April 16, 2021

QUEST FOR A UNITED KENYA: When the handshake turns into a competitive hand-push game of interests

Left, Prof Dr Halimu Shauri Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Pwani University enjoying a happy moment with a colleague. A demonstration of the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. Image (Courtesy)

By: Prof. Dr. Halimu Shauri

Kenya was divided and in the brink of destruction after the repeat presidential elections, where President Uhuru was declared winner twice, don’t mind the process and the adabracadabra!

The eventuality of the electoral outcome, gave birth to a country torn apart between two major interests, the Jubilants and ODMists! The former had taken the official presidency and the later the people’s presidency.

Wah! Kenya had entered the Guinness book of records as a country with two Presidents. This scenario split the country into two and spread tension that threatened the core of Kenya’s existence and development.

While this was obvious among Kenyans and investors, magic, if not divine intervention happened! The two protagonists decided to meet and discuss, making a wonderful case for:

Separation of the problem from the people, Uhuru and Raila

Indeed, in any meaningful dialogue we must start by separating the people from the problem.

President Uhuru and Prime Minister Raila became great Statesmen in the famous handshake, a precursor to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) in Africa and the world by separating themselves from the problem. What is the problem you may be wondering?

The problem that had polarized Kenya then was that of “Differential Interests” There was therefore a further need for the two leaders to separate themselves from their “Interests” Thus, when this happened, Raila was Himself, aka, RAO and Uhuru was Uhuru, pap, the handshake environment was created and it happened.

However, the “Interest” between them was a matter of a secret te-tea-tet in Harambee House. What followed then was to see how this”Interest” would be agreed upon. This is when the “Building Bridges of Interests (BBI)” was born and sold to Kenyans with a replaced meaning of the real “I” from “Interest” into “Initiative” with the Secretariat asked to develop the Terms of Reference (ToRs). Remember they were not privy to the real “I” in the BBI. 

Another useful lesson for the country which emanated from the handshake is the case for:

”Separating Positions from interests

Raila had a position and Uhuru had a position, they both thought, in the absence of credible referee, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), had won the elections. Thus, separating their winning positions to focus on “Interests” made the handshake possible. That’s why the initiative qualify to be called “Building Bridges of Interests (BBI)”

It is only when we separate “Positions from “Interests” that we have meaningful and successful dialogue. These two gentlemen needs accolades for using the two powerful ideas:

1: Separating “problems” from the “people” aka, themselves and 

2: Separating “Positions” from “Interests”

Left Prof. Dr. Halimu Shauri flanked by Human Rights Agenda HURIA Executive director Yusuf Lule Image (courtesy)

Apparently, from the events predate the launch of the BBI report to the day of the launch and now beyond, the “Interest” in the “I” of the BBI is becoming clearer and shaping up. Indeed, in politics:

”There are no permanent enemies but interests!”

The BBI report has ignited a national debate, with many of the suggestions being an emphasis of what already exists in official documents and minds of Kenyans or public domain. What comes out clearly is that the country is moving round and round dictated by “Interests” of the political elites. This is a clear case of:

 “Kenya’s political capture based on political interests”

Whether, the marriage of “Interests” of President Uhuru and Prime Minister Raila, epitomized by the handshake and BBI, is the panacea for Kenya’s socio-economic and political crisis should shape the debate going forward. Every country needs a defining moment. Is BBI our defining moment as Kenya?

In simpler terms, will Kenyans put food easily on the table post BBI? Will we have money in our pockets because the BBI is here with us? Will we not fight and polarize the country again come 2022!

These are the hard questions making the handshake a Competitive game of hands pushing and the winner smiles all the way to the ballot box and bank. What will happen to the cheering crowds or ordinary Kenyans! Your guess is better than mine:

“We remain the products of our own efforts! And BBI, that of the Interested parties”


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