Our country and our diverse people have certainly come a long way. And it is time to take a big step towards our next goal; a more representative democracy. A freer and fairer, more transparent and open Kenya.
For those with longer memories, the significance of the Odingas and the Kenyattas coming together for the sake of unity is not lost. For these two families have stood right at the centre of some of the greatest periods of tension in our history.
For those who are too young to remember, or for those who choose not to, they should read about the days of the Kenya People’s Union (KPU), the Tom Mboya assassination, the arrests and the violence of the late 1960s.
However, even if you haven’t lived that long, the post-election violence (PEV) of 2007 will forever be ingrained on our collective memory.
In fact, ethnic tension has become part and parcel of our social fabric for as long as we have been a modern nation state, and even prior. And it isn’t just one or two tribes. It has been whole regions.
This is why the “handshake”, that coming together between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga on March 9, 2018, was so ground-breaking in everything it stood for.
At first many of us asked what is behind the handshake. What could possibly cause a man who not long ago was threatening to secede and create “The Republic of Western Kenya” to join with the man he accused of “stealing his election and presidency”?
Well, it turns out the laundry list of reasons is quite impressive. The old “King of the West” has become tired of the perpetual hostility. In addition, the cancer of corruption which was eating away at our present, and blackening the bright potential of our future, had become so rife that only by working together could we have any hope of defeating it.
While there is much more work to do, the genie is now out of the bottle and cannot be put back in. Thanks to the Raila-Uhuru handshake, corruption is at the top of the agenda and crooked officials in all walks of life are beginning to look over their shoulders in fear.
And while this may just be the beginning of the end, it is an important start.
Now, the handshake is growing into something much bigger. A simple gesture has become a movement. A movement for change and progress: A building bridges initiative.
The much discussed BBI is in some respects a natural outgrowth of the handshake. An endeavour to come together and put tribalistic reactionary politics behind us and look forward to a better future.
While we don’t know the results of this initiative just yet, its origins are blessed, and its goals both optimistic and ambitious. Two adjectives which have been missing from our national lexicon in recent decades.
So while we must appreciate how far we have come – from colonialism, through to the early ethnic tensions, the 24 years of Daniel arap Moi, and recent bouts of post of election violence – we must continue to strive for more.
We have come a long way; it’s time for the next stage.
Mr Cherambos comments on topical issues. [email protected]