Raila’s strategic roles confound friend and foe
By Jacob Ng’etich | August 10th 2019
Kenya’s de facto opposition leader has made a name for himself as a man who thrives best in times of crisis.
The country is now witnessing the rebirth of a man who is calling the shots at a time when many thought he would be basking in the rays of a retirement sun.
Instead, Raila for the umpteenth time is reinventing himself, this time as a peacemaker, to reclaim a part of the political space that seemed to be falling through his fingers following successive defeats in presidential elections.
This time, having failed to beat President Uhuru Kenyatta at his game, he joined him to walk the political path.
His re-emergence has been so conspicuous that in the recent past, he has often been seen announcing policy statements that are ideally reserved for government officials.
“When it comes to political maneuvring, Raila is unrivalled. He has the surprise and unpredictability factor and his moves are hardly understood,” said Javas Bigambo, a political analyst.
To Bigambo, in the history of Kenya, there has never been an Opposition leader who wields as much influence as Raila currently does.
While speaking at the funeral service of Kibra MP Ken Okoth, Raila told the mourners at Moi Girls Secondary School in Nairobi that together with the President, they would unveil a housing project in Kibera.
On Wednesday, Public Service and Youth Affairs Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia called on the former Prime Minister to brief him on the preparations being undertaken for the upcoming International Youth Day.
Prof Kobia was just the latest senior government official on the sojourn to Raila’s Capitol Hill office in Nairobi which has turned out to be one of the busiest offices where the President’s senior staff, political leaders and opinion shapers battle to get photo sessions with Raila.
Triggers an implosion
A day before, he had hosted a delegation from the Lapsset Corridor Development Authority which also briefed him on the mega project which consists of seven key infrastructure projects in the region.
Political pundits have argued that the ODM leader could arguably be the master political tactician of all time as he continues to confound friend and foe.
They admit that he has outwitted brilliant politicians and with every passing moment, the Opposition leader’s political move has become a case for debate.
Next week, the fruits of his handshake with the Head of State will start to be felt in his political stronghold when the government unveils the newly revamped Port Victoria that is hoped will revive Kisumu as a transport hub for countries bordering the freshwater lake.
But as he enjoys the trappings of power, he has not relegated his political ambitions. The next presidential elections might be more than two years away, but he is already breathing life into the National Super Alliance, a coalition of parties that seemed to be doomed to failure following the fallout as a result of its 2017 election loss.
On Monday, Raila met former Bomet governor Isaac Ruto, one of the five NASA principals, in his office in what was read as a political checkmate on the Deputy President William Ruto.
The former Bomet governor was accompanied by former Cabinet ministers Franklin Bett and Zakayo Cheruiyot, and Rift Valley politicians who have all in the past been open on their support for the DP.
Ruto’s trooping back completed Raila’s re-assembly of NASA. Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula and Amani National Congress boss Musalia Mudavadi have all since come back to the fold and are rebuilding a boat that had begun to take in water in the turbulence of the post-election loss suffered at the hands of the ruling Jubilee Party.
And while doing this, he is galvanising former foes into joining his call for a referendum.
“There is a referendum in the offing come next year, and immediately after there will be a General Election. As a clever politician, he is putting his house in order, I believe sometimes Raila makes moves that even surprise him,” said Bigambo.
It was initially thought the handshake with the President would jeopardise his support base. Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi insists that Raila had not lost political ground before or after the handshake.
“Raila gained more political ground after the handshake, he is now in the strongest form ever,” said Mr Osotsi.
Sometimes though, Bigambo said, Raila does things with little knowledge of the outcome.
“I doubt he had such plans when he took that oath at Uhuru Park,” the analyst says.
Herman Manyora, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi and a political commentator, observes that Raila still has a lot up his sleeve. “He will seek to rearrange the political scene in Kenya. He will seek to discipline the political allies who betrayed him.”
Ruto allies have repeatedly said that Raila’s handshake with Uhuru was reminiscent of his dalliance with Kanu and that it was a matter of time before he imploded Jubilee.
“We have known how he operates, if he sees that he cannot break a party from outside, he moves in and triggers an implosion from inside and moves on,” said Kipkelion West MP Hillary Kosgei.
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