African Press International (API)

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Leaders bid farewell to the late Jeremiah Nyagah

Posted by African Press International on April 19, 2008

Publisher: Korir, api africanpress@getmail.no source.standard.

From right to left: Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, President Mwai Kibaki, Retired former President Daniel Arap Moi and Prime Minister Raila Odinga walking in unity to the burial of former Minister Jeremiah Nyagah (at Kamutungi Farm, Gachoka Constituency, Mbeere District )

Raila, Kibaki preach unity to Kenyans

Patrick Mathangani and Munene Kamau

The new dawn beckoned as President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga ventured out for a public engagement a day after the Grand Coalition Cabinet took office.

They had similar messages: the burning urge to unite the country; the strong will to make the coalition work; and the irrepressible will to ensure Kenya will not return where it was in the season of post-election violence where ethnic passions ran high. Both summed the new era in two words a “New Beginning”.

President Kibaki, former retired President Moi, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka joined family and friends at the burial of former Cabinet minister Jeremiah Nyagah in Mbeere District on Friday.

Kibaki and Raila kicked off the day with separate meetings with the Commonwealth Secretary General Mr Kamalesh Sharma. Raila told the visiting dignitary he was determined to see Kenya become the model of coalition government in Africa. Raila also met senior members of Zimbabwes Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who believe their party beat Mr Robert Mugabe in the elections whose results have not been announced three weeks later today. He promised them he would raise the issue of the Zimbabwean crisis in the Cabinet. MDC secretary general Mr Tendai Biti led them.

At the burial there however were confusing signals on hierarchy in the new dispensation as Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka sat right next to the President at the podium. In the first public appearance, at the burial of veteran politician Mr Jeremiah Nyagah, it was Raila who welcomed the Head of State to speak.

It was a sad day as Kenyans and its leaders, including former President Moi who sat next to Kibaki, bade farewell to one of the last of Independence heroes.

But it was also symbolic as it brought Kenyas past and present under one banner, even as newly sworn-in ministers, drawn from rival parties, adjusted to sharing power, as well as the attention of cameras in the VIP pavilion.

And so was Mzee Nyagah buried, ringed by the two classes of Kenyas politics the older generation that took over after Independence represented by Mzee Moi and President Kibaki.

There was also the younger crop waiting on the wings discernible from the faces of the younger politicians such as Raila and Kalonzo, as well as the two deputy premiers Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr Uhuru Kenyatta.

The night before, after being sworn-in, Raila hosted dinner for members of the new Cabinet, members of the diplomatic corp and the top cream of Government and the mandarins of industry.

As the guests who included chief mediator Dr Kofi Annan and other foreign dignitaries were treated to sumptuous meals in the Premiers honour, Raila again pledged the Grand Coalition Government would last five years.

“Let us use the five years and give Kenyans a new constitution Let us chew the gum and scale the stairs at the same time,” he urged.

“Unless we embrace the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood the Grand Coalition Government will not work Kenya is back on its feet. We have to make this Grand coalition work,” said Kalonzo at the dinner.

The President, PM and VP, each arrived with his military chopper, and in the same style they left. Kalonzo rode in one with Mudavadi while Raila took along Tourism minister and ODM Pentagon member Mr Najib Balala.

In the company of ten ministers Kibaki and Raila asked Kenyans to forget the past and forge ahead.

Raila seemed to remind Kenyans that they had fought and killed each other largely over land matters and now he would move deliberately and initiate land reforms that would allow Kenyans to own land wherever they wished.

“God has shown us the way and made us to come together. Now, we are united and will sure work together,” said President Kibaki in Mbeere.

He expressed optimism Kenyans would not allow anything to distract them, saying they must now concentrate on nation building. “Id like to ask everyone to forget what has happened and move ahead,” said an enthusiastic Kibaki.

The President, appearing confident the Cabinet would hold, said nothing at all would return the country back to a crisis.

Raila said land was an important issue since it was the main reason Kenyans fought for independence. He appeared to reach out to the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru communities, which he said spearheaded the struggle for independence driven by the need to reclaim their land.

The Government, he said, would launch reforms to ensure justice and that everyone was allowed to live wherever they wished.

“Nobody should be thrown out of where he lives. Kenya is big enough; everyone can get a place to live,” said the PM in an apparent reference to evictions of thousands of people from their land during the post-election violence.

“We want to see a united Kenya. Let us stop fighting and killing each other,” he said. Raila recalled that during the struggle for independence when he was a boy, the radio would always announce that the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru were dangerous.

“We used to wonder what kind of people these are,” he said amid laughter.

Nyagah who speakers described as a patriot and nationalist served in President Kenyatta and Mois governments. He died at the Aga Khan Hospital last week while undergoing treatment. He was buried at his Kamutungi Farm in Gachoka.

“He was a political icon, a true patriot and a founding father,” said the VP. Nyagah was the chief commissioner of scouts from 1988 to 2003. The VP today holds the position.

Moi said some leaders, who he did not name, were tribalists and not patriots. He said such people were always grumbling and complaining, but asked Kenyans to support Kibaki.

Moi, who supported Kibaki against Raila in the presidential race, said running the Government was no easy task for the President.

“If you were in Kibakis shoes, you would be quite enthusiastic, but you would soon burn out and even run away,” said Moi. “Let us not be driven by hate, which is destroying Africa today,” he advised.

He said Nyagah was a great patriot who served with him in the Legco and fought for the countrys freedom from the British.

“He was a great friend and we worked together for a very long time,” said Moi.

Kibaki asked Kenyans to dedicate their lives to serving the nation, just like Nyagah did.

Former Attorney General Mr Charles Njonjo, who was Nyagahs schoolmate, said unlike many African leaders who never quit, Nyagah knew when to do so.

“It is sometimes good that people in Kenya should know when to retire,” said the former AG, who supported Raila in the presidential campaign, last year.

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African Press International – api

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