A mood of reconciliation has gripped Kenya after President Uhuru Kenyatta asked the country to forgive him for any mistakes he has committed.

Kenyatta on Wednesday during his first State of the Nation Address after winning a second term, was categorical that during last year’s two disputed presidential polls, he wronged many people.

He, therefore, asked for forgiveness, saying it is time to build bridges and move forward in peace.

“If there is anything I said last year that hurt or wounded you, if I damaged the unity of this country in any way, I ask you to forgive me,” said Kenyatta in parliament.

During the elections, over 200 people were killed in poll-related violence perpetuated by the police and citizens in rival political camps, according to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

Kenyatta was famously quoted as having called Supreme Court judges crooks after they annulled his first win in Aug. 8 polls, and ordered for repeat polls on Oct. 26, 2017. The statement was widely faulted.

But he has now mended fences with opposition leader Raila Odinga, his main rival in last year’s polls, and continues to do so as he seeks to unite the country.

On Wednesday, elected leaders and ordinary citizens took Kenyatta’s clarion call of forgiveness and preached the message.

Deputy President William Ruto welcomed Kenyatta’s move, and similarly apologized to anyone he had offended.

“Find it in your heart to forgive me. I have forgiven all those who wronged me. Let’s embark on building the bridges of friendship and unity,” Ruto said.

“Repentance, healing and true penance. That is the way to go. Congratulations your excellence,” said Opposition senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior.

Citizens, on the other hand, took to social media and radio stations to air their views in support of the reconciliation.

“I want to forgive my neighbour. He was supporting Odinga and I was backing Kenyatta during the polls. We were not talking until recently. I forgive him and he has also forgiven me,” said Jared, a caller at an FM station on Wednesday night.

He then offered the phone to his neighbour who passed the same message. Several radio stations discussing the subject were also jammed with similar messages as citizens called for a fresh start.

On social media, the topic trended Wednesday evening but opinion was divided on Kenyatta’s move.

“Our President has set the tone. No one is more Kenyan than the other … hatred and malice must end. Positive critique of government is accepted,” said lawyer Donald Kipkorir.

James ole Kiyiapi, a professor of environment and a political analyst, said Kenyatta’s message was positive and must herald a new national spirit.

Critics, however, questioned the genuineness of the president’s move, noting for better reconciliation, he should have ordered for the compensation of those killed by police in election violence.

“Honest, transparent and genuine reconciliation is based on candid truth, justice and guarantee of non-repetition. Anything else is pure hoax,” said human rights activist Ndungu Wainaina.

Barrack Muluka, a political analyst, criticized Kenyatta’s move noting that real reconciliation can also happen if the country has an all-inclusive dialogue.

“What is happening now is reconciliation between Kenyatta and Odinga families. Citizens have not been involved…all we are being told is that we should forgive and reconcile,” he said.

Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi and a political analyst, however, lauded the gesture by the president noting that as the figure head, he is showing Kenyans direction.
“Reconciliation has to start from somewhere and it is good that this time round, it is beginning at the top which becomes easier for citizens to embrace it,” he said.

The best thing about the ongoing efforts to unite the country, according to him, is that they are good for the economy.

“This reconciliation will boost business environment thus create jobs making people happy at the end and reconcile naturally,” he said. Enditem


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