Saturday, June 22, 2024

Olga Karani: I have no regrets over abandoning DP Ruto

Olga Karani
MY MIND IS MADE UP: Olga Karani is the ODM secretary for international affairs.

Her defection from Jubilee alliance was regarded a political thunderbolt. For a moment, the move raised ‘reasonable doubt’ about the future of the then nascent Jubilee Alliance, and questions emerged on whether it had the capacity to overcome a long history of rivalry between the communities in Central and the Rift Valley to form a sustainable political alliance.

It was in December 2012, and Ogla Karani sprung up the surprise at the worst possible time – when the campaigns for the 2013 general election were hotting up. The move reverberated far and wide. Political observers ran to town and declared the move was a political earthquake high up on the Richter Scale. It had shaken the nook and cranny of the Rift Valley, a major theatre for Jubilee politics.

Few weeks later, Joshua Arap Sang, William Ruto’s co-accused at the International Criminal Court, fortified the perception. Just like Ogla, he sprung up and denounced the Uhuruto dalliance, quit the alliance and endorsed Cord’s Raila Odinga’s presidential bid instead.

As a sign of the ‘shifting ground’, Sang dismissed as lies the then deep-rooted claims that it was Raila who sent him to The Hague, offering an accusing finger in the direction of senior government officials who were in office before the formation of the grand coalition government whom he claimed had coached witnesses to testify against him and Ruto.

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“We are away in a foreign land with my brother because of allegations made against us. The truth must be told. In my opinion, the people who masterminded and planned to have me and my brother taken to The Hague did not include Raila.”

Everyone expected the worst for a political coalition that had brought together Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA and William Ruto’s URP due to the foregoing, and an impression was created that the vote in the Rift Valley was drifting away from Jubilee’s grip.

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But as would later turn out, both Ogla and Sang had made ‘unimaginable’ political howlers of their lives as the so-called dynamic duo held on and were declared the winners of the hotly contested presidential election in March 2013 with the Kalenjin community voting to a man for the duo.

But there was good reason for the doubt. Ogla was no ordinary URP mortal. She was an astute insider – part of Ruto’s backroom policy formulation think tank. Had she stayed on she would probably be presiding over weighty national matters as a Cabinet Secretary in one of the ministries in the Ruto side of the government today.

Nearly three years after that infamous decision, the Star caught up with Ogla and tried to relive the chain of events that led to that famous ruckus-causing defection but which, in the face of it, had the hallmarks of the greatest political howler of all time.

We meet Ogla, the ODM Secretary for International Affairs, in an upscale restaurant in Westlands in Nairobi and in the three hour interview she remains as defiant as she was on that day of December 2012. “I have no regrets because mine was the right and best decision I have ever made in my life,” she explains, noting that God saved “me much more than I could have ever saved myself from Jubilee people”.

Throughout the interview, Ogla is calm and relaxed. She extensively uses heavy doses of scriptures from the Good Book to reinforce her position and the subject and the general view of life.

She talks of justice, humility, honesty and repentance and uses quotes from the books of 1 Chronicles 28:2, Psalm 12, Exodus 14:13 and II Samuel 24 to justify her views.

We met her a couple of days after she had led the ODM fraternity in an offensive against the ruling coalition over accusations that their leader, Raila, is behind Ruto’s tribulations at the ICC.

Politicians allied to the Jubilee Alliance have been holding prayer rallies across the country accusing the ODM leader of having fixed Ruto at the Hague-based court and going as far as demanding the former Prime Minister takes to the witness box to defend his once-upon-a-time-politically ally-turned foe.

But for the first time, since that defection, Ogla stepped out of the shadows and led the ODM onslaught in what remains the most scathing attack against the ruling coalition by the opposition in relation to the sticky ICC issue. The onslaught included the now famous 10-point statement that places Ruto’s tribulations squarely in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s inner court.

We meet her a couple of days after she had delivered the statement, that, generally, is agreed to have been a game changer, and one that helped to shift the focus of the prayer rallies and deflated the rancour away from Raila.

Asked whether hers was a miscalculation; leaving a coalition that was on the verge of winning an election for the gravels of the opposition, Ogla demurs.

“I know they didn’t win. They are not legitimately in office. On the evidence of their performance this far I feel vindicated that I made the right decision.”

She cites the state of the economy, runaway insecurity, the failure to resettle the Internally Displaced Peoples and the mishandling of education as some of the issues that confirm her strong view she was right and that her exit was godsend.

“The IDPs’ compensation scheme has been haphazard. There is no clear policy as those from central Kenya have been favoured over those from other parts of the country,” she explains, pointing out that failure by the Jubilee to honour the pre-election primary school project was the clearest indication that the government had irredeemably failed.

“A government that lies to primary school pupils is playing with the future of Kenya and it cannot claim to be in charge or interested in the welfare of the population.”

So why did she leave? “It was nothing personal,” is her reply. “I did not quarrel with anyone. It was an ideological disagreement and we parted ways in good faith.”

Her exit from Jubilee coincided with Ruto’s decision to surrender his bid for the presidency for Uhuru. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back in the bond between the two. So angered Ogla could not reconcile her mind to that fact, which she insists was betrayal of diabolical scale, and chose to bolt out instead.

And this is because Ruto had all along made them believe he was in the presidential race for the long haul. He had declared to his handlers he was going it alone to the ballot; that he was gathering a third force to take on the big boys.

But to her utter surprise, they were to learn bitterly that even as he gave them the assurances, the now Deputy President was speaking from both sides of the tongue – much as he was painting a picture of a serious presidential contender. Ruto was quietly negotiating with Uhuru for a political deal that would culminate in the formation of Jubilee alliance with Ruto in the second command.

“I publicly disputed because the decision was wrong. The basis of the alliance was a lie. One party lied to the other. It used it to attain its goal in some kinda master and servant arrangement,” she says, citing the violent and bloody history between the two communities since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in the 1990s.

Attempts to talk to Ruto were repulsed with a wave of a hand. She wanted to convince him the accumulated matter of the ICC couldn’t be handled the way he was proposing, that ICC was not going to be handled the way they planned to handle it.

“He stood his ground and insisted he was right, and that he had to work with Uhuru and TNA because that was the only way out of the problem,” she says.

Ruto told her he had gotten assurances from powerful individuals in government close to Uhuru that they would withdraw witnesses against him at the ICC.

“How about if you don’t win?” she asked.

“We shall win because the Kikuyu and Kalenjin have the numbers. United we are unbeatable,” came the self assured reply from the then Eldoret North MP.

The fact that since that famous exit, the two have never crossed paths, just goes a mile to explain the strained relationships between them. But she has no regrets, either.

“I have never looked for him. I have never been to his office much as he has never looked for me.”

She, however, maintains that despite their out of sight, out of mind relationship, Ruto is a brother “whom I know to be innocent of the accumulated ICC matter”, even though she blames him of being too hasty and emotional when dealing with the issue.

“We are in a precarious situation. Jubilee has not managed ICC as they promised. They have been blaming everybody except themselves. My hunch is that we need to start with genuine repentance because the two sides fixed each other at the ICC.”

She wants Ruto to publicly apologise to Raila over claims that the former Prime Minister fixed him at the ICC. “Ruto knows at the depth of his heart that Raila is not one of his fixers,” she says, further challenging the DP to explain what happened to Jubilee leaders promise to withdraw their witnesses.

“Ruto should explain what happened to a promise by TNA to help in withdrawing witnesses against him.”


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