Was Raila conned into signing deal with Uhuru?
Hardlines, suspicions and fears of betrayal have ganged up to derail the rollout of President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA chief Raila Odinga’s deal, a month on.
Raila has found himself walking a tightrope after signing the pact, which ended months of political hostilities that had threatened to destabilise Kenya. The crux of the stalled behind-the-scenes negotiations is a fresh wave of an unexpected rebellion from the opposition leader’s Nyanza backyard.
Compounded by the Miguna Miguna saga that has seen a section of NASA leaders differ sharply over Raila’s role, the much-hyped agreement is now in disarray.
Raila is understood to be wary of savage allies hell-bent on exploiting the handshake to stoke succession battles in Nyanza. The former Prime Minister is in an awkward situation and faces a backlash from some of his allies and supporters who believe the handshake should have softened matters for the NRM general.
Addressing supporters in Kisumu’s Kondele estate — his first tour of the region after the handshake — Raila said the return of Miguna was part of his agreement with Uhuru.
But Siaya Senator James Orengo, who is said to be positioning himself to succeed Raila in Luoland, has criticised the Raila-Uhuru deal, opening a new battlefront.
“The handshake rises or falls on the pedestal of the rule of law. If the state is out to undermine the rule of law, then the deal has no basis,” the fiery lawyer said in an apparent mockery of the pact.
Orengo and some Luo politicians are plotting a revolution against Raila once the details of the reserved deal are made available, threatening to puncture the ex-PM’s dominance as the region’s kingpin.
Despite close allies vehemently defending the deal, it appears engulfed in a cloud of uncertainty, throwing the whole implementation process into confusion. Interviews gleaned together from several NASA MPs painted a grim picture for the Uhuru-Raila deal. Most ODM politicians refused to go on record for fear of contradicting Raila.
“We have never been briefed on exactly what they discussed. We are singing the chorus but are not clear about the tune,” a senior ODM politician said.
But ODM chairman John Mbadi played down fears the succession debate could scuttle the deal. He said Raila is focussed on the fight for electoral justice and reforms.
“That is a non-issue. The Right Honourable Raila Odinga is fighting against social ills. Any succession talk is far-fetched,” the National Assembly Minority leader said, insisting the handshake is good for the country.
But political analyst Martin Andati lifted the lid off the mystery surrounding the deal, saying the bottleneck around it is fanned by the fact that it was hurried. He said the “chickens could have come home to roost for Raila too soon”, after he rushed and failed to consult his supporters and confidants.
“Raila could have rushed maybe because of the pressure he was under after the swearing-in. He was hasty and now his supporters believe he negotiated the deal on personal terms,” Andati told the Star in an interview.
He opined the deal could have backfired on Raila, given the evident hostilities in his strongholds in the aftermath. The deal is in limbo. A section of Railas’ hitherto loyal strongholds are jittery and unhappy after realising there is not much coming their way after the deal, Andati said.
“Raila has uncharacteristically and deliberately avoided holding rallies in his strongholds. Ordinarily, he could have toured even Kibera, but we haven’t seen him anywhere,” he said.
The unexpected implosion of NASA days after the agreement, coupled with cagey details for Raila allies and supporters, has complicated implementation of the deal.
“The collapse of NASA is the straw that has broken the camel’s back. Both ordinary Kenyans and allies alike are in the dark about the agreement,” political analyst Dustan Omari said.
There are concerns the exit of Raila from active politics could offer his co-principals Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang’ula and Kalonzo Musyoka a lifeline to reinvent themselves. They have retreated to galvanise support from their backyards to consolidate their 2022 presidential prospects without Raila’s input.
With evident grumblings and disgruntlements, anxiety reigns even as Martin Kimani and Paul Mwangi remain guarded on the progress they have made. Kenyans who breathed a sigh of relief after the white smoke billowed from Harambee House on March 9 are groping in the dark — no idea on what the pact entails and the ground it has covered.
The jolly excitement that welcomed the deal is slowly turning into anxiety. There are murmurs across both sides of the political divide sparked by suspicion and fuelled by deep-seated feelings of mistrust among hardliners.
Throwing the deal into further confusion was Uhuru and Raila’s failure to give timelines to guide the delivery of the framework for the deal’s implementation.
Other than the camaraderie by Uhuru and Raila after the cessation of hostilities and the subsequent peaceful climate, ordinary Kenyans are apprehensive of the actual benefits. The two leaders have failed to hold joint rallies as initially planned, peeling the mask off the pact’s soft underbelly likely to hurt fortification of the working ties.
Uhuru and Ruto have been fighting off claims the agreement involved sharing power, as opposed to being pro-people. Demas Kiprono, a senior legal officer at Article 19, says while the deal brought a palpable sigh of relief all-over Kenya and in all sectors, there is need to hold Uhuru and Raila to account on their commitments.
“The future Kenya depends on the genuineness of the parties, the scope, mandate, terms of reference, and most importantly, Uhuru and Raila’s willingness to ignore partisan demands of their allies,” he said.