For the first time, yesterday President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga lifted the lid on the awkward and tense session that led to the public handshake outside Harambee House on March 9 last year.
Speaking at Bomas of Kenya when he launched the Building Bridges Initiative report, Uhuru said their meet up was not easy.
“Kukutana kwetu haikuwa kitu rahisi… tulikuwa na hofu… ilikuwa unajiuliza… huyu mtu tukikutana tutaambiana nini? [Our meeting was not an easy one. We were worried. Everyone was asking themselves, What will we talk about when we meet?], he said.
Uhuru said they drank tea for 45 minutes without uttering a word to each other at his office in Harambee House.
“Tulikunywa chai 45 minutes na hakuna mwenye alikuwa anaongea… ilikuwa tunauliza; habari ya nyumbani… habari ya mama…. wako tu…. habari ya watoto… wako sawa,” he said.
(We took tea for 45 minutes and were not talking to each other. We were just asking each other questions about home, wives and the children)
“Hakuna maneno mengine ambayo yangeweza kutoka.. after one hour we then started discussions… we nearly slept there… tukimaliza tukasema tofauti zetu sio kubwa vile…”
(No words could come out of our mouths. we started discussions after an hour…..)
Raila who spoke before Uhuru said they had a 19-hour discussion before they agreed to work together.
“It took a long 19 hours to discuss this. After the long deliberations, we agreed among ourselves,” he said.
“We then invited two lawyers to come and put these views that we had together… and we said we will have this conversation among us,” he said.
A fresh push to review the structure of the Executive as proposed by the handshake team has begun amid concerns that the report has not adequately addressed the question of inclusivity.
The details emerged as President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila unveiled the report at the historic Bomas of Kenya yesterday, an event that was attended by thousands from across the country.
The Building Bridges Initiative report has proposed the creation of a non-executive prime minister, appointed by the President from MPs in the majority party in the National Assembly.
The 14-man team also wants the reintroduction of the office of leader of Official Opposition and a mixed Cabinet drawn from parliamentarians and technocrats.
However, yesterday, a section of leaders who spoke at the Bomas said the structure of the Executive as proposed must be among the issues to be re-examined afresh.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions secretary general Francis Atwoli said there should be at least five additional offices in the Executive.
He proposed two deputy presidents, a prime minister and his two deputies.
“On the Executive, we would need to do some amendments. The President should have two deputies and should have the powers to appoint a prime minister. The prime minister should equally have two deputies,” Atwoli said amid booing by a section of the crowed.
However, Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka said the report was making it very restrictive for the President to appoint the PM.
Kalonzo who served as Vice President during the grand coalition government said the window allowed for Kenyans to make recommendations on the report should be used to review the restructure the Executive.
“From what I have seen on the President appointing a prime minister, you make it so difficult for whoever would be President to appoint a prime minister. The absolute majority, if they can’t get that he has to go back to the drawing board and get a new name,” Kalonzo said
“I assume a technical team will now take over from the able team lead by Mzee PC Yusuf Haji. They would look at the document that will further unite this country.”
For the first time, ODM also said the Executive structure as presented by the task force needs “serious discussion”.
ODM Party Leader Raila Odinga has often rooted for a parliamentary system of government.
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