- Raila and Ruto also worked well in ODM at some point.
- Therefore, if they can put aside their differences and work together, they can achieve a lot for the country.
The handshake, the hug and genuineness of the smile on President William Ruto’s face as he met Azimio leader Raila Odinga at the burial of Mukami Kimathi in Nyandarua last Saturday, May 13, was so riveting it got the country pleasantly surprised.
It has been some time since the two leaders were seen together so jovial. That it happened at a funeral makes it even more dramatic.
But it happened.
It would happen again, twice more, in a span of 24 hours.
The two met again at Moi Sports International Sports Centre, Kasarani, for the Kip Keino Classic and then thereafter during the Mashemeji derby at Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday, May 14, for the legendary duel between AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia.
Since the August 9 general election in which the two were bitter rivals and Ruto beat Raila, albeit with a small margin, there has been no love lost between the two.
The ODM chief has never publicly accepted defeat and the President has not spared words of dismissal and ridicule for him. It has been a continuous war of words between the two and their respective camps, leading to the (in)famous maandamano protests in which massive property has been destroyed and tens of lives lost.
In Kenyan politics, the divide between the ruling party and the opposition has been starkly evident, with each side accusing the other of being responsible for the country's problems.
However, the handshake between then President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister marked a new era of reconciliation and cooperation. Despite this, there were still hardliners on both sides who refused to embrace the new spirit of unity.
Last weekend’s seeming new embrace and bromance between the two got tongues wagging that another 'handshake' was in the offing. I don’t understand why some people get jitters whenever signs of cordiality and harmony between the ruling party and the opposition start showing up.
I guess it is the fear among those who thrive in throwing epithets and abuses that they may lose relevance, and therefore livelihoods. Those are the ones who take very hard stance against working with either the government or the Opposition.
The hardliners on both sides have entrenched positions that make it difficult for any meaningful dialogue to take place. On the side of Ruto, his supporters view Raila as a political opponent who must be defeated at all costs.
They believe the Azimio leader is responsible for the country's problems and is not interested in the country's welfare. They have refused to acknowledge the positive steps taken by Raila and President Kenyatta towards reconciliation.
On the other hand, hardliners on the ODM leader's side view President Ruto as a political opponent who is only interested in his own interests. They believe that he is not fit to hold any public office and have pledged to oppose his political ambitions. They see him as an untrustworthy politician who is only interested in power and not the welfare of the country.
However, without the hardliners on both sides, Ruto and Raila can easily work together for the benefit of the country. Both leaders have shown a willingness to work together, and have even expressed the desire to do so publicly. During the weekend’s three meetings, the duo shook hands and exchanged pleasantries, a sign that there is room for reconciliation and working together.
Both leaders have a lot in common in terms of their political ideologies and vision for the country. They both believe in empowering the youth and creating job opportunities for them. They also believe in devolving power to the grassroots and ensuring that all Kenyans have access to basic services such as healthcare, education, and clean water.
Raila and Ruto also worked well in ODM at some point. Therefore, if they can put aside their differences and work together, they can achieve a lot for the country.
Working together will also bring a lot of benefits to both leaders. Ruto has been accused of being divisive and power-hungry. However, if he can work with the Azimio leader, it will go a long way in dispelling these accusations. It will also help him build bridges with communities that have been traditionally opposed to him.
On the other hand, Raila has been accused of being a power-hungry politician who is only interested in his own political ambitions. However, if he can work with the President, it will help him dispel these accusations and show that he is interested in the country's progress, not just his own political ambitions.
It is clear that without the hardliners, the two can easily work together for the benefit of the country. However, this will require both leaders to put aside their differences and focus on the common goal of making Kenya a better place for all its citizens.
It will also require their supporters to embrace the spirit of reconciliation and unity, and work together for the benefit of the country. It is only through such efforts that the country can move forward and achieve its full potential.
The writer is a political commentator