The national dialogue team unveiled yesterday, and which includes respected elders and chairmen of councils of elders, points to the top priority of the so-called handshake: healing and national unity.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s agreement with Nasa leader Raila Odinga remains shrouded in, mystery, with speculation that it might involve power sharing and requisite constitutional changes, which Mr Odinga has been pushing for.
The appointment of a 14-member team charged with working out the practical steps to be taken to implement the eight-point agenda of their agreement is the first major concrete step since the two leaders’ unexpected handshake on the steps of Harambee House on March 9.
The team includes University of Nairobi don Adams Oloo, Ms Agnes Kavindu, Busia Senator Amos Wako, Ms Florence Omose, Prof Saeed Mwangumi, James Matundura and Major (rtd) John Seii, who chairs the Kalenjin Myoot Council of Elders.
Others are Bishop (retired) Lawi Imathiu of Methodist Church, Samburu Woman Rep Maison Leshomo, Garissa Senator Mohamed Yusuf Haji, Mr Morompi ole Ronkai, Bishop Peter Njenga, Makueni Woman Rep Rose Moseu and Catholic Bishop of the Archdiocese of Kisumu Zacheus Okoth.
Mr Matundura is the chairman of the Kisii Council of Elders while Bishop Imathiu is a one-time chairman of the Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association (Gema).
Care has been taken, the Nation learnt, to exclude strident divisive voices, especially from civil society, in preference for experience, sobriety and a tendency to unite.
The 14 advisors will elect their own chairman and work under the direction of the Building Bridges Initiative secretariat, headed by Ambassador Martin Kimani and lawyer Paul Mwangi.
“All communication on behalf of the initiative shall be made by the Secretariat,” a statement jointly signed by Ambassador Kimani and Mr Mwangi read.
The team will oversee the roll-out of a programme that will implement their shared objectives of addressing ethnic antagonism and competition, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, safety and security and corruption.
During their meeting last month, President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga pledged to “stand together” to pursue the country’s shared prosperity agenda and asked Kenyans and leaders to embrace their rights and responsibilities.
They further expressed their desire to set aside their differences and rebuild the nation and make it responsive to the urgent need for prosperity, fairness and dignity for all Kenyans.
“The two leaders have been competitors and even used hard language against each other at times, but they have always been friends and respected one another as individuals and leaders,” the statement read then by Mr Odinga said.
They regretted that Kenya was being defined internationally by its negative politics, pointing out that violence and corruption are the main characteristics by which Kenyans are defined by the international community.
“There are changes that are required in our system of governance for us to succeed and we have been in the process of reform to deal with them for the past 20 years,” Mr Odinga added.
“Yet, despite all the reforms, we continue to have deep and bitter disagreements. Ethnic antagonism and divisive political competition have become a way of life.”
Contacted to give his views on the composition of the team, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi simply said; “I am not aware of this team.” Another source from ANC, who declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the party, added: “We have never been approached about anything to do with the handshake. I am just learning from you of the list.”
Yesterday’s announcement follows months of pressure by various leaders, including diplomats, on the two leaders to hold talks to end the political crisis that followed the election, whose results were rejected by the opposition.
For instance, earlier this month, Senator Wako warned that, if not acted upon fast, the fruits of the deal, if any, would be drowned by noises about 2022 succession politics.