Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga have resolved to work together to unite the country.
The two leaders and rivals surprised Kenyans on Friday morning when they announced that they were having a meeting at the president’s office in Harambee House, Nairobi.
Addressing the Press after they held talks, President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga said time has come for the country to stop allowing political differences to cause frictions and divisions.
President Kenyatta pointed out that for the country to come together, leaders should discuss their differences freely and openly to end ethnic divisions.
He emphasised that as leaders, they have a responsibility to discuss and find solutions that will bind, unite the country and free it from a life pegged on a five-year electioneering cycle.
“Elections come and go but Kenya remains; so as we must plan for the future – a future that will not be dictated by the forthcoming elections. Our future must be dictated by the prosperity, stability of our nation and the well-being of our people,” President Kenyatta said.
Mr Odinga said Kenyans “cannot remember why and where they disagreed in the first place”.
“As we fight ostensibly to save ourselves from each other, the reality is that we need to save our children from ourselves. My brother (President Kenya) and myself have, therefore, come together today to say this dissent stops here,” Mr Odinga said.
He emphasized that Kenyans must refuse to allow their diversity to kill their nation.
“We refuse to be the leaders under whose watch Kenyans lead into a failed nation. This is a call to self-reflection. We have to look into ourselves and challenge our readiness to make the changes that will allow our institutional reforms to work,” the opposition leaders said.
Mr Odinga pointed out that as long as the country remained divided, acrimonious, selfish and corrupt, no amount of institutional reforms will improve the lives of Kenyans.
“The reform process will become an exercise in diverting attention from our own failing and taking refuge in the blame game. We, therefore, seek your partnership in this initiative. Fellow Kenyans, we are sailing in this one ship,” Mr Odinga said.
President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga said their meeting has kicked off a process that will address the causes for divisions and bring the country together.
The two leaders said democracy allows Kenyans space to differ in terms of political alignments, but they must always remain steadfast and united in matters of national interest.
“We look forward to the support from every single Kenyan so that we can build together a united, harmonious and stable nation where no individual feels left out or left behind,” Mr Kenyatta said.
In a statement signed by Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, the two leaders said they were standing together to urge every Kenyan, every political leader and formation to compete without using ethnic profiling or by promoting disdain for any group.
“The two leaders respect one another. They have been competitors and even used hard language at times, but they have always been friends and respected one another,” the joint statement said.
Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga agreed to roll out a programme to help in the implementation of their shared objectives. The initiative will be co-led by Ambassador Martin Kimani and senior Odinga aide Mr Paul Mwangi.
Nobody could have predicted such a move. Not even Mr Odinga’s co-principals in the NASA Coalition were informed of his plans to initiate dialogue with Mr Kenyatta.
In a statement posted on his official Facebook page, Mr Kenyatta said: “Had the great pleasure of welcoming my brother @RailaOdinga to Harambee House where we had the opportunity for extensive discussions on matters Kenya. We have come to a common understanding, an understanding that this country of Kenya is greater than any one individual.”
On his part, Mr Odinga posted on his official Facebook page: “Had the pleasure of meeting my brother Uhuru Kenyatta for discussions on issues afflicting Kenya. We have resolved that the future of our nation is more important than any sole individual.”
The details of what the two leaders discussed are yet to be released. What is certain is that this meeting has thrown off guard many politicians and commentators. Supporters of both sides are also still struggling to understand its implications.
Many top leaders and ordinary citizens have strongly opposed the move. It has however been welcomed by many who see it as an important step in solving the deep political crisis facing the country.
All people of good will should appreciate the extraordinary move Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have made. This is what wise leaders do to save their country from such a profound political crisis. They should now sincerely address all the issues that led to Kenya to such a political stalemate, and put in place mechanisms to save Kenyans from finding themselves in a similar situation in the future.