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Uhuru-Raila meeting that didn't happen

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at the launch of the collection of signatures for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) at KICC in Nairobi on November 25, 2020. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

A meeting to mark three years of the Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga failed to materialise yesterday.

There were reports that Raila was scheduled for a meeting with the president at State House, Nairobi, instead of the earlier announced joint consultative meeting of the ‘Super Seven’ alongside other leaders.

Sources told The Standard that Raila was holed up for the better part of the day at his Capitol Hill office and retreated to his Karen residence at around 5pm.

This happened even as ODM leaders were reportedly gagged from disclosing any developments, save for the affirmation by Siaya Senator James Orengo that Raila was going to meet the president.

On his part, the Head of State had a full diary and held meetings with His Excellency Charles Michel, President of the European Council and later chaired a virtual meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council on climate change.

Uhuru is Chairperson of the Council.

On Monday evening, Raila reportedly assured his ODM brigade that the meeting of the ‘Super Seven’ was on.

Three weeks ago, after a meeting between Uhuru, Raila and five party leaders at State House, they announced a joint consultative meeting on March 9, that was also to involve MPs and counties’ leadership.

The joint meeting was meant to set the stage for promoters of Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to start civic education across the country.

Party leaders present at the meeting were Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Senator Gideon Moi (Kanu), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) Senator Moses Wetangula (Ford-Kenya) and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu (Narc).

An ODM MP privy to the happenings disclosed that top party leaders had asked Raila to avoid meeting with Uhuru if it involves other political players.

“The leadership is clear that Raila should not attend those meetings where political lightweights are elevated to his level in the name of party leaders yet he is a Handshake co principal,” said the MP who sought anonymity.

Another party official denied reports of Raila attending a meeting at State House. “I am also shocked, seeing pictures circulating on social media that the former PM is at State House. This is not true. He has been at his Capitol Hill office since morning,” said the official.

There was confusion about the meeting to mark the Handshake anniversary after Orengo, Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo and BBI-co chair Junet Mohammed hinted that the Handshake could be ending.

They accused the president’s team of sabotaging the BBI despite their full commitment and faulted Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho for his handling of the initiative.

Mudavadi said they were yet to be told when they are meeting. “We are waiting to know about the meeting,” he said.

Lugari MP Ayub Savula disclosed that Jubilee vice chair David Murathe had said there would be a meeting but this did not happen.

“Let me confirm again about the meeting where we would have the MPs and those of the county assembly. I don’t know why we have not had one,” said Savula.

ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna yesterday said their position was that civil servants must let the BBI Secretariat deliver on its mandate without interference.

Sifuna said ODM did not get anything from the Handshake. “ODM went into the Handshake expecting nothing. We have got nothing in the past three years. One cannot claim betrayal in the absence of any specific promise or expectation,” said Sifuna.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior said Kalonzo had not been invited to the State House meeting but was expected to arrive from an official trip to DRC last evening.

He was to be the chief guest at a fundraiser for the Wiper Party senatorial candidate Agnes Muthama at a Nairobi hotel.

“Kalonzo was not invited to State House. He is to jet back into the country this evening (yesterday), attend Mrs Muthama’s fundraiser alongside Gideon and Jubilee vice chair David Murathe and others,” said Kilonzo jnr.

Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa said the meeting had been postponed to today.

Orengo said the misgivings over the future of the Handshake between President Kenyatta and Raila have been conclusively dealt with.

The Siaya Senator maintained that the bond between Uhuru and Raila was strong and that there was now a renewed push to conclude the process of amending the Constitution.

“The Handshake is very strong. The only problem which I have is that some civil servants who are supposed to work under the leadership of politicians are mixing the Handshake with 2022 politics,” said Orengo. [Additional reporting by Willis Oketch]

Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021
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