National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga on Monday battled to convince his coalition partners they could still trust him and that his deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta was in good faith.
Raila put on a brave face as he met his co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula for the first time since Friday’s truce meeting with President Kenyatta.
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During the NASA meeting, Raila was hard-pressed to explain his decision to hold secret talks with Uhuru, reportedly for almost a month. The talks culminated in Friday’s deal at the President's Harambee House office and the handshake signalling a truce between him and the Jubilee Party leader whose presidency he had vowed not to recognise.
The NASA meeting, at Stoni Athi Resort in Machakos County, lasted several hours as Raila fought claims that he was not to be trusted.
The three told Raila that any deal reached between him and the President was personal and they would not be party to it.
However the former prime minister is reported to have exhorted his partners to embrace his actions, saying what transpired on Friday was not a deal but a ‘statement of intent'.
Raila also said he had requested the President to reinstate the security detail of all the NASA principals and MPs, and discharge those who had been arraigned following his controversial January 30 oath.
He told them that the team of advisors mandated to steer the talks would come up with proposals on a working formula, which will be subjected to the various NASA and affiliate party organs before it is adopted.
Raila is said to have apologised but defended himself by telling his colleagues even former South African President Nelson Mandela met apartheid leader Frederick de Klerk as a sign of unity, forgiveness and reconciliation.
But the leaders reminded him that the Mandela-de Clerk meeting was midwifed by, among others, current President Cyril Ramaphosa and was not done in secrecy.
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Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula accused Raila of engaging with them in bad faith. This was after it emerged that although the three had been approached separately to strike a deal with the Jubilee administration, only Raila had kept it a secret.
NASA insiders said Kalonzo had met a senior Jubilee official at his Yatta farm earlier this year while Mudavadi was reportedly approached by Uhuru’s kin separately.
The two had agreed in principle on talks, but demanded that they must be structured. They then briefed the NASA summit of the overtures from the Government.
“The principals were disappointed that Raila kept his talks top secret when they had briefed the summit of a request for talks by Jubilee agents. They told him to his face that they felt betrayed,” the source said.
The NASA leader had given mixed signals about attending yesterday’s meeting. This was after Siaya Senator James Orengo called former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama on Sunday evening asking him to tell the conveners that he might not be available as he needed time to reflect on the developments.
Monday morning, Raila called one of the principals, who told him they were at Panafric Hotel before heading for Athi River. Raila wanted to meet them at the hotel but they declined, asking him to meet them at Stoni Athi.
The three had failed to meet their leader on Friday, saying they were held up in different places. Kalonzo was in Machakos, Wetang’ula in Bungoma and Mudavadi on his way to Mombasa.
At Stoni Athi, Raila requested to have only the four principals and four NASA co-ordinating committee co-chairs Orengo (ODM), Muthama (Wiper), Sakwa Bunyasi (ANC) and Eseli Simiyu (Ford Kenya) take part in the meeting.
This meant those who accompanied the leaders, including Wiper’s Kivutha Kibwana, Ford Kenya’s Boni Khalwale and ANC’s Barrack Muluka, had to leave the meeting room.
Earlier, Prof Kibwana, the Wiper party chairman, had scoffed at Raila's bid to reach out to the President, describing it as self-seeking antics.
"So what is the value of the famous oath and pretended treason then and now? Why didn't Raila recognise Uhuru after August 8, 2017 or October 26, 2017? Why did he subject the country to a depressed economy for seven months?" asked Kibwana.
Mr Muluka has been on the offensive, accusing Raila of betraying the other leaders and scheming to take the oath alone to portray the other three NASA principals as cowards.
The closed-door meeting also saw those who attended leave their phones with their aides.
“For avoidance of doubt, we shall not take any questions since the matters we have been handling are extremely weighty. A more elaborate briefing will be given to the media and nation in the coming days,” Mudavadi said.
The ANC party chief said the leaders would revert to their respective parties to brief them on what Raila told them.
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“We encourage constructive and structured dialogue to address the root causes of our problems, including electoral injustice, insecurity, challenges of devolution, inclusivity, poverty and attack on the independence of the Judiciary,” Mudavadi said.
Dr Khalwale said: “We are happy the dialogue we were agitating for is now taking shape. Once the respective parties agree, we shall come up with an all-inclusive document that shall bring on board civil society, religious groups and trade unions.”