Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, called on Kenyans to forgive him for ‘damaging the unity of the country in any way’ during last year’s heated and contested presidential elections.
The president was delivering the first state of the nation address in his second and final term of office.
“If there was anything I said last year that hurt or wounded you, if I damaged the unity of this country in any way, I ask you to forgive me, and to join me in repairing that harm,” Kenyatta said.
The president also hailed opposition leader, Raila Odinga, for accepting to work with him to restore national unity and reconciliation.
‘‘Rt. Hon. Raila and I stood together not because we agreed on every item of politics or policy, but because we agreed that Kenya belongs to all of us.’‘
Kenyatta was heavily criticised last year after he called the judges “thugs” after the Supreme Court annulled his election win in the August 8 polls.
He also called Odinga a ‘madman’ after the latter boycotted the rerun which Kenyatta won, to be declared president.
Odinga then infamously swore himself in as the people’s president, before the March 9 handshake restored order in the political landscape of the country.
‘We must change how we compete’
“I pray that all of us will spend the days and weeks after this address repairing the bonds that frayed last year,” Kenyatta urged the joint sitting of senators and members of parliament.
The president appealed to his fellow leaders to consider changing their approach to political competition, arguing that while Kenyans are proud of ‘our cultural heritage’, ‘it does not follow that our ethnic identity is our political identity.’
Kenyan politics is heavily driven by ethnic alliances and differences.
The speech was concluded with a solemn vow by the president, which many Kenyans can only hope is translated into meaningful reform by the political and security agencies.
“Never again should a Kenyan life be lost for politics sake. Never again should a Kenyan lose property because of politics.’‘
Around 150 people were killed in election-related, with police accused of using excessive force to quell opposition-organised protests.