Kenya is a country of surprises. Barely half a year ago, the Supreme Court cancelled an election and ordered a fresh one. Then President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday held a surprise meeting with his political arch-rival and National Super Alliance (Nasa) leader Raila Odinga to address the nation, standing side-by-side on a podium of unity.
I was thrilled as I imagined and hoped that President Museveni and Dr Kizza Besigye could do the same. The two leaders in a joint statement agreed to put Kenya above their individual grievances by forging a path to heal the nation from the deep divisions and hatreds of a previous controversial election and ultimately agreeing to forge a national unity in a country deeply divided along tribal lines. This strand of politics is foreign in Africa. That an opposition leader and a sitting president with whom he has contested in a disputed election, can call each other “brother”, stand side-by-side in realisation of the missed opportunities and agree to work together for the good of the country, is a miracle we should celebrate and embrace with hope.
The rest of Kenya, and indeed Africa, should welcome this development, for it is the lack of such farsighted, people-centred, selfless inclusive leadership that African countries have remained a laughing stock of the world. Leaders should realise that a position of leadership, especially the presidency, is not a passport to personal glory, self-aggrandisement, let alone a platform to dominate others, but a mandate bringing with it incredible responsibility to act judiciously and with humility for the good the country. To properly exercise the power that comes with leadership requires the ability to tame personal ego and act with humility like Mr Uhuru and Mr Odinga did.
For those who wield State power, engagement, not confrontation with those we do not agree, with, should be the guiding strategy if we are to build stable and progressive communities. It is high time leaders realised that the power of government exists to serve citizens, not the leader or his kinsmen/women as has been the case in most African countries.
We should no longer allow elections or tribal differences to block us from seeing the bigger picture of building a peaceful country. The Bible reminds us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. To forge national unity requires us to first make a self-assessment and then commit to rectify them.
The task entails going back to the fundamentals of democracy - rule of law, free and fair elections, accountability in governance, equality for all, transparency and respect for human rights, among others.
In their joint statement, Mr Uhuru and Mr Odinga agreed to the idea of inclusiveness in political engagement. To heal tribal divisions that exist in most African countries, leaders should embrace inclusiveness in all aspects of governance both in word and actions.