‘Handshake’ was for the good of the country

Saturday May 05 2018

President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga at Harambee House on March 9, 2018. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


There has been a lot of talk and “fanfare” about an unexpected meeting and a seemingly cordial handshake that took place not so long ago between President Uhuru Kenyatta and leader of Opposition Raila Odinga.

The younger generation that some of us deal with on a daily basis will probably have no clue that these two are sons of the first president and the first vice-president of this country and, even when they hear about it in passing, there is a way in which it may not have that much significance to them. What sticks in their minds are the utterances that politicians of the tribal sections they come from choose to make in public.

Politicians or no politicians, there must be a way we can ask ourselves what an ordinary Kenyan would really want at the end of the day. In my humble submission, what an ordinary Kenyan wants – ordinary because a politician from whichever tribe is not – is a Kenya that works. All they want is a Kenya that has an environment in which they can be productive for their own good and that of their children. Our “politics” in recent times has been such that there can never be any productivity in Kenya if we go the way we have been going.


Look at the damage that last year’s acrimonious election left on our economy and social life in general.

This Uhuru-Raila handshake issue is of interest to many of us who care about this country. The truth is that there is a culture that has been developed over time in Kenya where, during the election period, politicians only focus on what is of interest to themselves individually while all the time saying they are fighting for “Wanjiku”. Kenyans of the real Kenya must wake up. Of course we, more often than not, leave ourselves in the hands of people called the “civil society”. Do they own Kenya more than we do?


Coming back to the most recent Kenyan political event, the President asked for pardon as he delivered his State of the Nation address in Parliament.


You can’t beat that. Can you? Some older people may want to remember an event that happened not long after Jomo Kenyatta was released from detention.

A meeting happened between him and a group of European settlers. This was happening at a time when hatred between the settler community and former freedom fighters was at its peak. So much stereotyping had been circulated on either side so that suspicion between the two groups was the order of the day.  What Jomo told the settlers surprised many of them. He said: “If I have wronged you, forgive me. If you have wronged me – which they had done anyway - I forgive you.” He then went on to urge them to be part of developing the new Kenya.

The writer is Dean of Students at the University of Nairobi. [email protected]