In Summary
  • Ahead of the surprise Harambee House meeting, Mr Godec had been at the heart of rounds of shuttle diplomacy between Mr Kenyatta’s State House and Mr Odinga’s Capital Hill.

  • Since the handshake and appointment of a joint secretariat headed by diplomat Martin Kimani and lawyer Paul Mwangi, there has been no announcement on progress and the way forward.

  • He is keen that the issues, including ethnic divisions, inclusivity, the political and electoral system, protection of judiciary and fundamental freedoms be addressed before the countdown to the 2022 General Election.

Outgoing American Ambassador Bob Godec is urging President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga to speed up the process towards launch of a national dialogue.

As anxiety grows over lack of progress since the famous March 9 televised handshake between the two principal political foes, Mr Godec, in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Nation, expressed hope that the peace gesture will lead to an all-inclusive dialogue to address some of Kenya’s most intractable problems.

Mr Godec describes the handshake as a pivotal moment that helped cool down political temperatures, but is conscious that lack of information on the way forward does not bode well. 

The ambassador, who is set to leave Kenya after a record six-year stint (the typical tenure is three years) played a pivotal role in brokering a truce following a period of political tensions in the wake of the disputed presidential election last year.

SHUTTLE DIPLOMACY

Ahead of the surprise Harambee House meeting, Mr Godec had been at the heart of rounds of shuttle diplomacy between Mr Kenyatta’s State House and Mr Odinga’s Capital Hill office involving a large number of intermediaries, including other western envoys, and religious, business and community leaders.

He does not want to claim credit for the breakthrough and remains coy on inner details of the interventions that finally broke the ice, but the discussion makes it clear that the United States was a key player, and committed itself to offering financial and technical support.

Since the handshake and appointment of a joint secretariat headed by diplomat Martin Kimani and lawyer Paul Mwangi, there has been no announcement on progress and the way forward.

In an intervirew with the Nation a fortnight ago, Mr Odinga was not willing to reveal much, only saying an announcement would be made in due course.

Mr Godec now adds that a lot of work has been taking place behind the scenes, and hopes that the discussion will lead to unveiling of a framework for national dialogue. He hopes an announcement can be made soon to calm any anxieties and also make public the finer details to what he hopes will be an a open, transparent, all-inclusive dialogue to address not just a political settlement, but the deep-seated underlying issues that invariably lead to conflict.

2022 COUNTDOWN

He is keen that the issues, including ethnic divisions, inclusivity, the political and electoral system, protection of judiciary and fundamental freedoms be addressed before the countdown to the 2022 General Election.

Having been so closely involved, Mr Godec no doubt would like to see some progress before he makes way for his successor Kyle McCarter. He is marking time unsure of when he will exactly depart, awaiting the arrival of Mr McCarter who still has to go through the formalities of vetting by Congress.

The long-serving envoy, however, continues to be fully engaged in nudging Kenyan politicians to reach a settlement that will ensure the country is never again at risk of violent meltdown over competition for political office.

Mr Godec believes that once President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga put aside the issue of whether the former was legitimately elected, they opened the door for Kenyans to look at the broader picture beyond political competition. Both leaders were genuine, he believes, in putting aside their differences and reaching broad concurrence on the critical issues that ail Kenya.

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