Hard work lies ahead after Uhuru, Raila deal

To assume that Kenya is now on the right path only because of the positive action of the Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga is to be miss the point.

Two Fridays ago, Kenyans were treated to a handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition Raila Odinga. The action was unexpected and has formed the subject of discussions within the country since then. How did the event come about? Is it the right thing? What about the other political leaders? Were they part of the deal if indeed there was a deal?This column, like several others spent the last one year arguing for national cohesion and fixing the country’s software. In one of the editions, we argued that the problem in Kenya is neither about the Constitution nor laws. It is more about how we implement those rules, our attitudes and perceptions. Scholars ascribe the name constitutionalism to this problem. Fixing constitutionalism cannot be undertaken by amending the Constitution or enacting new legislation. It requires re-engineering of our social and body polity.

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The decision by the two Kenyan leaders do not solve our software problems. Even though its impact was instantaneous, it is important that it is taken for what it is. It gives the country a chance to take a deep breath and diagnose its ailments so as to be able to prescribe the right treatment for it. Listening to statements from political leaders and even some citizens, it is clear that people are still talking only about symptoms and not the problem. Conversations around formation of a government of national unity or coalition government, while nice sounding, do not go to the core of what ails Kenya.If you speak candidly with a group of Kenyans you will discover that there are many people who have either emotionally checked out of project Kenya or are unwilling to have a candid conversation about the country, its problems and possible solutions. This is the greatest challenge that we must confront as a society. First up to watch politicians speak as if the events of last years did not deeply affect our social engagements in the country and to assume that it can be peppered away by the handshake will be not only simplistic but also out rightly dangerous.The event is important for cooling down temperatures and hopefully providing the first steps for an honest and deep conversation about the state of our nationhood and the ties that bind it together. The conversation must avoid looking for quick fixes to the Kenyan problem before it is accurately diagnosed. The diagnostics must be comprehensive and all inclusive. The politicians are a critical component and their initial efforts are commendable. However, they should not monopolise the discourse and assume that they are equivalent to the Kenyan people. This is the one instance when they should have their bite at the cherry while also stepping back and allowing citizens to have their moment too . In any case, the political class must recognise that they were a big contributor to the problems bedeviling Kenya and Kenyans.Building bonds of cohesion and nationhood is not like making instant coffee. Consequently, to assume that Kenya is now on the right path only because of the positive action of the Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga is to be miss the point. We have spent too much energy destroying such space. Sadly, majority of us have both contributed to and cheered on as this happened. This explains why the first reaction after the handshake event was one of disbelief. READ: KISERO: Why Uhuru, Raila deal is good for economySome questioned how the name calling, anger and confrontation could be ended just like that. The underlying concern was because people had become accustomed and some even excited about the negativity. This is our reality. It is the situation dialogue has to confront. If not properly dealt with people will quickly apply band aid on our wounds and excitedly move on. Evidence of this approach is already evidence from some leaders.This will be extremely dangerous. It will set the country up for future disaster. We must avoid this. The opportunity for doing the right thing has been created by that single act. It requires to be followed up by hard work, one that is exhaustive and honest. One that gives meaning to the constitutional words of citizenship, inclusivity and sovereignty. Secondly, that project Kenya must work for all of us. Getting to deal with issues that lead us to this is the task we have to turn our attention to.

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