Ruto, Raila supporters and third parties complicating 'ceasefire' talks

US Senator Chris Coons held separate talks with Azimio leader Raila Odinga and President William Ruto amid efforts to bring them to a negotiating table. [Standard]

The two political ‘frenemies’, William Ruto and Raila Odinga, have practically cut a deal but they have serious problems actualising it because of fear that some key players will lose. Uncertainties make their various supporters apprehensive of the eventual outcome. While Raila's supporters are not guaranteed of anything, the Ruto people worry about losing something.

There also are third parties - angry that their interests were previously not considered - forcing themselves into the Ruto-Raila conclave. They are noisy enough not to be ignored and, therefore, end up as agenda expansionists and complicate matters in two ways. First, they demand inclusion in the ‘ceasefire' talks and second, they introduce extraneous issues that were initially not contemplated in the deal-making. These disgruntled Ruto-Raila supporters, as well as the intruding agenda expansionists, have essentially derailed the talks by reducing the freedom of action for both Ruto and Raila.

Raila’s past record is the cause for the apprehension on his side. He knows how to look after himself and close members of his party operations. In pursuit of political objectives, he brooks no deviation from his desires and is thus quick to fix those who show signs of independence. Those who have tasted his wrath include Achieng Oneko, James Orengo, and Peter Anyang Nyong’o through electoral loss. He ditches political allies and coalitions once they outlive their usefulness as he pursues arising opportunities as he did by abandoning the Opposition in 1998 to join President Daniel arap Moi in 'cooperation' after which he received a ministerial appointment.

His ability to make governance difficult and force changes in electoral bodies to suit his political intentions only to force fresh changes if he fails to attain his desires, makes him unique and a force to reckon with. His 2008 nusu mkate with Mwai Kibaki and the 2018 ‘handshake’ deal with Uhuru Kenyatta increased his political influence at the expense of other prima donnas.

Since he appears set for a 2023 ‘mediation’ deal with Ruto, that might make Kalonzo Musyoka, Jeremiah Kioni, and Eugene Wamalwa political orphans, a face-saving formula was created in the mediation team where Azimio leaders can probably negotiate creating positions. They might suggest expanding the proposed Office of Leader of the Opposition to include ‘deputies’ and ‘assistants’ to cater for Azimio leaders.   

Ruto’s side is equally distraught with DP Rigathi Gachaua being the hardest hit by the possible deal. He, like Ruto before him, appears to be the main target. He is also under pressure from two sides. First are other ambitious men within Kenya Kwanza aiming at the Presidency once Ruto leaves office possibly in 2032. They include ‘Mulembe’ leaders Musalia Mudavadi of Kakamega and Bungoma’s Moses Wetangula. Second, Gachagua has serious problems commanding acceptance in the Mountain despite being accepted as deputy president as per the Constitution. His political shortcomings undermine his access to Muthegi (leadership staff/stick) which Uhuru seemingly dropped and no one picked.

Subsequently, there is vicious debate in the Mountain as to who, among competing groups should hold the Muthegi. While one side insists that Uhuru still holds it, others declare that Gachagua should have it because he is the DP. The anointing (Kuneo Muthegi), however, keeps slipping through his political fingers partly due to his inability to generate and maintain trust as protector of Mountain interests, where it matters. He seemingly lacks ‘trust’ generating qualities like having a sense of verbal proportion in terms of space, time, and occasion.

The prevailing political mood is one of fear, suspicion, and loss of trust. Still, the public deal-making exercise, with intruders insisting on being at the table, is entertaining. The outcome, however, is what Ruto and Raila want. The rest are irrelevant.