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The surprise announcement could lower political tension in a country that is East Africa's richest economy and a key regional hub for security, diplomacy, and trade.

Mr Tillerson assured President Kenyatta that his country was also keen to see continental reforms of the business environment but was glad that the judicial reforms in place meant contracts were respected and there was a clear path on investment.

This interview was the first one to combine the two politicians since five years.

"Time has come for us to confront our differences because they are becoming too entrenched", said Odinga. "Elections come and go but Kenya remains".

Kenya is the strongest economy in East Africa and an important U.S. ally.

He called Odinga "his brother" on Friday and promised "we will begin a process of bringing our people together" after the elections.

"In Kenya, Secretary Tillerson will meet with President Uhuru Kenyatta and other government officials".

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He said the security situation is still dependent on AMISOM and Somalia partners, and that the planned UN/AU withdrawal of AMISOM by 2020 needs to be carefully reviewed. "We need to get out of this cycle of just these two men, or a few people at the top, meeting", he said.

"This is a purely domestic initiative", Mr Odinga's spokesman Dennis Onyango said. "We refuse to allow our diversity to kill our nation".

Secretary Tillerson says the US will seek to work with African nations, providing them with incentives to improve governance and meet their long-term security and development goals. "They have successfully engineered this", said Aly Khan Satchu, an independent analyst in Nairobi.

County Governors, Cabinet Secretaries and Members of Parliament are among those who have expressed optimism that the gesture by the two national leaders is the beginning of national healing and unity.

With the country at breaking point and growing political and economic injustices reigniting deeply ethnic hatreds, Raila Odinga chose yet again a path he often has: the path of negotiation rather than confrontation to right the wrongs and protects the people from the horrors that this drawn-out, looming conflict posed.

This article was reported by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.