Immediate former US President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya has thrown Kenyans into guess work regarding the camaraderie between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga through their much-hyped but mystery-laden Handshake of March 9.
Curiosity is compounded by the fact that Obama, who arrived in the country yesterday afternoon and held talks with both Uhuru and Raila, will be going to South Africa to give a lecture themed around bridge-building, just four months after Uhuru and Raila cobbled a two-man peace and reconciliation process titled ‘Building Bridges Initiative’.
Political pundits within and outside Kenya perceives Obama’s fifth visit to Kenya as ostensibly aimed at firming the new-found relationship between Uhuru and Raila.
Observers point to the possibility of the Uhuru-Raila deal having been crafted in and carrot dangled onto them by Washington in a bid to avert political and economic turmoil in the wake of rising ethnic rifts and lawlessness to the extent that the accord’s survival can only be further assured by Obama’s support given that he commands the unswerving respect of both Uhuru and Raila.
During his visit in 2015, then as President, Obama and Uhuru displayed enormous amount of positive chemistry between them, even jointly taking to the floor of State House for an evening jig. On the other hand, Obama’s paternal parents had their ancestry rooted in Raila’s populous Luo community, with the later having stated previously that the two are actually blood cousins.
Revelations of Obama’s trip were made early last month, less than a week after a visiting US senator coaxed Uhuru and Raila into another handshake amid emerging feelers that a top-level caucus composed of eminent Kenyan diplomats, scholars and security strategists in conjunction with their counterparts from key Western capitals and financial institution have, for a considerable time now, been knitting a roadmap to unity and integration for the country under the aegis of a Grand National Strategy (GNS).
Weavers of the GNS are understood to have planted the seed that germinated into the Handshake and its secrets-filled guiding principles that were later on headlined as Building Bridges Initiative.
Obama’s tour has fanned speculation that the new-found rapprochement between Kenya’s two erstwhile political nemeses could have been the resolute architecture of top American and European players with deeply vested economic, political and security interests in the East African nation whose financial fortunes and political stability had taken a nosedive after the General-Election of last year.
Yesterday, Obama held talks with Uhuru at State House and later with Raila at a city hotel. He will this morning travel to his father’s Nyang’oma home in Siaya where he will officially open a sports resource centre founded by his elder sister Auma, before leaving for Johannesburg, South Africa, to deliver the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture titled Renewing the Mandela Legacy and Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World tomorrow.
Since the Handshake, word has it that the move was a culmination of a strong push by some faceless forces of huge influence with Washington leading the onslaught whereas London, Paris and Berlin joined the quartet now driving the initiative.
During the National Prayer Day on May 31, US Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma accompanied by three of his colleagues Michael Enzi, John Boozam and Shelley Moore Capito as well as House of Representative member Tim Walberg told participants that during a previous US version of the event, both Uhuru and Raila had been invited.
Inhofe, surprisingly, asked Uhuru and Raila to walk to the podium to shake hands again and publicly pledge to unite the country.
Obama’s visit will be watched keenly by observes of all shades and whether his coming had anything to do Uhuru-Raila Handshake remains to be officially stated.
As of now, the jury is still out there.