Uhuru, Raila to seek global support for BBI in US tours

By Eric Wainaina
Tuesday, February 4th, 2020
ODM leader Raila Odinga (centre) when he was seen off by Mathare MP Anthony Oluoch (left) and nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi at JKIA on Sunday, ahead of the US National Prayer Breakfast meeting. Photo/COURTESY
In summary

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga are expected to use their visit to Washington to rally international support for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

The two are set to address the 68th US National Prayer Breakfast meeting tomorrow and Thursday before holding a series of meetings with diplomats and development partners.

The global event is more than just a breakfast. It’s an invitation-only gathering to be attended by close to 2,000 elite politicians and top businesspeople, members of the US Congress, the diplomatic corps and religious leaders.

Past speakers include notable philanthropist Mother Theresa and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“Part of the reason the President and the former PM have been invited to attend the prayer breakfast is their demonstrated commitment to peaceful and constructive resolution of internal conflicts in Africa, particularly the example the Government of Kenya has set in deepening democratic values, rule of law and inclusive pro-poor development friendly policies,” said a statement by State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena.

Share journey

She added that during meetings with American business lobbyists, Uhuru would pitch for Kenya as an ideal business, investment and tourism destination.

He will also engage with US Congress chairmen of Finance, Defence and Foreign Relations Committees.

The March 9, 2018 Handshake between him and Raila has thrust them into the international limelight, with the two set to address a series of key meetings in the United States starting tomorrow. 

According to the invitation, the two leaders have been asked to share their “personal journey of faith and reconciliation”, which both have admitted was thorny.

“The Handshake has got many people talking. I was recently invited to Togo to help them find a way to work together with the Opposition in that country. This time around, President Kenyatta and I have been invited to Washington, DC, in February to the National Prayer Breakfast so that we can tell them more about the Handshake, because it is a unique thing,” Raila said during the BBI meeting in Kakamaga last month.

Other leaders on the US trip include Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, Nyandarua Senator Mwangi Githiomi, Kiambaa MP Paul Koinange and his Teso North counterpart Oku Kaunya. 

National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi yesterday said the two leaders are expected to demonstrate how the government and Opposition can work together and also interact with international partners.

The joint address by the two foes-turned-friends would have been unthinkable two years ago, when animosity led to a highly contested election and chaos that threatened to tear the country apart. 

The two are not only pushing to their pet project, the BBI, but have also morphed into dependable partners on governance effectively elbowing out Deputy President William Ruto.

International luncheon

The theme of the prayer breakfast hosted by United States Congress and organised by the Fellowship Foundation in Washington DC is: “Reconciliation, Faith and Peace Building” which is part of their efforts locally through BBI.

Uhuru and Raila who flew out of the country yesterday and Sunday evening, respectively, have also been invited to speak at the international luncheon that will precede the Prayer Breakfast. 

Raila, who is also the African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa, will also hold a roundtable meeting with African ambassadors today, ahead of the Prayer Breakfast activities.

He is expected to brief the ambassadors on the continent’s infrastructure and continental trade agenda.