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November 18, 2018

Handshake : we can agree to disagree

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga shake hands at the foot steps of Harambee House after their meeting where they resolved to work together and unite the country after the long protracted elections. March 9, 2018. Photo/Jack Owuor
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga shake hands at the foot steps of Harambee House after their meeting where they resolved to work together and unite the country after the long protracted elections. March 9, 2018. Photo/Jack Owuor

Recently President Uhuru Kenyatta made his position known on whether Kenya will have a referendum soon. He said he will not be going that route because it will interfere with his focus on delivering the Big Four. Our political conversation then took a predictable path. ‘Uhuru and Raila disagree on referendum. Handshake is dead!’ This difference had became the latest fodder for those against the Uhuru-Raila handshake across the political divide.

Clearly these guys still have not understood the character of ‘The Handshake’.

Uhuru explained why he does not support a referendum. He said he just does not have the time to go around discussing the issue because, as President, and especially one on his final term, he is solely focused on securing his legacy. This is his priority. Constitutional change is not a priority for him.

He then stated that he he will work with what he has – meaning the Constitution as it is. However Raila does not have the same kind of restrictions on his time. He is not being held to any development delivery expectations by Kenyans. Raila could therefore easily argue that he – unlike his brother Uhuru – has the time to go around and discuss the Constitution.

However this does not mean there is a conflict between Uhuru and Raila. In fact, if one has been listening to them, this difference is part and parcel of the handshake!

When Uhuru made his State of the Nation address to Parliament, he made an interesting statement. He said there are things he and Raila agreed on. And that there are things they did not. Until this referendum difference we had only seen what they had agreed on.

We saw that Raila recognises Uhuru Kenyatta as President. We saw that Uhuru recognises that embracing Raila makes it easier to unite and stabilise Kenya. We saw them agree on nine key issues. We saw them agree on the name of the project - Building Bridges. We saw them agree on a working team. We saw them agree on the need to fight corruption, etc. What we had not seen is what they did not agree on. Now we have. Clearly they did not agree on the referendum.

What we are missing is important. Uhuru and Raila have already told us that they agreed that there are areas where they would disagree. But they agreed they would still go on. A disagreement on the referendum is part of the agreement. It is part of the handshake. This disagreement - and many others that I expect will come as we move forward – must be seen and understood as an integral and inherent part of the agreement.

Kenyans must get this. The handshake was not the end of a ‘unity’ effort between Uhuru and Raila. It was the beginning of this effort. The handshake is therefore, in reality, a work-in-progress. Uhuru and Raila do not have all the answers. They do not agree on everything. But they have agreed to work together, despite – around, within and beyond - these differences. They have agreed unity is not unanimity.

As the Uhuru-Raila handshake unfolds, Kenyans are learning that we can agree to disagree without being violent, hating each other, or character assassinating the other. Politics is not personal. Not in a democracy.

*****

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations – through their Economic and Commercial Crimes Unit, Financial Investigations Unit and Special Crimes Unit, are investigating corruption cases under the NYS, National Cereals and Produce Board, Kenya Power, Youth Fund, etc. We are seeing the effect. The Asset Recovery Agency has frozen accounts of suspects. The Directorate of Public Prosecutions has opened cases against suspects and charged them in court. Now all eyes are on the Judiciary. And let us agree, if these cases stall the DCI must open corruption investigations into the Judiciary as well!

My question: Why exactly do we (still) have an Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission?

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