Sunday, July 26, 2009




By John Oywa

President Kibaki capped his three-day tour of Nyanza with a symbolic meal at Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s rural home in what is billed as the dawn of new friendship between the two coalition principals.

President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, his wife Ida (in blue) and other members of the family at the mausoleum of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in Bondo, yesterday. Photo: PMPS

He also laid a wreath at the mausoleum of Raila’s father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, in Bondo, on Saturday.

It was a spectacle to behold as the two leaders, whose political differences led to post-election violence last year, settled to a sumptuous lunch in a tent at Raila’s Opoda Farm.

Surrounded by ministers from both sides of the coalition, the two leaders devoured delicacies of tilapia, chips, traditional ugali and beef prepared by Kisumu Hotel staff, under the supervision of Raila’s wife, Ida.

The hotel belongs to Maseno University. As they ate and exchanged pleasantries, the university band belted tunes from the far corner of the tent.

In his vote of thanks, Raila told Kibaki: "Mr President, this is our ancestral land. The land where I built belonged to my grandfather, Raila, after whom I am named."

Later at Jaramogi’s home, Kibaki laid a wreath on the opposition leader’s tomb, said brief prayers and toured the Jaramogi Memorial Museum.

Pupils and women groups sang as Raila took Kibaki on a tour of the mausoleum where Jaramogi’s rich political history is stored.

At one corner of the museum, the President came face-to-face with paintings of himself, Raila, and Dr Kofi Annan, the man who saved Kenya from further bloodshed and brought the two leaders to form a coalition Government.

Although Kibaki attended Jaramogi’s burial in 1994 as Democratic Party leader, on Saturday was the first time he returned to Bondo.

New relationship

Elders from Jaramogi’s Kawuor clan gave the President two goats to cement his relationship with the Luo. Two elders, Mr Alogo Raila and Mr Amos Oteka, and a women’s leader, Ms Mary Ramogi, handed over the goats to the Head of State.

Alogo told Kibaki: "We give you these goats as a symbol of friendship and to thank you for your friendship with Raila. We urge the two of you to unite Kenyans and preach democracy."

Addressing an enthusiastic crowd at Jaramogi’s home, Kibaki said the late leader was his close friend.

"I knew him when I was still at Makerere (as a student). He used to visit us and told us about politics at home," said Kibaki.

He added: "Jaramogi was a great man, and I had to come back to see his mausoleum."

Kibaki and Raila once again told Kenyans that they had found new unity and were determined to speed up reforms.

At the rallies they addressed at Kombewa, Akala, Ndori and Bondo, the two called for national reconciliation. Raila described Kibaki as a true friend and said their push for unity was real.

Among those who welcomed Kibaki to Jaramogi’s home was former Bondo MP Odongo Omamo. Dr Omamo said Kibaki’s tour of Nyanza had given Kenyans new hope.

"The visit is most appropriate. It gives hope to the people despite the shortage of food," he said.

Kibaki addressed his last rally in Ugenya last evening, shortly before it started raining.

And on Friday, the President touched on the bumpy historical ties between the people of central Kenya and Nyanza.

Peddlers of influence

"What some of you do not know is that for a very long time, even before Independence, we have always worked together. And each time we have worked together, Kenya has done well," the President said.

And added: "Every time our two communities have fallen apart, Kenya has suffered. I appeal to you that we work together for the sake of Kenya."

In 1963, founding President Kenyatta and Jaramogi were in Kanu and won the independence elections together. Jaramogi became the first Vice-President in 1964.

But they disagreed in 1966 and Jaramogi left Kanu and founded opposition party, Kenya People’s Union. The relationship between the two communities soured.

In 2002, Kibaki and Raila came together to found National Rainbow Coalition, which won the elections, thus ending Kanu’s decades of dominance. But Kibaki and Raila fell out immediately and so did their communities.

In the 2005 referendum and 2007 General Election, the two leaders were on separate sides, leading to the post-election chaos.

Kibaki was speaking to a mammoth crowd that had lined up the road at Ahero on his way to Kisumu after commissioning the Sh19 billion Sondu Miriu power project.

He said peace and unity were key to development and asked residents to uphold it.

End tribalism

Accompanied by Raila and 14 Cabinet ministers, he addressed another rally at Katito market. Kibaki said tribalism was detrimental to national stability and peace.

"We must end tribalism at all costs if we are to move forward as a nation," he said.

He pointed out that he was in the region to preach peace and was impressed by the warm reception.

At the market, hundreds of wananchi scrambled to have a glimpse of the President, PM and other leaders. Security officers had a rough time controlling the crowds that surged ahead wherever the President stopped.

At Nyalenda, a difficult terrain even at the best of times, the President and the Prime Minister’s motorcades had a difficult time navigating through the crowds that spilled onto the road.

On Thursday, the PM toured the slums and asked the residents to be kind to the President. On Friday, they obliged.

That they agreed with Raila on this underscored that much water has passed under the bridge since the power sharing deal was signed on February 28, last year.

As recently as March, the youth in the town were considered hostile to the PM, whom they felt should not have signed the deal. They were also impatient over promised jobs.

The PM, too, was speaking the language of reconciliation. He declared that the President’s visit marked the beginning of healing the nation and that Nyanza would play its part.

At Sondu-Miriu, the PM told the audience: "I have brought President Kibaki here to show that the past is gone. And I want to ask our people to forget the past and support this Government so that we can heal the nation. We have a saying that ‘the world is everlasting, but none of us will last forever’. That is the spirit in which we must move."

And Raila had prepared the ground for the visit. On Thursday evening, he had toured Kisumu town’s volatile spots and appealed for warm welcome for the President.

That the President did not know what to expect in Nyanza was discernible in his tone at the start of the visit.

At Kendu Bay on Friday, he was cautious and careful with words and stuck largely to the road project. But as the day wore on, with crowds lining up the roads, the President was energised and spoke of the need to move on.

—Additional reporting by Peter Atsiayaand Kepher Otieno