Ruto had his way in picking Azimio leaders to US trip

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

Azimios leader Raila Odinga’s attempt to explain the presence of its membership in the President’s delegation to the US has fallen flat.

It is neither possible nor plausible that, in its invitation, the US government would have designated who exactly was to accompany the president and force in his delegation Leader of Minority Opiyo Wandayi and company.

That decision solely rests on the Head of Public Service, Felix Koskey, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and consultation with the main invitee, President William Ruto.

In that delegation, we also had journalists from local media and artists who the president found necessary to be a part of his delegation, and there is really no way the US government would have also asked for their presence. 

In that explanation, Azimio leader’s spokesperson Dennis Onyango tried to draw parallels with former US President Barack Obama’s visit to Kenya and Ethiopia in 2015. In the Obama delegation, of the 20-member delegation of lawmakers, consisting of three senators, there was only one Republican, former senator for Arizona, Jeff Flakes. The rest consisted of 17 members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

However, Flake was a rebel Republican who, from time to time, sided with Obama’s policies. Despite being Republican, Flakes was a moderate and, at some point, turned into a vocal critic of President Donald Trump. In 2017, Flake published his book Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle, which expanded on his criticisms of Trump and his beliefs as to why Trump should not seek re-election.

In August 2020, Flakes officially endorsed Joe Biden for president. In 2021, Biden, a democrat, appointed Flakes as his ambassador to Turkey. The truth is the Azimio leaders who accompanied President Ruto were in the delegation by his own benevolence. The thought and idea of being in a presidential delegation on a historic state visit was too juicy for the leaders to remember where they stand politically.

For President Ruto this was the easiest thing to give and which will sure will have political returns as he pushes through his policies, some quite unpopular. By virtue of our Constitution, Wandayi is technically the official leader of opposition.

He leads the minority in Parliament, and must lead in every quest to challenge government policy. His dalliance with the same government thus automatically becomes a matter of concern. People must question whether when he finds his way back to Parliament, will he retain his fierce demeanor, or would he be playing for the gallery while making silent deals with his Majority counterpart Kimani Ichungwa?

The import of it all is Azimio must now be easy on its members who have chosen to work with the President. Instead of press conferences to lament over this or that, they have the access to convey the lamentations directly because from whatever angle, this is another handshake.

-The writer is an anchor at Radio Maisha