Raila, Wanjigi meet to plot against Ruto harsh policies

Politician Jimmy Wanjigi and ODM leader Raila Odinga walk out of a City hotel after meeting over lunch on January 09, 2024. Details of the meeting of the two politicians were unknown. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Opposition leader Raila Odinga is fine-tuning strategies for an all-out offensive against President William Ruto's government.

In a move likely to tilt the political landscape, the former prime minister is courting allies as he plans to counter the Kenya Kwanza administration from all corners.

And he is banking on the growing dissent over unpopular tax measures and the high cost of living driving many into desperation.

Raila yesterday met businessperson Jimmy Wanjigi in Nairobi, a meeting credible sources said was aimed at planning the opposition's next move.

Neither spoke to the press after the lunch meeting that lasted more than an hour, but a reliable source who wished to remain anonymous told The Standard that the two "caught up to discuss current affairs".

"They explored strategies for exposing Kenya Kwanza, which has been lying to the public. Their discussions were focused on the economy and high cost of living," said the source.

Raila has already warned of a return to street protests if Ruto fails to tame the runaway cost of living, a move causing jitters within Kenya Kwanza.

The last time Raila held such protests, he forced Ruto to the negotiating table, a process that resulted in a report both politicians are expected to champion.

"Instead of trying to bring violence, tell Kenyans the alternative that you have. We have told people to pay taxes so that we can pay debt. Don't tell us about bringing maandamano which will bring bloodshed, and disrupt businesses," President Ruto countered.

Wanjigi, a former ally of Raila turned foe and ally again, recently said he supported the former premier's call for protests. He is seen as a key cog in Azimio's push owing to his financial muscle and ability to stir political waters.

Azimio is hoping to turn the tide against Kenya Kwanza in the Mt Kenya region, heavy with reports of disenchantment, and winning allies from the region is considered a boost.

During a recent event in Kiambu, Wanjigi called out Kenya Kwanza politicians for disenfranchising Kenyans, amid cheers from the crowd.

"You have only been in power for a year and mwananchi is crying. Don't joke with Kenyans," said Wanjigi.

The two have not seen eye-to-eye in recent years, with Wanjigi previously blaming Raila for some of the woes he suffered during former President Uhuru Kenyatta's regime, such as having his home and business premises raided by the police.

The power broker also futilely tried to seek the presidency after the electoral commission blocked him over academic qualifications. He had sought the ODM ticket but was unceremoniously ejected from a party conference in 2022.

And he would warm up to Ruto, stating the manifesto of the president's UDA aligned with that of his Safina party.

Since last year's election, the business mogul has been vocal against Ruto's tax policies and his administration's heavy borrowing. He is among the leaders that Raila is bringing back on board to his struggle, which a source said would "gather all and scatter none".

But this comes amid emerging rifts within p mostly caused by diverging views on a report by the bipartisan dialogue committee.

Raila and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who co-chaired the committee, support the recommendation. They face resistance from Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and former Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, both of whom oppose the recommendations as they slighted the cost of living agenda, which sent Kenyans to the streets in protest.

The reported division also stems from concerns that Raila could bow to pressure and try out for the presidency a sixth time. Kalonzo recently stated he would not support another candidate in the 2027 elections. But highly-placed sources have consistently told the Standard that Raila would not be making another stab at the presidency and will instead support Kalonzo.

The question of a running mate is still pending, with reports suggesting it has been reserved for the Western region.