“Umoja ni nguvu, utengano ni udhaifu” (Unity is strength, division is weakness)
Even now, six months on, it is still hard to believe it happened.
With one handshake, Uhuru and Raila, Kenya’s Barcelona and Real Madrid, whose rivalry had divided the nation almost leading to the secession of Western Kenya, pledged to work together for a better future.
At first, people questioned whether the handshake was merely a mirage that would disappear from view the closer we looked at it, but that has proved not to be the case.
Then, it was claimed that this was not a true peace agreement, but a ‘cold peace’, like Israel and Egypt, two erstwhile enemies who agreed to stop fighting, but never quite managed to become friends.
Johan Galtung, the father of peace studies refers to this as ‘negative peace’, meaning the absence of war, which stands in contrast to ‘positive peace’, which is defined by the restoration of relationships, the creation of systems to serve the needs of the public population and the constructive resolution of conflict.
Yet judging by their actions in recent weeks, this too seems to be wide of the mark, as we have seen the emergence of a mutual respect, camaraderie and maybe even friendship between these two titans of Kenyan history – Uhuru even took an evening out of his well-earned sabbatical in the Mombasa coast to have a four hour dinner with Raila at a restaurant in Kilifi!
We have seen the evidence of this burgeoning relationship in Raila’s endorsement of Uhuru’s bold and aggressive anti-graft fight. On Sunday, following Uhuru’s warning to the rich and well connected that the era of impunity was over, Raila supported his president and partner’s message by commending the government’s crackdown on corruption and the culture of impunity. “All Government departments, citizens and friends of Kenya must stand to be counted in the war against corruption,” he said. “The March 9 handshake gave birth to a new Kenya with a very clear agenda on how to address our age-old problems.”
He proceeded to lay out why past anti-graft drives have failed, and why this one will succeed. In the past, the divisions within our politics and society meant that anyone accused of corruption could claim they were the victims of a political and ethnic ‘witch hunt.’
However Raila noted, in the new, united political climate, we are free to address the challenges of corruption without these political and tribal tensions. “Attempts by suspects to appeal to their ethnic bases have generated near-zero support,” he said.
Without the handshake, none of this would have been possible. Every person arrested would have cried tribalism, and found millions of sympathisers from within his community.
The same is true of Uhuru’s Big Four agenda, which Raila is also enthusiastically supporting. Without the unity in our government, each new project, allocation or policy proposal would be scrutinised for tribal bias, becoming discredited in the eyes of half the population. Ambitious and visionary policies would have stalled due merely to the origins of the beneficiaries.
No longer. With one handshake, Uhuru and Raila have redrawn the landscape of Kenyan policy making, making the impossible possible.
It is for this reason that the handshake was widely commended at the recent Global Peace Leadership Conference in Kampala, Uganda. World leaders were gushing in their praise of the braveness and maturity of the two former enemies, and their commitment to a homemade initiative to bring peace for the Kenyan people, in contrast to 2008 when the international community was forced to intervene to restore peace. “We found it necessary to reach out to each other to rebuild the Kenyan nation by avoiding expensive stand offs,” explained Uhuru.
For a nation so often divided, the past six months have been an eye opener as to what is possible when we are united. In this climate of unity and cooperation, we are beginning to address the challenges that have hamstrung us for so long, and if we can maintain this atmosphere for the next four years and beyond, the sky really is the limit.
After all, as the famous proverb teaches us, “Umoja ninguvu, utengano ni udhaifu”.
Views expressed in this article do not represent the opinion of Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.