Dennis Onsarigo: Why Raila Odinga was absent from prayer breakfast

Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga during a meeting with independent church leaders on May 23, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Dennis Onsarigo, the press secretary in Raila Odinga’s presidential campaign secretariat, says “hard-pressing” issues led to the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya presidential candidate missing the national prayer breakfast.

The prayer event was held at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi on Thursday, May 26.

Some of the leaders who attended the function presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta are Deputy President William Ruto, Speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Kenneth Lusaka (Senate), Chief Justice Martha Koome, Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki, Majority Leader in the Senate Samuel Poghisio and Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya deputy president candidate Martha Karua.

During his speech, Deputy President Ruto asked the congregation to allow him break protocol and invite Martha Karua to speak on behalf of Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya team.

“In the absence of my brother, the honourable Raila Odinga, who is my main competitor in this [presidential] election, I am going to ask my sister Martha Karua [to speak]. Allow me to break that protocol so that she can come and make some few remarks,” said Ruto.

Karua, in her address, said she was representing Raila Odinga at the function.

“I am here representing my principal, the Right Honourable Raila Amolo Odinga. We remember that our Constitution acknowledges the supremacy of God. We pray that moving forward our actions match our words. We pray, especially for us leaders, that we would compete on ideas, and not on insults,” said Karua in her address.

“We pray that we lessen the tension in the nation by the way that we treat one another; none of us is perfect. We pray for God’s grace and strength so that we can be able to lead the nation to value-driven campaigns and value-driven leadership.”

The Narc-Kenya Party leader asked aspirants in the August 9 General Election to ensure that they commit to peaceful polls.

“Somewhere in the Bible, it is said that prayers without action are not real. I pray that our prayers are matched by actions. If we do that, we’ll have peaceful elections, a peaceful transition and a nation that stands together. Thank you William [Ruto] for inviting me to speak.”

In response, the deputy president said: “Martha, I am sorry if I ambushed you. But you have given a good account of yourself.”

The deputy president also committed to peaceful polls in August.

“We must live up to what we all believe [in]. This is just but an election that will enable us to get the next group of people to lead our country. On behalf of my team and I, I want to tell the people of Kenya that we will do everything possible within our power to make sure that the elections are peaceful. We will go out of our way [to ensure that happens].

Why Raila missed the event

Dennis Onsarigo, who is Raila Odinga’s press secretary, said “national engagements” prompted the ODM leader to miss the prayer breakfast.

“Raila Odinga had hard-pressing issues in the Western part of the country. Some of the issues were emerging in nature. He had planned a series of meetings in Western Kenya, and because he spent the night there, due to logistical issues, he couldn’t fly to Nairobi and return to Western in the same morning,” Onsarigo told The Standard.

“He will be in Western Kenya for the next five days,” he added.

Onsarigo said Odinga had asked Martha Karua to represent him at the national prayer breakfast.

“We had alerted the organisers of the event that Martha Karua would represent Raila Odinga. So, his absence from the prayer breakfast did not come as a surprise to the organisers and the protocol team. However, let me clarify that Karua was lined up to speak at the function. Ruto was being mischievous by pretending to be inviting Karua to speak. From the word go, she was lined up to address the congregation,” said Onsarigo.

Despite Onsarigo saying that Karua was lined up to speak, when Ruto called her to the podium to make her address, she appeared surprised. At the time, the Narc-Kenya Party leader was on her phone when Ruto was speaking.

The Standard also reached Raila’s communications director Dennis Onyango and Makau Mutua, the spokesperson of Raila’s presidential campaigns team, for comment, but none picked our calls.

‘I am sorry for not meeting your expectations’

In his speech, Deputy President William Ruto asked Kenyans to forgive him, saying he might have failed them by not meeting their welfare needs.

“To the Kenyans, we have tried our best. We may not have done the much you expected of us. We have failed you in some areas. We have not been as united as we should have been. We ask for your forgiveness,” he said.

The DP also asked President Kenyatta to find it in his heart to forgive him for not sustaining a united relationship in the two terms that they have served as senior leaders in the Executive.

“I know that serving as deputy president, I may have fallen short of the expectations of my boss, the president. I ask for his forgiveness. I also know that in this journey many people might have hurt me, I forgive everybody.”

Ruto also wished President Kenyatta well as he winds down his presidency.

“I have had the privilege and honour of serving as deputy president to my friend, President Uhuru Kenyatta, for the last ten years. It’s an honour that I cherish. My friend, President Kenyatta, as you head to retirement, it is my prayer that God will give you every aspiration of your heart, and make it possible for you to enjoy the legacy that you have built, and to enjoy the time that God will give you,” he said.

‘Accept polls outcome’

In his speech, President Kenyatta urged elective seat aspirants to accept election outcome in August. The president said Kenya ought to remain united before, during and after the August 9 General Election.

“It is my hope that we end up much more united and stronger after the general election,” he said in his speech.

The Head of State further stated that he is wishing all aspirants the best of luck in the upcoming polls.

“However, remember that there will only be one winner [per elective seat]. [Should you lose], move on and live to fight another day,” he said.