President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy return to Afraha Stadium in Nakuru tomorrow- the same place where they unveiled Jubilee Alliance four years ago.
An alliance that would propel them to power in 2013 polls.
But this time, they will not be going to the stadium to unveil a new political vehicle, although that is also in the pipeline. Their mission is to lead a thanksgiving ceremony following the collapse of all the Kenyan cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
But they also have another important mission: To preach peace and recociliation ahead of next year’s General Election.
“We want to promise you that our unity with Ruto…we shall preach peace and ensure that no other time shall Kenyans shed blood,” Mr Uhuru told the gathering at the Afraha Stadium on December 2, 2012, four months before he was sworn in as the President. That is the message that the two are are expected to emphasise tomorrow.
The President and his deputy William Ruto’s nostalgic return to Nakuru comes with a bittersweet memory: In 2012, they were among six Kenyans facing crimes against humanity charges at the ICC following the violence that followed the announcement of the disputed 2007 presidential election results.
Four year’s later, the two are free men and the stadium is set to play a different but important role in the country’s political history: Seeking true reconciliation, peace and unity among Kenyans ahead of the 2017 General Election in which they will be seeking re-election.
Besides being the venue where the Jubilee merger was unveiled, around the same time in 2008 the stadium was a centre of human suffering, being one of the 253 places where post-election violence survivors sought refugee.
Hundreds of families uprooted from their homes in the sprawling Kaptebwo slum, Kwa Rhonda and Free Area estates sought refugee at the stadium before former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan successfully brokered a power-sharing arrangement between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.
Governor Kinuthia Mbugua said more than 500,000 people including governors, senators, MPs and clergymen will attend the meeting to pray for country after the end of the ICC cases.
Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria, one of the leaders actively involved in the preparations of the meeting, said this time around the country’s healing process, true reconciliation and unity will begin at Afraha.
Mr Gikaria observed that despite being a place where The National Alliance (TNA) and United Republican Party (URP) unveiled their political marriage, the ruling coalition is likely to make a major political declaration there.
“Any political arrangement that starts here has an impact across the country. Nakuru is the country’s political capital,” he said.
Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama (ODM) said the prayer rally will be a perfect opportunity for the two leaders to unite and reconcile the country.
“Kenyans are no longer looking in the rear view mirror. We turned a page, and it’s time to write a new chapter from Afraha Stadium,” Mr Arama said.
Analysts, however, view Saturday’s event as an early attempt by the Jubilee administration to solidify the Rift Valley vote ahead of next year’s election.
“It will be a perfect opportunity for them to sell their Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) and galvanise the rift,” said University of Eldoret lecturer Philip Chebunet.
However, Dr Chebunet, who teaches political science, says politics should be tempered with humility and reconciliation.
“There will be temptations to bash rebels and absentees in Nakuru but the President and his deputy should focus on healing the country,” Chebunet said.
According to the State House, President Kenyatta’s message to the country at Afraha will be “about peace, togetherness, reconciliation and how to build better politics.