President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga on Thursday told Kisumu residents that they were forced to work together as their brand of politics had been “beaten by the rain”.
In a concerted effort to market their ‘handshake, the popular term for the unity deal they announced on March 9, the two said the customary winner-takes-all political system is injurious as it causes tension.
At Mamboleo showground during the historic tour, President Kenyatta said, “This thing of winner-takes-all …we will have to look into it because we want to unite our people.”
The president and Mr Odinga defended their deal and urged the people to support them as development will be enhanced.
The agreement will last, they said in their addresses, noting its positive effects on the fight against corruption and other ills.
The president said that in his discussions with Mr Odinga, the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development, they resolved that blood will not be shed every five years due to the general elections.
“We do not want the winner-takes-all’ mentality after the elections. That is why we are embracing other leaders,” he said.
“We will continue with the war against draft. If you go to Kondele and find a thief, do you ask for his tribe or you take action against him? That is what we are doing to the corrupt individuals stealing public funds.”
President Kenyatta, who launched the pilot phase of the universal health coverage programme, further said that his reconciliation with an erstwhile political rival was good for the country.
“We agreed to work together and we will not go back. Did you see yesterday, for the first time, leaders from Nasa and Jubilee standing on the same podium to celebrate Jamhuri Day?”
“Leaders have agreed to work together for development so can you, the people of Kisumu, show me if you support that?”
Mr Odinga, who spoke before the president, took the crowd down memory lane, with talk of how political opponents worked together for the sake of the country.
The Orange Democratic Movement leader added that his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and other leaders pushed for the release of Jomo Kenyatta from the colonial prison.
He noted that he decided to work with the president despite initial criticism from his own supporters.
“By last December, we were in chaos and you asked me to take an oath, which I did. Afterwards, my people said I should take power and his people said Raila had committed treason. But we sat down as grown-ups and started looking at ourselves. There was a problem,” he said.
“The rain was still beating us. We had tribal politics and we needed to learn from our freedom fighters who brought us independence. So I reached out to my brother and we agreed to work together. That was the genesis of our handshake.”
The pilot UHC programme targets Kisumu, Isiolo, Machakos and Nyeri.
President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga will be honoured with honorary degrees at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology during a graduation on Friday.
Meanwhile, Deputy President William Ruto appeared to calm his animus with Mr Odinga, even calling him prime minister, as they toured the lakeside city.
At Ahero, where the president launched a road interchange, Mr Ruto took advantage of a welcoming crowd to emphasis that the political animosity between him and Mr Odinga was a thing of the past.
“What the prime minister has said is true. We are here … we have agreed that the enmity is buried. We are turning a new page of uniting. We closed the chapter of elections last year,” he said.
“If you see Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga … ‘Tinga’ is also here … With me, the hustler, between them, you should know everything is okay. Are we together?”
Two weeks ago, the DP accused Mr Odinga’s opposition arm of taking advantage of the handshake with the president to undermine the Jubilee Party administration.
His lieutenants had accused the government of using the war on corruption to target State officials allied to him. Mr Odinga responded by saying that the war was against individuals, not a community.
Mr Ruto’s last public visit in Kisumu last July was punctuated with jeers as he tried to address a crowd while in a Jubilee T-shirt.
He has avoided Luo Nyanza since, although he visited Migori in November, when he was hosted by Migori Governor Okoth Obado, who is facing murder charges following the death of his girlfriend Sharon Otieno.
On Thursday, that animus appeared relaxed, at least as they hugged, held hands and laughed.
By Daily Nation