Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga pledge reconciliation


Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) greets opposition leader Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition after addressing a news conference at the Harambee house office in Nairobi, Kenya March 9, 2018Image copyright

Image caption

Raila Odinga (R) had refused to recognise Uhuru Kenyatta (L) as president

Kenya’s president and opposition leader have promised to begin a process of reconciliation following last year’s bitterly contested election.

Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga spoke on national TV after holding their first public meeting since the poll.

About 150 people were killed in the aftermath of the disputed election.

Earlier this year, Mr Odinga swore himself in as the “people’s president” and refused to recognise election winner Mr Kenyatta as head of state.

Until now, both had dismissed calls for talks.

In their joint address, President Kenyatta referred to Mr Odinga as his “brother”.

Mr Kenyatta said: “We will begin a process of discussing what ails us and what creates division amongst us.”

Mr Odinga said it was “time to resolve our differences”.

Pre-emptive PR stunt?

Analysis by Ferdinand Ferdinand Omondi, BBC Africa, Nairobi

Resolving the two men’s differences won’t be so easy. Kenya is sharply divided along ethnic lines because of the political stand-off.

The opposition charges of rigged elections, police brutality and state high-handedness were not mentioned – only a joint call for national dialogue.

The unexpected public appearance comes as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits Kenya as part of his visit to Africa.

In Ethiopia, he criticised the government for declaring a state of emergency. So some see this meeting as a pre-emptive public relations stunt to water down any potential dressing-down; while others have welcomed the announcement as long overdue.

Whichever explanation rings true, Kenya is headed for an intriguing second episode of political drama.

President Kenyatta was sworn in for a second term last November. He won an election re-run in October, which Mr Odinga had boycotted.

Elections were first held in August but the courts ordered a re-run, saying Mr Kenyatta’s victory was marred by irregularities.

Mr Odinga said that nothing had been changed before the re-run.

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