The newfound alliance bringing together previous adversaries — President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga — has upset the political order. The routine political noises have been rendered irrelevant and legacy politics is taking shape. It is a fact that what has shaped and driven the politics of our country immediately after independence, and more particularly after Jaramogi Oginga Odinga fell out with Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, has been the differences and artificial animosity that were planted and carefully nurtured by politicians, especially from the Kikuyu and the Luo communities.
Until recently, to become a hero and a politician of substance in the Mount Kenya region one simply had to attack and insult Mr Odinga and warn voters on the “dire consequences” that would befall them if he took over leadership. Some went as far as saying people from the region would be reduced to poverty and a condition akin to slavery, requiring them to display their national identification cards on their necks.
Similarly, in Nyanza, a politician who could not insult Mr Kenyatta and use stereotypes against people from Mount Kenya had diminished chances of seeing the inside of the august house. Some of them went as far as promising the voters how they are the only ones who are capable of taking leaders from the rival community head-on, never mind the practicalities of such a pledge.
This is why recently a politician with roots in Central Kenya while criticising the handshake, loudly wondered why the President was working with “these people”
What President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have done through the Handshake has thrown many politicians who have been thriving on politics of brinkmanship into total confusion. The script has changed and the route has taken a turn. They are left wondering where to start since now there is nobody to insult or scare the voters about.
One consequence is that the handshake is now starting to force politicians to engage the electorate more constructively, with their development agenda and sober arguments. This is unfamiliar territory for many of them, and they are working hard for the return of political noise.
President Kenyatta will have achieved a lot if through the handshake he debunks the artificial differences and animosity which have been cleverly created and perpetuated by politicians and selfish individuals with nothing concrete in terms of development to offer the electorate except chaos, corruption, looting and shameless tribalism. It will be the most significant legacy his Presidency would be remembered for when Kenya’s history is written.
To quote US President Lyndon B. Johnson on his signing the Civil Rights Act in 1964: “My fellow citizens, we have now come to a time of testing. We must not fail. Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our nation whole.”
This to me is what President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga are telling Kenyans and particularly the politicians who are criticising the handshake.
George Muluan Omondi, Former Mp Alego Usonga