Raila’s ‘swearing-in’ and birth of new Kenya

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By JOHN KAMAU
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Today marks a year since former Prime Minister Raila Odinga was sworn in as “People’s President” in a mock ceremony that was held at Uhuru Park, Nairobi.

The ceremony was skipped by his allies Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetang’ula and Musalia Mudavadi to the chagrin of the crowd that thronged the park.

Mr Odinga was angry with the outcome of the August 8, 2017 General Election in which Mr Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner with 54.17 percent of the vote, with Mr Odinga trailing second with 44.94 percent of the vote.

Although he later won a Supreme Court petition that ordered fresh polls, Mr Odinga put a series of demands to the government and the electoral body and, finally, asked his supporters to boycott the elections, with a promise: that if Mr Kenyatta was sworn in for another term, Mr Odinga would also be sworn in.

FLAK

While diplomats — who included US ambassador Robert Godec, German Ambassador Jutta Frasch, and British High Commissioner Nic Hailey — tried to coax Mr Odinga out of the planned ceremony, he continued to rally his supporters under the hashtag #Resist.

The envoys later issued a joint statement, nay a demand, signed by 11 diplomats asking the opposition to “recognise” the election of President Kenyatta “as a legitimate expression of the people’s will before dialogue takes place”.

Whether this diplomatic push led to the non-attendance of Mr Musyoka, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula is not clear.

Again, whether the trio chickened out — according to the narrative by Mr Odinga’s supporters — or Mr Odinga tricked them out has never been ascertained.

NASA

But what is known is that this was the beginning of the end of the National Super Alliance (Nasa), a joint opposition ticket that had given Mr Kenyatta’s Jubilee some political scare in the polls.

More so, it also led to the metamorphosis of Mr Odinga from a rabble-rouser to a contained politician.

It was Amani National Congress Secretary-General Barack Muluka who openly accused Mr Odinga of tricking the other Nasa chiefs to stay away “until he calls them” and for “sneaking” to Uhuru Park ceremony without their knowledge.

Mr Odinga had apparently — according to Mr Muluka — asked them to switch off their phones and that he would reach them using a Nigerian number.

Although Mr Odinga later tried to reach out to Mr Musyoka, Mr Wetang’ula and Mr Mudavadi by inviting them to an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) meeting on February 28, only Mr Musyoka showed up — only to be embarrassed by Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho who accused the trio of “cowardice” and promised to “show them dust”.

HANDSHAKE

Whether Mr Odinga plotted this fallout within Nasa, and which freed him from Nasa politics, is not clear.

But Mr Odinga would take a back seat only to emerge on a Friday morning, March 9, 2018, on the steps of Harambee House in a jolly mood after holding talks with President Kenyatta.

The meeting was only known to just a few of the ODM members and apart from Mr Junet Mohammed and Mr Odinga’s daughter Winnie, the other ODM honchos were not aware of the talks that would shape President Kenyatta’s second term and Mr Odinga’s politics.

Like all Kenyans, the other Nasa leaders learnt through the media that President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga were having talks at Harambee House.

“The divide ends here,” Mr Odinga promised, saying the two wanted to resuscitate the unity dreams of Kenya’s founding fathers (and their fathers, too); founder President Jomo Kenyatta and his Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, both since dead.

OUSTER

With that, the political tension that had engulfed the country vanished as both Jubilee and ODM politicians sought a truce.

The deal had left Mr Kalonzo, Mr Wetang’ula and Mr Mudavadi in an awkward position.

The next move was for Mr Odinga’s ODM to take over the leadership of the Senate from Ford Kenya and this led to the removal of Mr Wetang’ula as the leader of minority in the Senate — a high profile job that was given to Mr James Orengo.

ODM argued that it was technically the majority party within Nasa and as a result, it should command leadership of both houses as ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna put it then: “We will no longer be forced to walk on our knees so that our short friends can feel better about themselves.”

CORRUPTION

The dalliance between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga gave the President some muscle to tackle high-level corruption within the government and with the support of Mr Odinga, there has been little political fallout over the arrest of some parastatal heads.

But politically, there is a feeling in Deputy President William Ruto’s camp that most of those who have been netted are his supporters.

Some Jubilee politicos fear that Mr Odinga may wreck their party the way he did Kanu, but of late he seems to be edging ever closer to President Kenyatta.

Within a year, Mr Odinga has emerged as a smooth operator who can navigate deals in both trenches and boardrooms.

Whether both are concerned about their legacy or are plotting a survival strategy remains to be seen. But one year is a long time in Kenyan politics.





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