Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga initiative is a fantastic legacy project

Tuesday March 13 2018

By LUIS FRANCESCHI
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The past week has been action-packed. In just seven days, we have had encouraging and discouraging news, almost in equal measure.

Discouraging is that China approved the removal of the two-term limit on the presidency, paving the way for Xi Jinping to remain in power for life. BBC News said “the vote was widely regarded as a rubber-stamping exercise”.

With the support of 2,964 delegates against two dissenting voices, Xi has now consolidated his political power in a way never seen since the days of Chairman Mao.

This is democracy made in China, just like Uganda, Chad, Cameroon, Djibouti, Gabon, Mauritius, Sudan, Togo, Rwanda and Burundi, where term limits have been removed or forced to disappear.

Encouraging is that Trump has agreed to talk with the rocket man, Kim Jong Un. This is an amazing feat, considering that just a few month ago Trump declared to the United Nations that he was ready to destroy North Korea totally.

A MAYOR FALLS

The meeting, which has been swiftly set up by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, may cool down the temperature between these two temperamental leaders. According to some reports, it may happen in the North Korean truce village of Panmunjom, within the demilitarised zone between the North and the South.

Discouraging is that Ms Megan Barry, mayor of Nashville, Tennessee, in the United States, pleaded guilty to theft and agreed to resign after ugly affairs with the head of her security detail. All hell broke loose when it was revealed that taxpayers’ money had funded many of the escapades.

Ms Barry’s 22-year-old son had died of a drug overdose in July 2017. Something went terribly wrong in the life of a woman who had started building her career by preaching ethics and integrity.

UHURU-RAILA ACCORD

Coincidentally, most news about Kenya were encouraging.

Delightful was the performance of Kenya at the Canada Sevens, where we almost got hold of the trophy, after a fantastic game that left England confused and in deep self-examination.

Encouraging was that the Supreme Court shed some light on the way to fill vacant positions of deputy governors. I promise to examine this decision next week.

Very, extra and super encouraging was the surprise-out-of-the-blue collaboration agreement signed by President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga. Many had given up on reconciliation and were resigned to a divided Kenya. Some had made a living out of division and hatred.

This agreement is undoubtedly the most relevant political move since the 2008 accord between Odinga and Mwai Kibaki. It brings together a torn country. It should have happened before August 2017. So much pain and death could have been prevented. In any case, better late than never.

LEGACY PROJECT

This initiative is a statement of political will, a legacy project “to create a united nation for all Kenyans living today, and for all future generations.” This has sent a wave of relief across the country.

Both Kenyatta and Odinga desire to leave a legacy for Kenya. Kenyatta’s second and final term will expire in four years, which will go by rather quickly. Odinga will be approaching 78 in August 2022 and he is an unmistakable icon admired or hated in equal measure, but ignored by no one.

As the accord says, these two leaders symbolise “the many ways in which the country has gone full circle in its divisions. They were witnesses to the unity and hope that was followed by discord and division.”

Corruption, security, devolution, equality, unity and purpose are the essence of the initiative. The modalities and legal framework are not clearly specified. Kenyatta and Odinga appointed Ambassador Martin Kimani and lawyer Paul Mwangi to oversee the establishment of the programme.

DEPUTY GOVERNORS VACANCY DILEMMA

Certainly, this agreement is not institutional; it is political and it means a lot to the country, to peace and prosperity. It has the power to shift the political dynamics in unimaginable ways.

It saddens me that still there are hate-mongers who lament at this agreement. It looks like they make a living out of hatred and death.

Perhaps they do not realise it but many more deaths, hatred and division were on the horizon. The country was torn and devolution was starting to look like a terminal cancer, undermining the last vestiges of unity.

There was another additional piece of encouraging news. The Supreme Court resolved the deputy governors’ vacancy dilemma in a simple and straightforward manner.

All this in just one week. Each of these events merits an article of its own. What a week this was. It has given me material for several weeks!

Dr Franceschi is the dean of Strathmore Law School. [email protected]; Twitter: @lgfranceschi