US senator who nudged Raila, Uhuru into handshake lands in Kenya

Uhuru meets US Senator who nudged Raila handshake

A US senator who urged President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga to have a dialogue after the 2017 presidential election debacle is in Kenya. So far, he has held talks with Mr Kenyatta, Mr Odinga and President-elect William Ruto. 

A month after the October 2017 repeat presidential election, Mr Odinga, then heading the National Super Alliance (Nasa), travelled to the US for a series of high-stakes meetings with members of Congress and Kenyans living in that country. Among those he met was Congressman Chris Coons, a Democrat from the state of Delaware, who called for dialogue between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga to end the impasse that followed the election.

He was among those who were lamenting that Kenya’s political standoff could worsen if not addressed urgently. 

Three months later, on March 9, 2018, a surprise handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga took place on the steps of the office of the President in Nairobi, marking the end to an era marked by political animosity and unrest.

Uhuru kenyatta raila odinga handshake 2018

The handshake symbolised the political truce between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga, which ended the acrimony that followed the 2017 presidential election.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The two had fought bruising political battles for more than a decade and called each other all manner of expletives. The bitter protagonists shook hands and buried their differences after weeks of secret talks. 

Mr Coons is leading a US congressional delegation on a five-country visit to Africa. They arrived in Kenya on Wednesday night to meet with President-elect William Ruto “to discuss shared goals – health, security, and economic prosperity”.

They will also meet President Kenyatta, who has not said anything in public since the August 9 election, and Mr Odinga, who is planning to challenge his loss in last week’s presidential poll.

The delegation also plans to meet with influential leaders from NGOs, health providers and conservationists, the US ambassador to Kenya, Meg Whitman, said in a statement. 

“The Senator Chris Coons-led delegation will meet with conservationists, health providers, and organizations working to empower girls,” Ms Whitman said.

Dr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta fell out a few years ago, and the latter backed Mr Odinga in last week’s elections.

Christopher Coons uhuru kenyatta ruto

Delaware Senator Chris Coons poses for a photo with President-elect William Ruto on August 18, 2022.

Photo credit: DPPS

Mr Odinga has said he is exploring “all constitutional and legal options” to challenge his close election loss. His campaign has a week from Monday’s declaration of Mr Ruto as the winner to go to the Supreme Court, which will have 14 days to rule on the matter.

On Monday, IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati announced Mr Ruto won the election with 7.1 million votes, about 50.5 percent of the total votes cast.

Mr Odinga, the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya candidate, came in second with 6.9 million votes, about 48.85 percent.