Cheers and Jeers in Handshake by Kaudo Philip


The unprecedented and historic handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga on March ninth 2018 was one event that sent shock waves to not only the political class but Kenyans as well. This is owing to the fact that Kenyan political environment since independence has been characterized by many twists and turns making it difficult for political scientists to predict future realignments. On one hand, the political class across the divide continues to cry foul of the handshake terming it a selfish move and a sense of betrayal while on the other side, some welcomed the two “heroes” move, terming it a show of nationalism and patriotism.

Kenyans have remained skeptical about the real motive of the handshake. Whereas the handshake proponents opine that the handshake main motive was based on a utopian or an idealist school of thought (aims at nation building through equitable distribution of the national cake and reconciliation), critics posit that the handshake involves a realist dimension (struggle for power).However, since politics is an art of possibilities and secrecy, it is hard to arrive at a conclusion on the basis of the golden handshake.

However, it is imperative to argue that the golden handshake can be described as a blessing and a curse to this great nation. On a positive note, it legitimized the Jubilee regime. The handshake was a product of several unconstitutional happenings such as secessionist politics, boycott of elections, creation of illegal county assemblies and an unrecognized swearing in which collectively sent legitimization of Jubilee regime into jeopardy. Therefore, the handshake was a proactive process to legitimize the Jubilee regime. It did depolarize the country hence to some extend creating a better environment for foreign investments and trade related activities to ensue.

Ideally, the handshake has changed the country’s political landscape. In as a much as it has to some extent unified the citizens, it has divided the political class with the principal arguments that the handshake has a hidden agenda-to thwart the successive political arrangements in Jubilee. The change in Kenyan political landscape is more evident in the current political feuds that characterize Jubilee Party. It has led to the creation of several splinter groups within Jubilee; Kieleweka, Tangatanga and Team Wanjiku whose members have openly expressed their level of resentments with the handshake. Members of these splinter groups have developed several conspiracy theories about the handshake in an attempt to invalidate or validate the handshake.

Interestingly, the handshake has fueled a spirit of togetherness leading to the weakening of oversight institutions like opposition parties as well as pressure groups. In as much as the war of graft for example has been stepped up, Kenyans are yet to reap the benefits of the handshake. In parliament, as result of the handshake, the members of parliament have occasionally with lots of ease passed self-interest based bills key amongst them the amendment to increase their salaries and allowances. In the same vein, the golden handshake has also led to politicization of the war of graft. Political players insinuate that the war on graft targets only specific communities. They have interestingly made comparative analysis on prevailing corruption cases to validate their claims on the partisan nature of the war on graft. The critics have at times argued that the oversight institutions are simply an extension of the executive. Therefore; the handshake in my view has derailed the war on corruption simply because of lack of a good political will for the course.

Conclusively, the motive behind the handshake may be fishy but it is high time it was given a chance. A handshake of purpose is one that principally seeks to address social injustices. Its real value lies with the ability of the government to utilize the opportunity to hold Lords of impunity accountable to their evil deeds as well as strengthen the institutions. The “reconciliation” should serve the interests of the majority. Kenyans are eager to reap the fruits of the handshake.

Written by Kaudo Philip Misori 

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Siasa Place is an NGO formed 2015 that aims to create an enabling environment for women and youth mainstreaming into our body politics.

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