Kikuyu benga musician Joseph Kamau was buried Thursday in a colourful ceremony as the songs he belted out in his six-decade singing career rent the air.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, Opposition leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto joined other leaders and hundreds of Kenyans at the funeral in Muthithi, Murang’a.
The President and Mr Odinga fought back claims that their unity deal was meant to scuttle Mr Ruto’s presidential ambitions in 2022, saying the March 9 handshake was aimed at healing a wounded nation that for years has been divided along tribal lines.
In an apparent swipe at the deputy president and his allies, Mr Odinga, who was wildly cheered when he arrived at the funeral, said the Building Bridges Initiative is not about the 2022 succession debate.
His speech was continuously interrupted with loud applause from the public, in a region that overwhelmingly voted for President Kenyatta in last year's election.
“I told the President that we should shake hands as Kenyans watch. The handshake was meant to unite Kenyans and has nothing to do with 2022 because that will come and go,” he said.
On September 30, Mr Ruto claimed that Mr Odinga was using the handshake to divide Jubilee Party and have him kicked out of the party.
But Mr Odinga said the initiative is only meant to bring to an end to politics of ethnicity and end violence during and after elections.
President Kenyatta warned Kenyans against being divided by cheap politics, adding: "Kamaru taught us the importance of unity. It is in my quest to look for peace that I united with Ruto and later met with my elder brother Odinga.”
The President, who sometimes switched to Kikuyu, said he is confident the handshake will end the tension that characterises every electioneering period.
“Let us not be misled by cheap politics. Kenya will not achieve her true position on the global map unless we work with one another. We must love each other because we do not have another country. If we burn our nation, there is nowhere else to go unless we all dive into the Indian Ocean or Lake Victoria,” he said.
Mr Ruto also praised the Uhuru-Raila truce.
“The President has united the country beyond the Jubilee Party by working with Mr Odinga who he competed against in the last election. Today, Kenyans are speaking in one language so that we can implement the Big Four agenda,” he said.
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda said the animosity between the Kikuyu and Luo communities should end, adding that Mr Kenyatta will remain the spokesperson of central Kenya when he leaves office.
"There are leaders who are out to frustrate the spirit of handshake in this country due to their selfish agenda on 2022 politics. We don't have another spokesman apart from President Uhuru Kenyatta and he will remain so even after the expiry of his term," he said.
The leaders described the late singer as an icon and a legend has used his music to counsel and educate the Kikuyu on their customs.
He said that the government will support efforts to ensure that Kamaru’s legacy leaves on and vowed to meet other musicians next week.
“Kamaru did not raise his family only but also held the hands of many musicians. We have lost a great friend,” he said.
Mr Ruto urged politicians and artists to mentor those who look up to them the same way Kamaru inspired musicians. Mr Odinga Odinga described Kamaru as an international icon who had strongly fought for multipartism.
The water politics between Nairobi and Murang’a also took centre stage as the latter’s governor, Mr Mwangi wa Iria, asked the President to intervene and ensure that residents of the county had adequate supply.
“Water is a natural resource for all people. We need to sit down and agree how to share it. The people of Murang’a also get as thirsty as those in Nairobi. We can discuss that,” President Kenyatta said.
The central Kenya artistes took advantage of the opportunity to seek the President's support in coming up with a savings society to help them uplift their living standards.
The President told the artists to meet him next week, on Tuesday, at State House.
"Visit me at State House on Tuesday next week and I will slaughter a goat for you as you tell me how I can help you," he said.