When Nairobi Business Community chairman Wilfred Kamau called a press conference flanked by mean-looking dreadlocked men in October last year, he was clear of the lengths they will go to protect their property from what he described as “destructive politics” by opposition leader Raila Odinga.
“We are protecting our businesses and the futures of our businesses. If the opposition people want to demonstrate, we don’t have any problem. We will only have issue if they destroy our businesses,” Mr Kamau told a press conference in Nairobi after the Mr Odinga-led opposition threatened to demonstrate against the October 26 repeat presidential election.
Mr Kamau was accompanied by men wearing American army combat uniform including patrol caps, jackets, trousers, boots and dark shades, signalling the extents they were daring to go.
But on Friday, following the March 9 handshake between Mr Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr Kamau had a different role, that of leading the Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association (Gema) business members to meet Mr Odinga for a three-hour meeting in a Nairobi hotel.
In place of the mean-looking men and endless threats by Mr Kamau, there were cordial handshakes, laughter and applause that reverberated in the room as Mr Odinga explained his deal with President Kenyatta, and the Kamau-led team declared their support for it.
“We have been divided for so long, and we want to bring an end to that. This handshake is not about Gema and Luo alone. It is about building bridges,” Mr Kamau told journalists in a press briefing.
He was accompanied by youth officials of the same organisation, and opposition MPs TJ Kajwang’ (Ruaraka), and Nyando’s Jared Okelo, as well as Mr Odinga’s strategist Mr David Ndii.
Mr Kajwang’, who said that all the 17 sitting MPs of Nairobi were in support, said that a caravan will be launched soon to go round the city’s 85 wards, before being rolled out to the other parts of the country.
“This handshake is not about 2022. And the city is not talking about 2022. Only those from the rural areas are. And we want to stop that. We are focused on uniting Kenyans,” said Mr Kajwang’.
Mr Okelo said that the handshake, which was sealed in a deal on the steps of Harambee House, had given Kenyans a chance to “re-examine ourselves.”
“As a country, we have known for a fact that each time Lake Victoria meets Mount Kenya, this country moves in leaps and bounds to the point that every Kenyan benefits,” he said.
The meeting at the Eka Hotel was attended by Mr Odinga’s lawyer Paul Mwangi, who together with Ambassador Martin Kimani from President Kenyatta’s side, lead the secretariat with a 14-member team of advisors to oversee the implementation of the deal between the two leaders.
The 14-member team had met Mr Odinga for lunch on Thursday, and said they will proceed for a retreat in the coming days, and will design a programme.
The two, in the nine-point agenda, agreed to address ethnic antagonism, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, strengthening devolution, ending divisive elections, ensuring safety and security of Kenyans, ending corruption and ensuring shared prosperity.
The advisory team include Busia Senator Amos Wako, his Garissa counterpart Yusuf Haji, University of Nairobi don Adams Oloo, Ms Agnes Kavindu, Ms Florence Omose, Prof Saeed Mwangumi, James Matundura and Major (rtd) John Seii.
Others are Bishop (retired) Lawi Imathiu of Methodist Church, Samburu Woman Rep Maison Leshomo, Mr Morompi ole Ronkai, Bishop Peter Njenga, Makueni Woman Rep Rose Moseu and Catholic Bishop of the Archdiocese of Kisumu Zacheus Okoth.
Major (rtd) Seii is the chairman of the Kalenjin Myoot Council of Elders, with Mr Matundura chairing the Kisii Council of Elders while Bishop Imathiu is a one-time chairman of the Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association (Gema).