The March 9, 2018 ‘handshake’ with President Uhuru Kenyatta threw around Mr Raila Odinga a blanket of mysticism and enhanced his image as a never-say-die politician. For the second time after an electoral defeat to Uhuru that he challenged, Raila again rose to be lynchpin of Kenya’s politics. He had enjoyed this status from late 1990s when he helped whitewash Kanu with his surprise ‘Kibaki Tosha’ declaration that gave an Opposition candidate the keys to State House.
After the 2013 successful challenge of Uhuru-Ruto victory in court, Raila showed you only ignore him at your own peril. Then he stayed away from the repeat election, which seemed to consign him to political dustbin, albeit behind the veil of noise and teargas. Attempts to have himself sworn in as president divided the nation eager to move on after the divisive electioneering. Calls for peace reigned as the aftermath of the sad memories that followed 2007’s controversial declaration of Mr Mwai Kibaki as reelected, lurked in the darkness.
Then out of the blue, testimony of the secrecy with which Uhuru and Raila had deployed to their talks, the two shook hands. Kenya was stunned. Ruto, whose dislike for Raila is legendary, led the cold war on the ‘handshake’. A year later his lieutenants are asking what happened to their President. The joke is, they gave Uhuru the Presidency, but Raila stole their President. After claims that Raila was out to cripple Jubilee from inside like he did Kanu in 2002, they now are saying he is after Ruto’s post.
Granted, the handshake either gave a conducive environment to, or merely coincided with renewed war on corruption. Either by design or propaganda, the war has come to be seen in Ruto’s backyard as a scheme to tie up his leg in the race for 2022 Uhuru succession grand finale and give Raila a head start. As usual Raila, having been served a political lifeline with the handshake, was the target of unsavoury remarks as alleged mastermind of the war on Ruto and the DP’s increasingly frosty relations with Uhuru. It mattered not that Uhuru’s own people see Ruto as disrespectful of the President; a man eager to compete with his boss for control.
There are those within Uhuru’s circle who think Ruto is not only an impediment to the war against corruption, but also the main bulwark to the achievement of his four legacy agenda. They also seem to be privy to alleged conversations in private that they say demonstrate the DPs little regard for the President’s modus operandi.
Three things happened to Uhuru in quick succession. At home, it is claimed the matriarch could have expressed fury at the fact that the young man was proving he had lied to his age-mate about 2022. Two, some members of his community fearful of a repeat of post-election violence, felt this was recipe for chaos targeting the Kikuyu community in the Rift Valley.
Third, to the rest of the country there was a risk the Uhuru-Ruto squabble could trigger a rebellion against Kikuyu-Kalenjin candidates in 2022 since the two communities have ruled Kenya since independence. Finally, at a different level, there were claims Ruto had started skipping State functions and from one of them on Tuesday, Uhuru walked to the DP’s office to tell him face-to-face that despite their political differences, there was a red line he should not cross. It is also believed they discussed other more private concerns about how they were looking bad before Kenyans. We can just imagine.
Back to Raila to whom the ‘handshake’ and Ruto’s tribulations must be music. To him and his friends came season to demand their pound of flesh from the recalcitrant son of Sugoi. Looking at the adverse claims against him, including alleged diversion of billions for dam projects in Elgeyo Marakwet County to Ruto’s hospitality empire by way of choice alcohol, cutlery and towels, Raila’s men got overly excited. Then either acting on his own volition or the discreet prompting, the master of political impeachment motions Mr James Orengo, emerged from his sabbatical, with another one.
What they seem to forget is that though Ruto is a politician with both a questionable and suspicious attitude to private and public property, and is also not about to ease the foot on the 2022 campaign race, when it’s Raila’s side making the claim, it is a different ball-game. In short, the entry of Raila comes with his polarising history and complications of succession politics, which cunning Ruto can easily turn in his favour.
For Raila, impeachment strategy has all it takes to force Uhuru to change tack, wash the lingering spirit of handshake off his hands, and calmly walk back to his home and Ruto.
Raila has a way of making Ruto look like a martyr despite the doubts and fears shrouding prospects of his Presidency should it come between years 2022-2027! Remember also that if Uhuru thinks Ruto has better chances, he would not want to hand-over power to the buddy he shunned midstream.
Mr Tanui is Deputy editorial Director and Managing Editor, The Standard