SURPRISING HANDSHAKE THAT BROUGHT TRANQUILITY
The last issue “Kenya’s democracy at the crossroads” followed the aftermath of October 26 2017 presidential election characterised by protests and demonstrations, tough talk, mass action, economic sabotage and other techniques designed to show political muscle. There were calls for fresh presidential election from the opposition as soon as possible for they did not recognise the election of President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta.
Politically Kenya was fragile as more than 40 distinct ethnic communities who have sought to co-exist were being torn apart by political shysters and opportunists. The country was headed for disintegration. Some opposition leaders were calling for secession knowing too well what this meant for this beloved country. Disintegration into competing tribal communities could lead Kenya into uncontainable disaster. Different professionals forsook their commitment to the common good and got swallowed up by narrow political interests (as is always the case during electioneering periods in Kenya) thereby putting their professional integrity at risk. Just as in 2007 we almost lost the good country called Kenya.
The state and mood of hopelessness was captured by what I described then:
“Whichever way the Supreme Court rules next week, Kenya seems to be in decline, particularly if we only listen to the dominant current political rhetoric”.
At that time I also drew attention to the appeals from different quarters that requested the two leaders of the two major political wings to meet, talk and thus prevent the country from descending into chaos. Most of the Kenyans were pessimistic on whether those appeals could bare any fruit. Even if the two were to meet many people wondered how a lasting solution was going to be found since things seemed to deteriorate so fast. Hon Raila Amollo Odinga knew very well how tricky some accords, treaties and agreements are. Many could not envision him accepting to honour the appeals for “meet and talk”. Could this talk— if it had to occur— re-solve the problem Kenyans see repeated each time they entered electioneering periods?
As noted in that earlier issue the long-term solution was not just about these two but for all Kenyans to reach out to each other with forebearance. It was also noted with some hopefulness that Christian churches and other religious bodies were seen to be championing the need for such talks. However they needed to engage in self-examination since their impatience in times past had served to exacerbate the problems that they then were looking forward to solve!
The last essay made two main requests firstly for Christians in Kenya to be God’s ambassadors in their different professional callings and secondly for our brothers and sisters in Christ outside Kenya to carry Kenya’s burden just as Kenyans have carried their burdens at their great times of need. We thank God for those who remain faithful to their professional callings and for those who have constantly lifted Kenya before God in prayers.
It is now more than six months from the time of writing that previous contribution on this site and it is with thankfulness that I am able to make some current observations of what is currently going on in Kenya.
Friday March 9 2018 is a day Kenyans will never forget. When doom was smelt in every part of Kenya and uncertainty was the order of everyday after the repeat of the presidential election and the infamous swearing in of Hon Raila Amollo Odinga as the people’s president, Kenyans woke up to this reality, “Uhuru Meets Raila at Harambee House”.
This move was a big surprise to all Kenyans and more so to the close confidants of both Uhuru and Raila. After that meeting news began streaming “Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga agree to unite Kenyans”. So check out: https://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Uhuru-Kenyatta-and-Raila-Odinga-handshake/1064-4379964-os1fhtz/index.html and also search for other similar reports.
Kenyans have tried to guess about what brought this great change of hearts of the two. Was it just a coincidence? Was it that the two had no other choice than this? Was it as was noted earlier, the result of many attempts and efforts geared at having the two meet and talk? Was it external pressure from Western institutions and countries? Without ruling out any of those guesses or options we reflect on Colossians 1:15-21 and in thinking about that meeting come to some conclusions that can be made without any doubt whatsoever.
“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross”
Leaving aside what may have caused the actual handshake, one thing is clear, Kenya has been able to sigh with relief since then. The animosity and extremity has ceased, Kenya is on the move again. Those who took advantage of the animosity and extremity are now confused. Destructive street demonstrations, protests, riots, police action, economic sabotage, economic boycotts, travel alerts and electioneering have now ceased. The mood has changed. A sad realisation of the lost lives, time, property and opportunity is now being felt and regretted. Kenyans are beginning to think about their nightmares, their involvement in a culture of corrupt dealing, unemployment, health care challenges, ethnicity and nepotism. They are also seeing the need for relevant education, rapid development and the coming together of all stakeholders in solidarity for this beautiful country.
According to a statement sent to newsrooms shortly after the handshake, the two top political leaders committed themselves to address the following issues:
- Ethnic antagonism
- The Lack of a national ethos
- The need for Inclusivity
- Overcoming Divisive elections
- Shared prosperity
Kenya is never bankrupt of ideas, the problem is implementation, for instance the 28 February 2008 power-sharing agreement reached within the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation process (after the election and post election violence due to electoral dispute) had wonderful ideas. It required both sides of the political divide to commit themselves to: (a) carry out reforms to address long-standing issues, including inequalities and the lack of accountability, seeking constitutional and institutional reforms, (b) establishing an Independent Review Committee to investigate all aspects of the 2007 Presidential electoral process—a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (c) establishing a constitutional review process, and a Commission of Inquiry with a mandate to investigate the circumstances surrounding the violence that occurred during the two months following the election.
Other bodies such the OHCHR etc also made a number of recommendations related to these processes, laying a strong emphasis on accountability. They warned that failure to carry out reforms could undermine the fragile improvement in security that had taken hold since the signing of the power-sharing agreement.
It is good to observe that after the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation process that birthed Kenya’s Coalition Government, the efforts towards the review of the constitution was initiated. It produced a Constitution that was hailed globally and the Kenya Vision 2030 that provided a road-map towards a successful Kenya.
But even with these powerful documents and ideas, Kenya still found itself in a dangerous ground during the 2017-contested presidential election. The question we raise is this: what should Africa (particularly Kenya) do to evade cycles of electoral violence? This question will be considered in a paper that is to be presented at the IAPCHE All Africa Conference to be held in North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa in November 2018. The focus of the paper will be Kenya and it hoped that what shall be established for Kenya may be generalised for the rest of Africa.
Isaac N. Mutua