Raila hosts Mt Kenya leaders in unity bid

Raila Odinga

ODM leader Raila Odinga (left) and James Ngethe, a representative of the Council of Eminent Persons of Murang’a, conduct a ceremony at Opoda Farm in Bondo, Siaya County on December 19, 2020.

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mr Odinga downplayed the fact that the meeting is connected to his presidential ambition for 2022.
  • ODM party leader said BBI is not meant to sideline any community or part of the country.

ODM leader Raila Odinga on Saturday moved closer to sealing perceived cracks between the Luo and Kikuyu communities when he hosted a section of Kikuyu elders at his Opoda Farm in Bondo, Siaya County.

The meeting with the Council of Eminent Persons of Murang’a led by the chairman Joe Kibe came just a day after a delegation consisting of Nyanza elders and political leaders held talks with their central counterparts at Kieni in Nyeri County.

Mr Odinga termed the meeting as "symbolic" and meant to ensure that the two communities work together for the sake of the country's unity and harmony.

"Murang’a is the cradle of the Agikuyu community, this meeting will cement our relationship which dates back to the colonial period," he said.

While the meeting was full of political undertones and overtones, Mr Odinga downplayed the fact that it is connected to his presidential ambition for 2022.

"It is not enough to shake hands between me and President Uhuru Kenyatta. We have to facilitate integration and communication,” he said.

“We will have more of this as we head to the Building Bridges Initiative year and we urge Kenyans to embrace the spirit of peace and unity." 

He, however, reiterated that BBI is not meant to sideline any community or part of the country, adding they will visit many other regions.

Mr Kibe, while recognising the role played by Mr Odinga in bringing multi-party politics, said they are ready to work with him in any capacity.

"Mr Odinga has been a good friend of ours for many years, even his father the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. We can never forget that the senior Odinga refused to take power until Jomo Kenyatta was released from detention," he said.

Healed the nation

He pointed out that the handshake between Mr Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta has healed the nation and the difference which emerged between their parents.

Royal Media Services chairman SK Macharia, who convened the meeting, said they have been planning the session for the last six months.

"I am happy that this has finally taken place and hope to cement our engagement for years to come," he said.

Also present were the secretary for the Council of Eminent Persons of Murang’a Dr Nyamu Njoka and Bishop Gideon Githiga.

Mr Odinga's delegation was led by his elder brother and East Africa Legislative Assembly member Oburu Oginga and Siaya Senator James Orengo, who had led Friday’s visit to Kieni.

Mr Oginga termed the visit as a big statement and an expression of friendship.

"Speaking from the heart is much more important than signing MoUs," said Mr Oginga.

Mr Orengo noted that the meeting would rejuvenate them as they go into the new year and into the campaign for the BBI.

“Kenyans should be careful of leaders who spread propaganda against the BBI and should not allow to be misled," he said.

The elders also slaughtered a goat and drank soup as a traditional way of celebrating a person who is recuperating after being discharged from the hospital.

"I am touched with your concern about my health and I am as fit as a fiddle," said Mr Odinga, who earlier in the year travelled to Dubai for treatment.

The Nyeri meeting on Friday was a follow-up of an earlier one in October in Bondo by Kikuyu elders.

The ODM delegation in Kieni, Nyeri included Mr Orengo, Seme MP James Nyikal, BBI secretariat official and university lecturer Adams Oloo and Rarieda MP Otiende Amolo.

Political union

Others were MPs Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Senator Moses Kajwang (Homa Bay), Mr Martin Owimo (Ndhiwa), Ms Millie Odhiambo (Suba North) and Migori Woman rep Pamela Odhiambo.

The elders side comprised their chairman Wachira Kiago, Mr Kigochi Waimiri (high priest), Mr Kanini Kega (Kieni MP), Mr Muriithi, DP chairman Esau Kioni, Kiambaa MP Paula Koinange, former Maragua MP Elias Mbau and former Transport CS Michael Kamau.

“The Bondo visit had a big impact on us. The political union between Nyanza and Mt Kenya is here to stay. No more memoranda of understanding on paper. The Nyeri meeting of elders will be the foundation of this political union,” Mr Oginga said.

Some observers think the ceremony in Nyeri might have an implication on the 2022 General Election.

Mr Oginga asked Mt Kenya and Nyanza people “to change their attitude” and embrace leaders from other regions.

He said Nyanza people have joined hands with elders from Mt Kenya for the sake of peace and unity, “and this should be extended to the other communities”.

“The coming together of the two regions should not be interpreted as a conspiracy against other communities. Ending the antagonism is a step in the right direction. We have demonised each other for long and want to break the ice now,” Mr Oginga told the gathering.

Mr Kiago said the unity of the two regions has the full backing of the political class.

He added that Mt Kenya and Nyanza want to work together with the assistance of elected and other leaders to end suspicion and mistrust that have strained their relations for many decades.

While the President and Mr Odinga have toured many regions of the country to campaign for the inclusivity agenda captured in the BBI report, they are yet to hold a public rally in Mt Kenya.


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