Deputy President Ruto, President Uhuru, former PMRaila, and former VPKalonzo when
they met at State House, Nairobi on Saturday.
By Oscar Obonyo

NAIROBI; KENYA: Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka held a three-hour long face-to-face meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House.

The meeting has been billed as the most significant political development since the inauguration of the fourth President.

On Saturday’s meeting is likely to send a strong signal that will ease political temperatures ahead of the official opening of the 11th Parliament and the Senate.

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This is the second time Uhuru and Raila are meeting since the March 4 General Election. The first meeting is reported to have taken place at the Muthaiga home of a city businessman.

The meeting comes at a time President Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto are crafting a Cabinet that will reflect the face of Kenya.

Personal security

Although other details of the meeting remain scanty, sources close to Uhuru, Raila, Kalonzo and Ruto who also attended, hinted to The Standard On Sunday that discussions revolved around personal security of the CORD leaders and possible settlement of their retirement packages.

The latest development contradicts suggestions and claims that plans were afoot to have some CORD allied MPs and Senators to resign, to accommodate Raila and Kalonzo in either of the two Houses.

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The meeting, which took place from 10am at State House, was made public a day after our sister paper, The Standard On Saturday exclusively detailed a series of political overtures and meetings between the two sides. The meeting also came a day ahead of the retreat of CORD elected members, which kick off in Naivasha on Sunday. 

Kajiado South MP Joseph Nkaissery, who doubles up as deputy Secretary General of Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), seemed to have been in the picture. He hinted to The Standard On Sunday that the CORD principals were “too senior” to return to Parliament.

“They can still play their leadership role from outside, including rejuvenating the Opposition and planning ahead of the next elections. Otherwise, CORD is not short of competent stewards who can head operations from Parliament and Senate,” he said.

Speaking in Khwisero constituency on Saturday during the burial of Mama Ellena Andayi, mother to area lawmaker Benjamin Andola, Raila told supporters he had warned Uhuru and Ruto against buying members of his team to their side. ?

“I met with the two and we discussed how we shall operate. I cautioned them against buying my team and instead I told them to work on one side and we work on the other. We have to have two teams – one the opposition and their side,” he affirmed.

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Speaking after State House meeting, Raila also divulged that he had turned down an offer by Jubilee Government to serve as special envoy asserting that he had a lot of work to do. Instead, Raila said he would strengthen his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party and CORD.

Except for calming post-election temperatures, statements from both the Presidential Press Unit and the former Prime Minister’s official spokesman, Dennis Onyango, differed slightly on the gist of the meeting.

Courtesy call

In its statement to the Press, the PPS referred to the meeting as “a courtesy call” by Raila and Kalonzo to President Kenyatta and his Deputy Ruto.

“During the meeting, the CORD leaders conveyed their message of goodwill to the President and his deputy saying they wished them well in running the country,” read the statement. ? In contrast, the statement from Raila’s aide was more specific about the “real issues” discussed.

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Raila and Kalonzo raised concerned about the quest by Jubilee to take control of House committees and thereby denying the minority party a critical role in key committees such as Accounts and Investments.

“President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto pledged that the Jubilee Coalition, which commands majority in both Houses, is committed to ensuring the existence of a strong opposition party, as a necessary tool for democratisation and to ensure steady check on Government,” said the statement from Raila.

And following the gesture by Uhuru and Ruto to include some members of Raila’s CORD team in Government, the former PM and VP are said to have presented a case for tribal and regional balance in Cabinet and other senior Government appointments.    

Similar sentiments were made by former Attorney General Amos Wako, who asked President Kenyatta, a day before he was sworn-in to office, to absorb members of other communities –including those who did not vote for him – in senior Government positions.

Separately, a source allied to Jubilee Coalition and privy to the State House meeting, confided that Raila and Kalonzo also raised concerns over their personal security.

This is after their security detail was whittled down from nearly 50 personnel to just 12 each. The CORD duo also wanted access to at least two chase cars each.

“Although promising to look into the matter and push for their case, President Kenyatta advised that the security demand was solely under the prerogative of another independent official – the Inspector General of Police,” says our source.

It was agreed, however, that this demand would be addressed anyway, considering that a precedent had been set as the Ninth Vice-President, Moody Awori, was enjoying a 24-hour security presence at his Nairobi and Gulamwoyo homes in Busia County.

Retirement package

The Standard On Sunday also learnt that President Kenyatta agreed to work out a retirement package for Raila and Kalonzo.

The two missed out on retirement benefits when former President Kibaki signed into law the Presidential Retirement Benefits Amendment Bill 2013, but rejected the Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers) Bill 2013.

Had he assented to the latter into law, Raila and Kalonzo would have been entitled to 80 per cent of their previous salaries from next month. Former Speaker Kenneth Marende and former Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi also missed out on the package.

And while appreciating the good gesture by the top political leaders to reach out to one another, Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo reads politics in On Saturday’s State House meeting.

According to the two-term MP, Uhuru and Ruto have been in politics fairly long enough and can therefore not underestimate Raila’s political might and shrewdness.

“They want to get close because they realise they cannot wish away a man who got over 5.3 million votes.

The country is virtually split into two and it will be politically dangerous if such a huge proportion of Kenyans were to become skeptical of Uhuru’s leadership,” he said.

However, Senator of Machakos County, Johnston Muthama hopes that Uhuru and Ruto are genuine about their overtures.

Raila and Kalonzo, he says, must make a wise decision as to whether the move is good for the country or is purely meant to camouflage possible dirty operations of the Jubilee Government.

“Despite the fact that we viciously competed against one another, at the end of the day we are all Kenyans and it is important to forge unity as a country,” reacted Muthama.

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Raila Kalonzo Uhuru William Ruto Amos Wako