Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga now ‘brothers’
(BBC News) — 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 called each other “brothers” during a surprise joint TV address.
Mr Odinga has sworn himself in as the “people’s president” and refused to recognise Mr Kenyatta as head of state.
The announcement came shortly before the arrival of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Kenya.
Speaking in Nairobi Mr Tillerson later praised the two men for taking “a very positive step”.
However, he also said that Kenya needed to “correct certain actions, like shutting down TV stations and threatening the independence of the courts”.
Until now, both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga had dismissed calls for talks, from both Kenyans and foreign diplomats.
About 150 people were killed in the aftermath of the election, which Mr Kenyatta won after an opposition boycott.
In their joint address, President 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”.
Analysis by 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.
Before travelling to Kenya, Rex Tillerson criticised Ethiopia’s government for declaring a state of emergency. So some saw this unexpected meeting as a pre-emptive public relations stunt to water down any potential dressing-down; while others 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.
After he swore himself in as the “people’s president”, some of those involved in the ceremony were arrested, while TV stations that had said they would broadcast it were temporarily closed down.