In the 4th century BC Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote: “When a nation is filled with strife, then do patriots flourish.” Tzu is also credited with the saying: “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small.
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” The two ancient gems best summarise the situation in which President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga found themselves trapped in the wake of the bitterly, divisive, 2017 presidential electoral cycle and their historic decision to bury the hatchet.
Against all expectations and all odds, the two displayed an historic fete of patriotism by agreeing to cede ground and negotiate a peaceful settlement that stunned even close allies and won them much international acclaim.
The nation sighed with relief as the world watched in awe when the historic March 2018 Handshake by the two principals unfolded on the steps of Harambe House.
It later emerged that the handshake was preceded by close to nineteen hours of closely guarded but candid talks between the two former rivals.
The two acknowledged that Kenya was at a crossroads whose short term cause was the outcome of the 2017 polls with long term roots in many accumulated structural and historical problems that lay unacknowledged since independence.
They agreed to launch a public conversation without preconditions that assessed Kenya’ history, what ails it, the problems it has gathered along the way and the stumbling block to the dreams of the Founding Fathers.
This was to be done through the ten points of the Building Bridges Initiative BBI that summarised the genesis of Kenya’s problems and declared intention to debate them, candidly, to arrive at long a lasting solution.
On November 27 last year President Kenyatta described where Kenya stood days to the Handshake: “After the 2017 polls there was a bid problem. I could say- I am the president and I could rule without hindrance but I realized our country was deeply divided. The citizens were bitterly split even in this capital city and our land was troubled.
Rt Honourable Raila Odinga has confirmed he was also deeply troubled by the slide towards the precipice. At the launch of the BBI Report he said there were hardliners on both sides in the aftermath of the polls.
“On our side our supporters were saying we will pull down Uhuru Kenyatta’s portraits, declare a separate state and begin to collect taxes. President Kenyatta on the other side was being told arrest Raila and charge him with treason and hang him.
According to the former prime minister the two principals rejected the extremists on their side to reach the historic compromise. The president later disclosed that it took hours before the two protagonists could gather the nerve to discuss what had brought them together especially because they had exchanged bitter words and called each other names during the electioneering process.
After hours of negotiations the president said: “We realized that our differences are not as big as they have been portrayed because the big issue between us was competition.”
What the president was saying, in summary, was that no problem is insurmountable as long as protagonists are willing to meet without preconditions, acknowledge their own shortcomings and past setbacks and bind themselves to long term solution.
Kenya’s divisive elections, inability to realise prosperity for all citizens, forge a nation out of our diversity among other challenges that reared their head in violence and economic stagnation every electoral cycle was a matter that troubled him, deeply and he was eager to try his hand in finding a solution.
The president who had campaigned on the agenda of economic transformation-what would later crystallize in the Big 4 Agenda was telling the nation that Kenya’s future prosperity lay not in high sounding blueprints, intemperate political speeches and endless tribal/sectarian plots but a new thinking that addressed past mistakes to birth a fresh beginning in which citizens benefitted from policies and felt a sense of belonging.
Clearly, His Excellency the President is seeking a long lasting solution to Kenya’s problems beyond his tenure in office and has found a partner in the Right Honourable former Prime Minister. To the chagrin of naysayers Kenyans support the two-the peace has held and unleashed an enabling environment in which reasonable discussions can thrive, graft can be tackled and the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic can be tackled without threatening the very existence of the Kenya nation-state.
The World is watching how this unity of purpose and homegrown solution is going to work in the long run on a continent where leaders are not known not to compromise. Around East Africa and the Horn of Africa lie many countries in ruin with their nationals seeking refuge in our land because when, it mattered leaders put personal ambition before public good.
Our party leader, a keen observer of the region and history, made a conscious decision, to avoid this African Curse and burnish the ghosts that have haunted our land for decades forever. He decided that Kenya’s future lies in embracing your opponent and its diversity, treating them with respect and creating an environment in which democracy and economic development could thrive.
To achieve all these it was important to arrest the situation before it tipped over. As shown in the writing of the ancient Chinese philosopher great men and women display their quality during such times. They also grab the opportunity to do good when it avails itself.
Forging a nation or returning it to its cause when it has strayed is no easy task. It requires skill, patience and persuasion and new partnerships that dwell on the positive that unites which the two principals have displayed in abundance. By agreeing to talk, shirk away private interests and naysayers the two principals’ love to country has been displayed in abundance.
This unity of purpose requires all sectors in Kenya and beyond our borders to support. The steady steps our leaders have nurtured through the BBI, which seek changes to the manner our motherland is government to secure its future is the unity of purpose required of patriotic Kenyans.
As the Chinese philosopher wrote many millennia ago nation building is painstaking and often slow but our principals have shown that no matter the risks, setbacks and bottlenecks, the goal of creating a prosperous Kenya at peace with itself, justifies patience and this unity of purpose.
In a speech to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa on January 27 2007 incoming UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave moving rendition of how his native South Korea embraced a unity of purpose to emerge from decades of colonialism, turmoil and oppression.
Said he: “But I also witnessed how, through unity of purpose, my country was able to transform itself from a traumatized nation with a non-existent economy, into a vibrant, productive society and a regional economic power.”
Ban Ki-moon said the unity of purposes that Africa needs requires courage and determination by its leaders and civil society to reform society and address challenges then create a sociopolitical environment leading to shared prosperity among the citizens.
According to him Africans embraced this kind of unity to propel the anti-colonial movement and should reembrace it as independent states, with support of the global community to establish thriving and prosperous nations in the manner that South Korea did.
By HON. (Dr.) ADAN KEYNAN, CBS, MP
SECRETARY, JUBILEE PARTY COALITION.