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Why we should not celebrate renewed Raila, Ruto friendship

 President William Ruto and Azimio leader Raila Odinga at Yoweri Kaguta Museveni's farm in Kisozi, Uganda, in February 2024. [PCS]

A French general and statesman, Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle, who led the French forces against Nazi Germany in World War II and later chaired the provisional government of the French Republic in 1944-1946, once quipped: “Politics is too serious a matter to be left to politicians”.

This quote resonates perfectly in Kenya’s political environment in which two constants, namely, interests and betrayals - have permeated post-independence politics.

The first preconception is that political interests supersede collective societal interests and ideological convictions. That means that personal aggrandisement influences every step in the decision-making processes of the quintessential political elite.

The second preconception is that backstabbing, and betrayal is the name of the game that has been perfected by the main artists - the politicians. To most politicians, especially Kenyan ones, the end not the people-justifies the means.

Politicians change positions, betray allies, and create alliances mostly out of their embedded personal interests notwithstanding their previous ideological principles, loyalties, and promises to citizens. It is no wonder then that President William Ruto and his erstwhile political opponent Raila Odinga, ameliorated their previous political differences in order to start a new beginning, which in my view is influenced by their converging political and even economic interests.

Ruto and the former PM’s political antagonism dates back to the 2007-2008 post-election violence that led to the indictment of Ruto by the International Criminal Court and his attempted suspension from the Cabinet by Raila. Ruto then apportioned all his misfortunes to Raila and that became the genesis of political antagonism that would last for two decades.

That the two have found a common ground to assuage their differences deserves applause. Their unity of purpose could potentially lessen incessant political instabilities that are detrimental to Kenya’s social and economic stability. However, Kenyans should be cautiously optimistic with the Ruto-Raila cooperation because more often than not, politicians’ interests are bigger than the interests of the country.

Furthermore, the bicameral Parliament should be sceptical of the emerging political camaraderie and avoid being exploited by the two leading politicians to implement anti-people legislations as happened during Raila, Uhuru Kenyatta handshake.

During the Raila, Uhuru political handshake, a myriad of things went wrong. The opposition MPs were derelict in execution of their mandate. In addition, billions of shillings were stolen by corrupt officials at Kenya Medical Supplies Authority and in the government. Despite Uhuru’s assurance that legal action would be taken, nothing happened. To date, Covid-billionaires remain unscathed.

Under the handshake dispensation, the quality of legislative responsibility was compromised on the altar of loyalty to President Uhuru Kenyatta and the opposition chief. Instead of passing laws that could resonate with constitutional precepts, legislators passed laws that adhered to the dictates of Raila and Uhuru. This is a clear demonstration that when the two leading political figures on the opposite isle in Kenya pacify their political differences for their own selfish interests, the people become more vulnerable to the abuse and manipulation of the State power and suffer mercilessly under an inconsiderate government.

Legislators both in the National Assembly and the Senate should be deeply concerned with the emergence of Ruto-Raila political brotherhood. The absence of Raila’s defiant and confrontational style of opposition against the government creates a vacuum for the President to freely implement all manner of policies he deems fit without considering the will of the people.

More importantly, the people, including organised groups of citizens, should be more vigilant and assertive in articulating their views under the emerging Ruto-Raila handshake. Doing so will neutralise President Ruto and Raila’s powerful influence that has the potential to negatively impact citizens.

Moreover, the people should aggressively express their wishes through public participation, demonstrations, and civil disobedience in line with the constitutional requirements to compel Ruto and Raila to do the right thing. Otherwise Ruto-Raila dalliance will overwhelm the country. Nevertheless, I wish Raila good luck in his quest to become the African Union chairperson. He deserves it.

-Mr Ambuka is a human rights consultant based in Pennsylvania, USA. Email: [email protected]

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