President Kenyatta's Message Timely As We Head to 2016 Elections [opinion] (

The president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, has just completed a three-day visit to Uganda that was a breath of fresh air to our election-charged political environment.

In what was evidently a busy schedule, President Kenyatta held bi-lateral meetings with his host Museveni, visited the Quality Chemicals factory, and addressed Parliament.

He further participated in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) meeting on South Sudan, also attended by Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

However, it is President Kenyatta’s speech to parliamentarians that should provide arguably the most important food for thought for Uganda, especially coming as the country gears up for what are billed to be competitive, even contentious, general elections in early 2016.

The speech, which Kenyatta says offered him an opportunity to “share with you a glimpse of the destiny that awaits us,” largely dwelt on how the governments of Uganda and Kenya are working together to reap the fruits of regional integration, and the challenges that still need to be overcome.

One of the challenges he dedicated a significant amount of time to was the future of democracy in East Africa, which he admitted “has had trouble flourishing in our region.”

Given the recent history of Kenya, which saw hundreds killed and thousands displaced due to post-election violence in early 2008, and then a peaceful leadership transition five years later, Kenyatta was speaking from the kind of experience that Uganda can, and should, learn from.

Kenyatta noted that those in government and the opposition have a duty to their country to ensure that being on any side of the political divide should not result in enmity. He also emphasised that we can make progress without destroying our country through divisive politics that breeds violence.

Ugandan politics has in the recent past been characterised by people taking extremist positions, and leaving little room for compromise, which is a recipe for the kind of violence that Kenya suffered seven years ago.

It would do Uganda a great service for the leading political players and the parties they represent to sow a message of unity in political diversity because Uganda, at the end of the day, is bigger than all of us and will continue to exist long after we are gone.


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