Afew weeks ago, we all witnessed the ‘golden handshake’ from President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Since then, pundits have ran their mouths dry on what this newly-found dalliance means for us and our politics. Especially 2022 onwards. And because I was alive when it happen, allow me to join this wagon, while it still wheels.
Firstly, I must give credit to these two national leaders for the way they handled that ‘handshake’. It has popularly been claimed that only less than 8 people knew about the meeting. This excluded the Deputy President, William Ruto as well as the other 3 NASA Principals. As a result of this, Kenyans have largely been left constructing theories of what this means while waiting for the next announcement from the team tasked with the dressing up of this newborn. But what are some of the lessons we can learn as Kenyans?
One, is that politics is never that serious. For the politicians, it is a job like any other. Unfortunately, many of us are too emotively connected to their political persuasions, which according to political scientists Larry Bartels and Christopher Achen in their book, “Democracy for Realists“, are based on social identities (read tribe) and partisan loyalties, as opposed to an honest examination of reality.
There are Kenyans in this country who are yet to make peace with their neighbors, friends, relatives or acquaintances simply because they were of a different political persuasion during the last election. Some even went to the extent of levelling attacks on each other online, simply because their political bases were different. And in their minds, they were doing this for Uhuru or Raila. It therefore must have been a shocker to these die-hard supporters, seeing these two leaders shake hands outside Harambee House, not to mention their persistent reference of each other as ‘My Brother’.
Secondly, it must dawn on each one of us, that although we have elected representatives who are accountable to us, we cannot donate to anyone the responsibility to realize a more united Country. We all have within us the ability and power to reach out and spread the cords of friendship that transcends any of our differences, including political. Because though we may seem different, we are all children of the same God. We are similar in many more ways than we are different.
If we were all privileged to live in different spans of time, we would know that what Uhuru and Raila did the other day with the handshake was not new. It has happened before in the past. Most importantly though, we must know that this will not be the last handshake we will be witnessing from two political rivals. From time to time and when the political heat rises, we will need men and women, both leaders and followers to turn to their antagonists and shake their hands as a way to remind themselves and each other that though important, Politics must never be a matter of life and death, much so for ordinary supporters.
Apart from the handshake, both Uhuru and Raila made very impressive statements of intent towards jointly recreating Project Kenya. They spoke about our unity in diversity, urging us to go back in and search our hearts. They asked us to believe in Kenya (again) and to support every effort aimed at building bridges of love that will support our strong institutions. We must be ready to do this. Not just for them, but for us.
Go yee, and shake a hand today!