President Uhuru Kenyatta Thursday escalated the “handshake” between him and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga by asking Deputy President William Ruto and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka to join in and embrace unity.
Speaking in Nairobi during this year’s National Prayer Breakfast, President Kenyatta led the leaders by extending a hand of reconciliation and forgiveness to Mr Odinga who reciprocated the gesture.
“We have campaigned against one another. We have said nasty things about one another. We have hurt one another. On my behalf, I ask for your forgiveness and tender my apology,” President Kenyatta said as he hugged Mr Odinga.
The Head of State noted that while Kenya has had many shortcomings, it has also had great successes and leaders need to bring the country together to multiply those successes 10 folds.
The President, who was accompanied by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, emphasised that forgiveness should be viewed as a sign of great strength not weakness.
President Kenyatta said since Kenya is a democracy, people will never always agree on everything and will from time to time have differences in terms of political opinion. He further urged that the differences should never lead to bloodshed and destruction of property.
On the issues that Kenyans agree, the President implored leaders to work together to ensure the national goals are achieved.
“The challenges facing this country are huge: we still have to ensure we give our people adequate healthcare, adequate housing – surely we can’t disagree on that,” the President pointed out.
He added: “We need to be able to ensure that our people have access to electricity and decent jobs – surely, we can agree on that and pull together in order to ensure we make the lives of our people better.”
On the fight against corruption, President Kenyatta said leaders have to unite against the vice, saying people should not use tribe, ethnicity or religion to hide behind their negative acts.
“A thief is a thief. He is not a Luo, he is not a Kikuyu, he is not a Kalenjin – he has a name,” President Kenyatta said.
Speaking on uniting the country, President Kenyatta observed that he started the journey with Deputy President William Ruto with the idea of bringing people together to end violence and bloodshed.
“This is a journey that I am hoping will be strengthened by working closely with my brother Raila Odinga and all leaders in the country,” President Kenyatta said.
On his part, Deputy President William Ruto said the act of reconciliation spearheaded by the President will ensure the country prospers adding that the power of forgiveness is what brings nations together. Additionally he said we must resist hate, refuse disunity and say no to negative ethnicity.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga who tendered his apology on behalf of NASA coalition said never again shall Kenyans be led to fight against each other because of election.
“ I want to thank my brother Uhuru Kenyatta on what he has just done and I wanted to mention that when we decided to shake hands we had a very long discussion, we went down the memory lane where it started. Where did the rains began to beat us as Kenyans,” said the opposition leader.
He said the views collected from Kenyans by the handshake committee will be implemented to the latter to ensure the country is unified and that the recurring cycle of violence during elections would never happen again.
Assuring President Kenyatta of his support against graft, Mr. Odinga said the prayer breakfast gives all Kenyans opportunity to reflect on their past mistakes and successes in order to improve and focus on a better future.
Speaking at the event, former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka also assured the President of his efforts to develop the country and in the fight against graft.
Chief Justice David Maraga said the judiciary firmly supports President Kenyatta’s efforts to wipe corruption.
“ We must remain together and do what we must do at this moment for our posterity. What is important is that we remain together and live by the rule of law, live by the constitution and move on, “ said the Chief Justice.
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who also attended the breakfast, assured President Kenyatta that his country supports his endevours to bring regional peace and stability.
He said true Islam champions peace and harmony amongst all people irrespective of their religious background and that Al-shabaab is a group of criminals whose intention is to create disharmony between Muslims and Christians in the country. He noted that those perpetrating terror are criminals killing innocent human beings in the name of Islam, and giving Islam a bad name.
He called on Kenyans to be wary of the agenda of the group and avoid falling in their trap to cause disharmony.
The guest speaker during the annual event was Lord, Dr. Michael Hastings from the United Kingdom.
Also present were delegations of leaders from United State of America, Europe and Africa with the Ugandan National Assembly Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and East Africa Legislative Assembly Speaker Ngoga Martin leading their respective delegations.