Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga have defended their famous handshake, saying it was done to bridge differences and promote peace, rather than further political ambitions.
The two politicians were addressing mourners at the funeral service of former presidential candidate Kenneth Matiba.
The March 9 handshake has been the subject of debate in recent weeks as opposition politicians made calls for constitutional amendments to incorporate Odinga into the government through creation of the prime minister position.
President Kenyatta however called for support of his unity deal with Raila, saying he is aware some Jubilee and NASA politicians are unhappy with the gesture.
“We cannot continue differing at the expense of our country, and I know there are many who were not happy when we came together, because they thrive on commotion,” said Kenyatta.
Odinga on his part told the thousands of mourners gathered that he agreed to work with the president in order to effectively deal with the issues of inclusivity, cohesion, corruption and tribalism.
“We agreed with my brother Uhuru to bring to an end this adversarial politics that has dominated our country for a very long time. We want the current and future generations to chart a new way.”
Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, previously disagreed with Odinga’s proposals to expand the government, arguing that it would be unfair and costly to conduct a referendum to amend the constitution, in order to accomodate a few individuals.
Kenyatta echoed the sentiments of his deputy, who was present at the funeral, emphasising that development should be prioritised over constitutional reforms and electioneering.
“Constitutional change is not an answer to all our issues. We should focus on development and less on politics,’‘ Kenyatta said.
“We are concerned about the health of our people, the infrastructure, their security and most importantly about the future of our young people.’‘
2022 succession politics
Kenyatta also clarified that the unity deal was not reached to consolidate 2022 succession politics as has been insinuated by some political observers.
Odinga, who has recently met with former presidents Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki, fuelling speculation that he could be working on new alliances for the 2022 elections, used the occasion to clear the air.
“We are not thinking about 2022. That will come and go. We agreed that division that has prevented Kenya from achieving it’s dreams will end with us so that we have a better country,” said Raila.
Odinga’s ‘presidential’ meetings featured Moi’s son, Senator Gideon Moi, Kibaki’s son, Jimmy Kibaki and Kibaki’s nephew, Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, who are all seen as potential candidates for the highest office in the land.