Raila Odinga enjoys perks, better security after handshake

Former Prime minister Raila Odinga's fortunes are changing fast, thanks to the new rapport with President Uhuru Kenyatta under the banner of the Building Bridges Initiative.

Last week, the head of the National Super Alliance Secretariat (NASA), Norman Magaya, told The Standard that the State could soon take over payment of rent for Raila's office in Nairobi's Upperhill area.

Another high-level source in Raila's team argued that the benefits accruing from the new tide of 'bromance' between Uhuru and Raila, a departure from the post-2017 election tensions and hostilities, was consistent with the benefits the Constitution guarantees Raila and other top former senior public figures.

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“The Government had sent officers to conduct a valuation before beginning to pay rent. I think the process is ongoing,” Dr Magaya said when he was asked about the talk in Raila's circles that his security had been enhanced in all his homes in Kisumu, Mombasa, Nairobi and Bondo, where he recently but separately hosted Uhuru and later the President's brother, Muhoho Kenyatta.

The warm relations with Uhuru following the much-talked-about 'handshake' and political cooperation which they attribute to the decision to heal and unite Kenya, have also triggered talk that Raila now enjoys new status in the Government that cannot be explained away by the fact that he is a former premier or the de facto leader of the Opposition.

It also explains the talk that he now earns a salary and allowances, a benefit that had been withheld in the past few years over claims by top Government officials that he was not entitled to them as he had continued to dabble in politics instead of 'retiring'.

In line with the benefits outlined by the law, Raila alongside former vice president and his running mate in the past two elections, Kalonzo Musyoka, will enjoy better comfort as some of their staff are now believed to be in the process of getting paid from the Government payroll and their cars maintained.

The State reportedly began implementing the benefits soon after the handshake at Harambee House on March 9 last year, with the former premier getting at least 12 bodyguards attached to him. In addition, elite officers from the GSU provide 24-hour security in his listed homes.

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The State is also in the process of not only paying rent for Raila’s office at Capitol Hill building but catering for additional furnishing.

Lawyer Paul Mwangi, who co-chairs the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), said Raila was only receiving the benefits he was entitled to under the law. “Mzee (Raila) is only getting what he is entitled to as a retired prime minister. I don’t think there are extra privileges given to him,” said Mr Mwangi. 

Raila's profile has also risen, given his international assignment as the African Union's High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa.

Although Parliament had passed the law, which was revised in 2015, Raila and former vice presidents Kalonzo and Musalia Mudavadi were denied the benefits during Jubilee’s first term on grounds that they were still actively engaged in politics.

However, the truce between the President and Raila appears to have softened the stand, with Uhuru personally said to have instructed senior security chiefs to ensure Raila’s welfare was addressed. 

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For instance, when the former PM travels locally and internationally, security agencies are involved in his itinerary, with Kenyan envoys receiving him at the foreign capital he visits.  

Last year, officials of a micro-finance bank who had invited him to a function in Kisumu had to contend with having a representative from the county security team sit in all their planning meetings.

It is also notable that Raila has been receiving some State officials in his party office, the latest being Teachers Service Commission boss Nancy Macharia.

According to the Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers) Act (2015), Raila enjoys certain perks in his capacity as a former prime minister.

The Act stipulates that a retired prime minister shall, during his or her lifetime, be entitled to a monthly pension equal to 80 per cent of the monthly salary of the person's last monthly salary while in office and a lumpsum payment on retirement, calculated as a sum equal to one year's salary paid for each termed served in office.

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He is also provided with two saloon cars of an engine capacity not exceeding 2000cc which shall be replaceable once every four years and one four-wheel drive vehicle of an engine capacity not exceeding 3000cc which shall be replaceable once every four years.

Other benefits include three drivers, one personal assistant, one accountant, two secretaries, two house keepers, two senior support staff, two gardeners, two cooks and two cleaners.

He shall have armed security guards who shall be provided on request, diplomatic passports for him and his spouse, office and office equipment, maintenance expenses for the vehicles and access to the VIP lounge II at all airports within Kenya.

Last year, an ODM senator presented a Bill in the Senate intended to shield Opposition leaders from harassment by the State.

Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina explained that the law was necessary given that the Government could use the retirement perks as a political tool to blackmail Opposition leaders. The Bill seeks to ensure that the Government does not withdraw their security arbitrarily.

“This Bill is meant to ensure we respect our leaders who have played crucial roles in our governance system. They should be treated with honour. I have lobbied my colleagues from NASA and Jubilee and I am sure it will sail through,” Mr Kina said.

The Bill seeks to amend the law on retirement benefits for former top Government officials so that a joint committee of Parliament reviews any decisions the State makes about their perks.

It seeks to amend the Bill to provide that the former officials are assigned a specific number of armed bodyguards.

The Bill proposes that the former premier and former VP be entitled to no less than six armed bodyguards and no more than 10.

It also sets up a joint parliamentary committee to ensure that the Executive does not alter or modify the entitlements with a view to intimidate. 

Where there is a need to scale down their security, the Inspector General of Police shall refer the matter to the joint committee for approval. The committee shall consider the matter within 14 days and table a report in Parliament for consideration and adoption.

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