Madaraka Day Celebration this year was a development feast for Luo Nyanza, thanks to the handshake. An extension of the railway line, a state of art stadium, a refurbished causeway and Kisumu port, improved roads and construction of health facilities - the handshake goodies bag was loaded with fruits born on the cordial relationships between the President and his brother Odinga.
In March 2018 Kenya politics took a twist no political analyst or pundits anticipated. Sworn enemies and bitter rivals President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga shook hands on the doorstep of Harambee House promising a renewed hope of peace, unity and development after a hotly contested 2017 general election, economic boycotts and civil disobedience that would culminate to Raila swearing in himself as the People's President.
While the handshake sought to end violence, cut through the deeply polarized nation and focus on a better future guided by 9 points agenda to address challenges that bedeviled this country, it was the greatest attempt in history to bring together two conflicting communities (Luo and Kikuyu) and in deed families (Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga).
The frosty relationship between Luo Nyanza and Kikuyu or the government of the day might have been the worst kept secret. And it didn't start that way. When Kenya got it's Independence and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga demanded the release of Kenyatta in order that he lead the new state, all seemed well. However, with resignation of Oginga as VP, assassination of Mboya, 1969 KPU disbandment and chaos that ensued - tensions heightened between these two sides.
Although Uhuru and Raila teamed up in the NO camp against the 2005 referendum, they still parted ways in the general election that followed two years later when Uhuru endorsed Kibaki. Kenya as a country would go through unprecedented post election violence and Luo Nyanza would again be embroiled in police brutality resulting into lose of lives and property. It was not any better when Uhuru took the instruments of power in 2013 and 2017 - Kikuyu Luo was always a replica of dormant volcano ready to erupt anytime.
In the whole of that time, Luo Nyanza was economically abandoned and deliberately sidelined in so far as development is concerned. Owing to the political instability in the area marred with chaos after every hotly contested general election, a ticking time bomb, and the frictions between the regimes and the region, Roads in the region were in poor conditions, health care infrastructure not in desired conditions, economic activities in the areas such as fishing, trade, agriculture not getting goverment support and no interest by the regime to better recreational and entertainment facilities such as stadiums.
But this is now changing. Even as the BBI, meant to offer political longer lasting solutions such as electoral injustice, police brutality and negative ethnic antagonism, still faces a legal hitch, the handshake is already turning the cause of Luo Nyanza economic history.
Floods that have been bedeviled Koru agriculture and living standards now will be eradicated by the construction of a 25 Billion Koru dam - a project that has been delayed since 1980s.
Uhuru's 3 day trip also included launching of Ksh 3 Billion Economic Zone in Miwani that aims to better sugarcane farming and Sugar Factories. Odinga and his brother will also witness construction of Kisumu-Butere line, Mamboleo-Muhorini-Kipsitet Road, commissioning of Ksh 4.2 Billion Lake Basin Mall, opening of Uhuru Business Park and market complex and Kisumu Port which it is said Uhuru Kenyatta holds dearly close to his heart.
It goes without saying that the venue for this Madaraka Day Celebration was Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium constructed at the cost of 500 Millions. Isn't this too much for a region that boycotted the election of the President or doesn't this goes a long way to show how economic progress can be witnessed on the hands of unity, peace and cooperation?
WRITTEN BY MICHAEL AREGA AND EUGYNE OCHIENG