Purported implosion of the handshake was a storm in a tea cup, it has passed

Thursday, March 11th, 2021 11:16 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga. Photo/File


The handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga came at a time the nation was tottering on the brink of collapse. The results of the disputed presidential election were initially annulled and then the NASA brigade boycotted the repeat poll. The tension that was witnessed in the country was palpable. Hence, this rapprochement between two political titans in Kenya was greeted with a lot of relief.

So when it seemed like there were cracks in the truce, all manner of reactions came to the fore. Some people have even talked of abandoning the handshake. In reality, the only two people who can stall the arrangement are the two principals of the agreement: President Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. Indeed when the ODM leader showed up at State House the next day-it was clear that the mission was to clear up the misunderstanding that brought about rumors of an impending implosion.

ODM Members of Parliament ought to take into cognizance the fragility of the pact between the two leaders and so they should be very measured in their utterances. Indeed, so far, the President has demonstrated tremendous goodwill towards the pact. The same applies to Raila Odinga.The outburst by the Opposition members of Parliament was unwarranted and could only give the tangatanga brigade impetus to drive a wedge between the principals for their own political mileage.

President Kenyatta is aware that his relationship with his deputy is irreparably damaged and so his focus on the handshake is sharp. It would be foolhardy to imagine that the president is hell bent on putting roadblocks on the pact-at a time when he is keen on pegging his legacy on the success of the proposed constitutional reforms. In any political engagement, disagreements are normal especially when the parties have been quarrelling for some time.

A possible factor in the ensuing tension could be the alliance that has emerged between ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, KANU supremo Gideon Moi,Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetangula.With the General election approaching, it is predictable that political leaders are angling to put themselves in the right position to succeed in the contest. However, the leaders ought to be cautious as not to jeopardize the chances of BBI succeeding at the referundum.Much as they want President Kenyatta to endorse them-they must do it in such a way that they do not punch holes on the prospect of BBI success.

And indeed if the leaders are serious about their chances of succeeding President Kenyatta, then they have to demonstrate some measure of commitment. I have said before and I will say it again, these leaders have to match the energy exuded by the Deputy  President in his campaigns. He traverses the entire country while Mudavadi, Kalonzo, Moi and Wetangula are still sitting on their laurels, and time is slowly ebbing away. Going around their backyards provides a false sense of confidence because it is Kenyans in totality who will decide who becomes president.

The handshake partners must also rally around all those who support the initiative with a firm caution that they should not confuse their personal ambitions with the objectives of the looming plebiscite. It appears that some leaders are wholly banking on the plebiscite as a gateway to the house on the hill. Consequently, some leaders are even planning to hold meetings about BBI parallel to what will emanate from the centre. The handshake was between the President and Mr Odinga and any attempt to champion an initiative that does not seek their blessings is tantamount to occasioning a coup of sorts and it cannot work.

Government officials charged with the responsibility of steering the BBI drive must endeavor to steer clear of the politics around the initiative. In as much as they are supposed to take a firm position, they should avoid actions that seem to isolate other important players. The outbursts by ODM leaders seem to have focused on the Interior PS Karanja Kibicho. As a civil servant, Dr Kibicho should not be seen to be meddling in political matters. Even if the process is domiciled in government offices, it must be clear to government functionaries that BBI is a political process that is prone to generate suspicions and mistrust. They must keep their eye on the ball and avoid altercations that arise out of these suspicions.

And even those purporting to be the President’s allies should not be quick to make sweeping comments because the President has the leeway to consult his fellow principal, personally. He does not need his allies to give his position. And this is what he did by calling his counterpart-when things seemed to have started going south. The two leaders (Raila and Kenyatta) have demonstrated their commitment to the constitutional reform agenda and these small misunderstandings cannot be used as the yardstick to measure the workability of the initiative or otherwise.

Mr Oketch is the author of Aphorisms and Poems of Light.

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