Why Raila supporters have made a dramatic about-turn

President Uhuru Kenyatta with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga when they addressed the media at Harambee House, Nairobi. [Photo: Standard]
Residents from Nyanza - an ODM stronghold, are warming up to the new found ‘bromance’ between President Uhuru Kenyatta and National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga.

The region, particularly Kondele in Kisumu bore the biggest brunt during the standoff between the two leaders with deaths and loss of property witnessed on several occasions during anti-Jubileee protests. But now it is interesting how things have changed and the locals even want President Kenyatta to visit Nyanza.

On Friday when Raila, stood atop a limousine to address residents in Kondele, Kisumu, his message was radically different from the previous times he has been there.

“Do you support my dialogue with Uhuru? Have you allowed me to bring him here so that we can preach peace and reconciliation?” Raila asked. And the crowd appeared excited.

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Michael Omuga, a youth leader in Kondele and a key organiser of demostrations captured the mood when he said: “We in Nyanza do not know how to oppose “Baba”. If he says aboutturn, that’s what we do because he is always right.”

Explaining the sudden and dramatic change of allegiance by Raila supporters, Maseno University Political Scientist, Dr Tom Mboya attributed it to Kenya’s personalistic nature of politics.

Sworn enemies

“In Kenya, politics  revolved  around personalities. Raila enjoys  massive  grassroots support and when he moves, people will move with him without asking questions,” he says.

Dr Mboya says the Uhuru-Raila handshake was akin to the Kanu-National Development Party merger in 2001. 

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“Before Raila agreed to work with President Moi, they were sworn enemies but they later signed a truce and worked together, albeit for a short time. In the last Friday’s handshake, none ever knew Raila and Uhuru would meet and dialogue,” says Dr Mboya.

He says the truce between the two leaders is significant to the country.

“In 2001, at Kasarani sports complex when Raila joined Moi, some people had to be sacrificed  because they could not go against the agreement. We saw then Vice President George Saitoti making the famous quote that there comes a time when the nation is bigger than an individual.”

Dr Mboya says even in the Uhuru-Raila cooperation, some hard decisions will have to be made.  He says compensating victims of the political mess during the standoff may not be possible.

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