President Uhuru Kenyatta has described ODM leader Raila Odinga as a peaceful and forgiving statesman who consistently and tirelessly works hard for the peace, unity and progress of the Kenyan nation.
The President said that contrary to how he is portrayed by some of his political detractors, Mr Odinga had proved, over the years, to be a genuine leader who has the interests of the country at heart.
“It is not Raila who is a man of war. If he was a man of war, he would have resisted any attempt at peace between him and (former President) Kibaki. If he was a man of war, he would have resisted any attempts at making the handshake happen," the President said.
The Head of State, who spoke at today's ODM National Delegates Conference (NDC) at Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani in Nairobi County, blamed Kenya's recurrent post-election political violence in the country on the country's governance system which he said promotes the "winner takes it all", excluding other political players.
He said the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) was aimed at curing the ineffective governance system by creating inclusivity.
The President said Mr Odinga had on many occasions sacrificed personal ambition for the sake of the country, terming the ODM leader as a peacemaker.
"I am not here because of Raila Amollo Odinga the politician. The politician is the man I have been in competition with for many years. I am here because of Raila Odinga the leader. Raila is a peacemaker. I am here because of Raila Amollo Odinga the leader. I am here to tell Kenyans that Raila is a peacemaker."
“A politician thinks of what he can get at that moment in time, but a leader thinks of the country, the future of the people and their children’s children,” President Kenyatta said.
He added: "If Raila was a warmonger, he would still be agitating and protesting. A man who looks and understands the causes of violence is a peacemaker. I want to dissuade Kenyans from the perception that Raila loves war. Raila is a peacemaker," President Kenyatta said, adding that Mr Odinga was not anyone's political project.
At the same time, President Kenyatta reminded Kenyans never to take national cohesion for granted saying that it takes courageous and determined leaders like Mr Odinga to attain sustainable peace.
"Many people do not understand the meaning of peace, they think that peace can be bought in the market or can be dug in their shambas or they can stand at a corner and shout peace and then it comes. Getting peace is a hard thing."
“For peace to be experienced, it requires an intention of courageous leaders to say we want peace. Leaders who have the strength and courage to be able to stand up and fight and advocate for peace even when those nearest to them prefer the easy way out," President Kenyatta said.
On the 2018 'handshake with the ODM supremo, the President revealed that it wasn't an easy undertaking because their respective supporters had developed hardline positions.
“But Raila had the courage, he had the strength of mind and spirit and love for this country to know that a ‘handshake’ was important for us to unite our country,” he said.
In his address, Mr Odinga gave a blow-by-blow account of events leading up to the handshake, saying his long political relationship with President Kenyatta and his deep love for Kenya led to their closing of ranks.
Mr Odinga emphasized the need for unity among all Kenyans, noting that it is only through peace and unity that the country will be able to achieve its ambitious development aspirations.
“Politics do not have to burn our country. The unity of Kenya which seemed remote and impossible is now unfolding before our own eyes,” Mr Odinga as he commended the President a successful tenure.