It is exactly one year since the famous handshake between President Kenyatta and Opposition leader Odinga removed a great deal of the tension that marked the aftermath of the 2017 elections. With this reconciliation of leaders, the opportunity to open dialogue more widely is the next step.
Our partner in Kenya, the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD-K), is marking this anniversary with the first People Dialogue Festival (#PeopleDialogueFestival), being held this week in Nairobi. The People Dialogue Festival is the first event of its kind to be held in Kenya, with voting citizens from all levels of society coming together to participate in the democratization process. Kenya’s president and opposition leader will be joined by trade unions, religious leaders, academics, students, women’s groups, and countless ordinary voters from across the public and private sector. Artists, poets, and musicians will also stage performances at the festival.
Modelled on the “People’s Meetings” held by countries such as Sweden and Denmark, the People Dialogue Festival aims to provide an even platform for all these participants. Through this, it will give voters a chance to connect with leaders so they can plan Kenya’s democratic future together. The dialogue will also reflect on the ongoing Building Bridges Initiative, that aims to develop ‘practical recommendations and reform proposals that build lasting unity’.
The need for public consensus behind Kenyan reforms is essential if they are to stand the test of time, and the People Dialogue Festival will act as the opportunity to forge this much-needed public support. The festival will create long-term dialogue spaces, so that national dialogue processes and peaceful political competition can take root.