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Handshake here to stay, Uhuru tells critics

George Kebaso @Morarak

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday told off critics—both within and outside the ruling Jubilee Party—of the March 9 Handshake between him and Opposition leader Raila Odinga, challenging them to live with it because “it is here to stay”.

And the President affirmed that despite the political anxiety it has caused, he and Raila, who are scions of the founding fathers of the nation, have a bigger and common agenda of helping live the ideals of a united, peaceful and prosperous country.

Raila’s father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was independent Kenya’s first vice president before they fell out with President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. 

Uhuru, who was speaking at the Holy Family Basilica, Nairobi, during the 40th anniversary since the death of his father, said he and Raila have a “much, much deeper understanding” meant to fulfil the dreams of Kenya’s forefathers.

“You need to have a much deeper understanding of our relationship with Honourable Raila. The two of us acknowledged the fact we shall never achieve the dreams of our forefathers if we continue engaging in petty politics. We decided to put aside our political differences and come together with a unity of purpose,”he said.

Uhuru said the Handshake was an opportunity for him and Raila to show, by example, what the country’s forefathers stood for. “I have heard in the media of rumours about the formation of a political party. But do not misinterpret our understanding with politics,” he said.

Nonetheless, the Handshake has caused anxiety across the political divide, particularly within  the Jubilee, with some party leaders warning Raila was on a mission to wreck Jubilee in a repeat of Kanu in 2002, and scuttle the arrangement where Deputy President William Ruto is expected to succeed Uhuru in 2022.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta at the Mausoleum during Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s 40th anniversary in Nairobi, yesterday. Photo/GERALD ITHANA

And though majority of Kenyans have lauded the Handshake for restoring calm and building bridges across ethnic and political divide following last year’s election which polarised the country, some Ruto allies, especially from his Rift Valley backyard see it as a ploy to isolate and block him from ascending to presidency in 2022.

For them, history is bound to repeat itself.

One of the most strident anti-Handshake crusaders is Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, who has accused the National Super Alliance (Nasa) leader of being “determined to use his comfortable relationship with Uhuru to push Ruto away and break the bond he had with the President.

“Raila is sure Ruto is his fiercest opponent and competitor in the race to State House in 2022 and is doing everything to bring him down,” Murkomen recently said.

In a controversial speech, while addressing victims of eviction from Mau forest, Murkomen accused Raila of sneaking into government through the window and signing agreements with some dishonest Jubilee leaders.

His National Assembly counterpart and an equally resolute Ruto lieutenants, Aden Duale has poured scorn on the Handshake, saying it died on conception.

And yet another critic, Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria, has been urging the Jubilee leadership to address murmurs that Ruto was being isolated in the running of the government since Uhuru agreed to work with Raila.

“When we started in 2013, the President and his deputy agreed to work together and end hostility among communities. But since the Handshake, things seem to be falling apart,”  he  recently said.

Also expressing alarm is another Ruto ally, Kuresoi South MP Joseph Tonui, who voiced concern about reports that Ruto was no longer calling the shots in the Jubilee regime because “some operatives in the Office of the President were determined to scuttle his 2022 bid”.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany and close ally of the Deputy President  has also sought to know the terms of engagement with the former PM.

Beyond the Rift Valley, Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu and several legislators among them  Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa and Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata from Uhuru’s backyard have   warned Jubilee to be wary of what they see as Raila’s suspect liaison with the President.

But yesterday, Uhuru urged Kenyans to support the Handshake because it reflects what the country’s forefathers had dreamt of, instead of engaging in petty politics.

“At independence our forefathers had a dream to eliminate four challenges; illiteracy, poverty, ignorance and diseases. But many years since then we are still struggling with these challenges,” he said.

Those who attended the ceremony included DP Ruto, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, Cabinet secretaries, governors Waititu and Mike Sonko (Nairobi). Others were Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka, Majority leaders Duale and Murkomen.

.  We are not as united as we should. Why have we for instance not been able to achieve that unity in the 21st Century? We should continue asking ourselves this question,” said the President.

Uhuru said political competition should give voters a choice about different political party ideologies and manifestos and urged Kenyans to work towards making the country united, prosperous and peaceful.

“We should not allow politics to shed the blood of our people. We need to come together and have a common purpose. We will be proud to have achieved our goals when we stand and say that we voted for a person not because of his ethnicity, but for what he shall be able to do for the country,” the head of state said, adding that the Handshake is working for Kenyans and that he desires to leave this country more united and focused on development.

“We should not allow politics to shed the blood of our people. We need to come together and have a common purpose. We will be proud to have achieved our goals when we stand and say that we voted for a person not because of his ethnicity, but for what he shall be able to do for the country,” the head of state said.

On his part, Raila said their handshake was meant to unite Kenyans and enhance development.

“Jomo Kenyatta sacrificed for our country. That is why we want to achieve as a people. That is the meaning of our handshake so that we can cross River Jordan and enter Canaan,” Raila said.

Raila praised Mzee Kenyatta as a person who tirelessly fought for the country, having petitioned the colonial government on land issues. “Let us remember and celebrate a great Kenyan, one of the founders of the great words in our National Anthem that reflect on the journey to Canaan,” Raila added.


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