kaveva said that God is in control in Kenya to ensure peace prevails. He called upon leaders to preach peace and unity and shun divisive politics.

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