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One year later, Raila explains how handshake changed Kenya

Saturday March 9 2019

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Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga briefly took Kenyans through the country's history on Saturday, in illustrating the importance of his handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Mr Odinga touched on the past and the future, saying he and President Kenyatta reached the agreement because they both want to leave good legacies.

"We are not in this because there is something we want to gain from it," he told a meeting of women leaders under the group 'Embrace' at Serena Hotel in Nairobi.

He explained that Kenya cannot return to a history tainted with vices such as violence, tribalism and killings.


Mr Odinga, who issued the speech on the anniversary of their March 9, 2018 unity deal, highlighted events such as the chaos that followed the August 8, 2017 general election.


The ODM boss, then an opposition leader and a principal of the National Super Alliance (Nasa), rejected the outcome of the poll - victory for President Kenyatta - and went as far as holding a mock swearing-in ceremony for himself.

On Saturday, Mr Odinga regretted that tens of people died in the clashes that followed that election. He said at least 50 were killed.

The politician also highlighted the 2002 and 2007 elections, when Mwai Kibaki was elected President and then re-elected, in explaining the effects of negative ethnicity.

Post-election violence followed the 2007 poll after he rejected the result. At least 1,300 people were killed and more than 600,000 internally displaced.

Based on events such as these, Mr Odinga said, "enough was enough" come 2017, so it was time for dialogue with President Kenyatta. He noted that differences between communities are ideological, not the kind that bring about fighting.


Regarding the war on corruption, the ODM leader reiterated a message by the President - that no individuals and communities are being targeted.

While noting that the public is being robbed of resources while grappling with poverty, he said, "Peace is not merely the absence of war ... a hungry person is not a peaceful person ... a hungry person is an angry person ..."

"We are not looking for positions of targeting anybody. We are bringing everybody together," he said, adding, "Corruption is a cancer that must be dealt with in our country."

Mr Odinga also reiterated the need for a three-tier government, saying it was important for the county-level security of Kenyans.

During the 6th Annual Devolution Conference at Kirinyaga University on Wednesday, he said counties are too small to raise funds for major infrastructure projects.

At the conference, he also called for the formulation of a policy guiding county involvement in the Big Four agenda on food security, affordable housing, universal health coverage and manufacturing.


Mr Odinga spoke of 'Canaan', his promise in 2017 to his supporters, whom he said at the time were tired of corruption and the other ills dragging Kenyan behind.

Some wanted to go to 'Canaan' and others to 'Egypt', he noted, but said that since the handshake, all Kenyans have united so they can all go to 'Canaan'.

There have been recurring questions about who Kenya's opposition leader really is following Mr Odinga and Mr Kenyatta's decision to work together.

Mr Odinga said earlier that the opposition still existed and had merely changed tack in tackling national issues following the handshake.

The ODM leader referred to the national anthem in emphasising justice, peace, the need to fight poverty and ensure "plenty within our borders", empowerment, education for all and employment opportunities so the public are instrumental in wealth creation.

"Let us come together and go to 'Canaan' through building bridges," he said, in reference to the Building Bridges Initiative, one of the key outcomes of the deal he and President Kenyatta reached, for national peace, unity, healing, reconciliation and development across Kenya.