Deputy President says ODM leader contacted him for talks, but Opposition party says it is the former who sent emissaries.
Deputy President William Ruto’s statement that Raila Odinga attempted to contact him four times prior to the handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta prompted counter-allegations that lifted the lid on the behinds-the-scenes intrigues leading to the truce.
Ruto claimed, on a national TV show, that Raila tried to contact him in January last year, but the DP explained he reported to the President because he did not trust the ODM leader.
But Raila’s party alleged it was Ruto that sent emissaries asking the Opposition leader to agree to work with him, purportedly to undermine Uhuru, but the former premier rebuffed the overtures.
And Raila’s son, in a tweet, also claimed Dr Ruto tried to entice him and his sister with top Government jobs, on a day each side tried to win public favour by spilling the beans on events that led to the dramatic handshake between Uhuru and Raila on the steps of Harambee House on March 9, last year following the disputed presidential vote.
On Tuesday night, Ruto sought to quell speculation that he had been fighting the handshake because he was kept in the dark, saying he was privy to developments because Raila had contacted him initially.
“Raila Odinga approached me four times to have a discussion, but I declined. I told him we have only one centre of command. I informed the President, whom I told I will not engage Raila,” Ruto said in an interview with Citizen TV.
The DP revealed that he was skeptical about Raila’s advances as he did not believe they were in good faith.
He cited the aftermath of a merger between Kanu and Raila’s Liberal Democratic Party, and the quick fallout between former President Mwai Kibaki and the ODM leader in Narc government as some of the lessons that fueled his skepticism. “I did not believe that he was doing this in good faith,” he explained.
The DP said the President later informed him about his talks with Raila.
“He actually brought me on board and told me, “Mr Deputy President, we have had a discussion with the leader of the Opposition and we have talked like this... we have agreed like this...” and I gave my views,” Ruto said.
Ruto also denied claims that the handshake had driven him and Uhuru apart, explaining that a lot of people pretend to understand their relationship.
“We have a cordial working relationship with President Kenyatta and consult each other on a regular basis. Talk of a rift is far-fetched,” Ruto remarked.
“In Jubilee we have one central command, President Uhuru Kenyatta is the party leader, he is the President and we all defer to him. If there is any engagement with anybody on matters politics, it has to start with Uhuru,” Ruto continued.
“We consult on a daily basis with the President but you know we are all different and the President has more latitude, powers and I believe he consulted beyond me before the handshake,” he added.
But in a hard-hitting rejoinder, the Orange party accused Ruto of lying about Raila reaching out to him.
“Raila had ran in the 2017 elections against Uhuru, not Ruto. There would be no logic at all in Raila making approaches to the DP. Even if Ruto was the last human being left standing in this land, Raila would much rather make a deal with the birds and trees, but not a character like Ruto,” read the party statement.
Instead, ODM claimed it was Ruto who sent two emissaries to ask Raila to work with him.
“It is important to lay out the facts in their naked form. William Ruto first sent feelers to Raila through his friend Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi. This contact was made through a member of staff at Raila’s office in Capitol Hill. Ruto knows the details,” read the statement issued by ODM’s Secretary General Edwin Sifuna.
But Raila refused the overtures and asked his staff members to stop further contact with Sudi on learning what Ruto was up to, according to the statement.
The party further claimed that when Ruto realised his first attempt to reach Raila bore no fruit, he sent a former female powerful Cabinet Minister from Rift Valley to Raila’s home.
“The lady delivered the same proposal indicating Ruto’s desire to tame Uhuru and his people. The former Cabinet minister attempted this mission on four occasions, but Raila rejected all the attempts.”
Sifuna further accused Ruto of propagating a string of lies and denials – which he later owned up to when cornered.
“Ruto’s lies are well documented. It is a poorly-kept secret in the Ruto entourage that he and his supporters see the President as a man who is not in charge. They think they can do a better job than Uhuru. Ruto’s message via Sudi was that he was the one in charge of the country and he wanted Raila to work with him,” Sifuna said.
Raila Odinga Jnr also claimed it was the DP who tried to lure members of Raila’s family to lucrative Government positions.
“The truth is that in January 2018 the DP tried to entice myself and my sister Winnie with high-level Government positions, a kind of divide and rule tactic using a very senior ambassador to put pressure, but obviously we told him off,” said Raila Odinga Jnr.
On the day of the “handshake” Winnie Odinga, Raila’s daughter, was present at the steps of Harambee House.
Sifuna challenged Ruto to produce evidence detailing Raila’s attempts to reach him, insisting that the President had round-the-clock access to intelligence briefings, and would have known if any of the purported approaches had happened.
ODM accused Ruto of being the face of blackmail in “high places” and having specialised in blackmailing Kikuyu masses living in the Rift Valley, to gain way to the Presidency.
“Has DCI told you that William Ruto has called him? Or that I interfered with investigations? I have not said investigations should stop. What I have said is that people should not use the investigations to run a political narrative against Jubilee,” Ruto said.