Coalition talks heat up as Ruto meets with Oparanya

DP WIlliam Ruto with Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya at Kakamega township primary school. [Duncan Ocholla] 

Political leaders are reportedly holding secret meetings with potential allies as they strategise ahead of campaigns for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and next year’s presidential election.

Deputy President William Ruto is the latest to jump on the bandwagon after he held a nine-hour meeting with Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya in Narok, just a day after politicians allied to ODM leader Raila Odinga met to craft a new alliance.

The Ruto and Oparanya meeting, which was attended by former Cabinet secretaries Mwangi Kiunjuri and Rashid Echesa, and Narok West MP Gabriel Tongoyo at the DP’s farm in Kilgoris, had initially been planned for the morning. It was however pushed because Ruto had another meeting in Uasin Gishu.

Mutual suspicions

The meeting that began at lunchtime is said to have extended into the early night thus forcing the leaders to spend the night at the Masai Mara Game Reserve.

As the private meeting went on, the planned unveiling of an alliance associated with Raila was pushed to next week as those involved sought to address mutual suspicions revolving around members’ ambitions and fears of a ‘domineering’ ODM.

Sources said some members do not want details of the alliance made public because they are also involved in talks with other actors for the 2022 General Election and believe that showing their hand too soon might prevent them from clinching better deals.

The Standard was told that the politicians who hope to bring together former United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi, first and second-term governors and some ODM legislators, are still working on ‘teething issues’.

Building an alliance, the sources said, was a ‘very delicate’ process that was threatened by the interests of key players.

Back to the Ruto talks, the DP’s Director of Communications Emmanuel Tallam, when contacted, said he was aware that his boss was in Narok but did not know his mission.

Photos of Oparanya, Echesa and Kiunjuri walking away from a chopper lit up social media, with people questioning whether the governor, a Raila loyalists, had abandoned ODM.

Sources said that Oparanya told a friend he was not happy with the way the party leadership was managing its affairs and read betrayal. But people close to Raila said the governor might have been on a “mission whose details will be revealed later” and that he had not betrayed the party cause.

Oparanya, who is the ODM deputy leader, and his Mombasa counterpart Hassan Joho have both declared interest in vying for the party’s 2022 presidential ticket.

He has, however, remained silent since he said the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which is currently before Parliament, should be shelved and the funds used to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The BBI Bill was birthed after a ‘handshake’ between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila and promised to unite Kenyans. But it ended up creating a faction in Jubilee led by Ruto who has also dismissed talks of a referendum.

Sources said Oparanya was unhappy that he had been sidelined when invitations were sent out for a meeting at Serena Hotel to chart the way forward for a new ODM alliance.

On Sunday, Oparanya is reported to have met Raila at his Karen residence alongside Kituyi and Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi where he privately complained to the ODM leader that he had been snubbed on the Serena talks that were convened by Siaya Senator James Orengo.

The former Council of Governors chairman confirmed that he met with Ruto. “Unaona sio unasikia; you are seeing not hearing,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Kituyi group is reported to have held a six-hour meeting that set tongues wagging on whether this could be the building of another outfit ahead of next year’s elections.

The meeting brought together Kituyi, Orengo, Kingi and governors Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu) and Isiolo’s Mohamed Kuti.