Raila Odinga has shaken hands with several politicians from Central Kenya since the March 9 unity pact with President Uhuru Kenyatta. Former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and 2013 presidential contender Peter Kenneth are among those who have made a beeline to meet the former Prime Minister.
But few handshakes have elicited as much debate as last week’s conciliatory meeting with Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru.
The two bitterly fell out in 2015 after Raila directly linked her to the loss of Sh791 million at the National Youth Service (NYS) and demanded that she be held responsible.
In several instances, the ODM leader also accused President Uhuru of ‘shielding’ Waiguru, claiming that her name was deliberately erased from an Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) dossier of top officials linked to corruption, which he tabled in Parliament sparking a mass exodus from government as the suspects stepped aside.
When she resigned as Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary in November 2015, Waiguru said sustained attacks from the Opposition on her person and children had taken a toll on her health and argued her doctor advised her to take up lighter duties. Waiguru subsequently filed a defamation case against Railademanding evidence of her involvement in the NYS scandal, but she took Kenyans by surprise when she visited Raila at his Capitol Hill office last week and where they buried the hatchet on Twitter: Waiguru dropped the defamation suit in the “spirit of national cohesion and reconciliation” and left the NYS matter to investigative agencies.
Political pundits quickly linked the meeting to Uhuru Succession politics. Waiguru is among possible running mate of Deputy President William Ruto if he clinches the Jubilee ticket in 2022 as per the pre-2013 MoU with President Uhuru. Other quarters saw a possible team up with Raila.
Sources in the corridors of power, however, told The Nairobian that the Waiguru-Raila ‘handshake’ was a Presidential directive; part of the Building Bridges Initiative. Cabinet Secretary without portfolio Raphael Tuju and Jubilee Vice Chair David Murathe were tasked by State House with organizing the meeting.
A day after meeting Raila, Waiguru also met former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama and Siaya Senator James Orengo at Milimani Courts for the withdrawal of a defamation case she filed against Muthama and former Kakamega Senator Bonnie Khalwale for derogatorily associating her with the First Family. The two were asked to update the court on the progress on November 30.
Waiguru is Vice Chair, Council of Governors and the likely successor to current chair, Turkana Governor Josephat Nanok when his term ends.
Ahead of the 5th Devolution Conference in Kakamega in April, the President had directed Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and Waiguru to meet Raila and brief him on the event but the meeting never took place for unspecified reasons.
A close confidant of Governor Waiguru intimated that 2022 was not on her mind at the moment. The confidant told The Nairobian that “I have not spoken to her about the meeting but I think it is still too early. Also, it is not automatic that Ruto will be the automatic candidate. The competition for the Jubilee ticket has been thrown wide open after the President’s recent remarks that he will shock everyone when he names his favoured successor. It may even be Raila.”
Before she resigned from the Cabinet, Waiguru was one of the most powerful figures in government with some referring to her as a de facto Prime Minister. While the rest of her ministry staff, including the PS, operated from the Treasury Building, she worked from Harambee House, the president’s office.
The president and Waiguru had previously worked together at the Treasury when Uhuru was Finance Minister and Waiguru the Director, Integrated Financial Management and Information System (IFMIS), and, Head of Governance.
When Uhuru first became President in 2013, she was said to have been part of the team that drafted the reorganization of Cabinet.
In 2015, President Uhuru was forced to publicly state that he was not favouring her because they were romantically involved. “There are those who keep on making wild allegations claiming that Waiguru is whatever to me, or so many other things, but I have mine and I don’t need another one,” said Uhuru during a stopover in Eldoret town.
The governor has also mended fences with Ruto, who demanded she takes responsibility after Kabuga admitted she registered 20 companies that were awarded NYS tenders instead of “long lectures, kingereza mingi and catwalks.”