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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Raila Odinga: The People’s President Chapter Seven

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga

Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth - Abraham Lincoln.
Raila Odinga launched the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) as an outfit which his team would use to campaign.
During the launch of the party, Odinga said, “This is an unstoppable movement. I said it is going to be a Tsunami. The only way to avoid it is to go on to higher grounds.”
On the day of the launch, two words were metamorphosed from common place words into political slogans: movement and tsunami. Tsunami later became a campaign anthem for the ODM team.

According to Kenya: Between Hopes and Despair by Daniel Branch, “While factions in the government campaigned for acceptance of the draft constitution, they faced a broad coalition backing the “NO” campaign.”
Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, a minister in the NARC government and a strong political ally of Raila Odinga, denounced the draft as “a bad and fraudulent constitution made by a small group of people mesmerized by power who think the rest of Kenyans are foolish.” Odinga and his supporters joined hands with KANU.

With no presidential election at stake, it was very easy for Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kalonzo Musyoka, and the then little-known William Ruto, to share the limelight.

The team forged a new political coalition that would be known as the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

Among the candidates present at that time, only four were considered serious and promising enough for any political action. These four included: Kalonzo Musyoka, Raila Odinga, Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi. Uhuru’s seriousness was greatly questioned.

Mudavadi on the other hand was in some sort of perpetual rehearsal mood and so very few people took him seriously. This made Kalonzo and Raila the only presidential candidates to watch inside the coalition.

The party was to pass several hurdles later in the course of standing for the same objectives. However, the task of choosing the torchbearer of the party was greater.
The luminaries were to choose between two methods in the selection: a consensus or the delegates’ system.

The delegates’ system was a delicate procedure for both candidates so a move to have them agree on the table was nearly agreed by all of them. But when Raila publicly announced the consensus, Kalonzo Musyoka opted for the delegate process.

The hurdle continued for weeks and mounted to division in the end. In an attempt to restore order, the party retreated to Naivasha. The meeting ended halfway for Kalonzo as he cited that he had other commitments elsewhere.
Uhuru Kenyatta was a right winger whom the fate of the campaign against the constitution took to the left, where Raila was leading.

For the first time, Uhuru Kenyatta was going against the political jitters from Mount Kenya. But even inside Orange Democratic Movement, Uhuru Kenyatta was getting himself in so many hurdles to the presidency. He lacked broad support and the Kenyatta family tag was becoming a misfortune in his political career.

Uhuru seemed to have been monitoring his move to capture Kenyans’ attention for future political fights. He was inside the ODM-Kenya to get the presidential candidacy. Inside ODM-Kenya, Kalonzo Musyoka was more ambitious than Kenyatta.

Kalonzo was playing the game from inside. He had been accused of leaking information from the council of elders who were to come up with a resolution to the coalition’s future to one of the newspapers while identifying himself as the party’s presidential candidate.

The report contradicted all the opinion polls which had been released before its publishing. It was not clear who gave out the document titled The Orange Democratic Movement– Kenya: Strategic Nomination of the Presidential Candidate to the public.

The allies of Raila Odinga would dismiss the document as the work of intelligence out to divide the party.

In an emotional statement, Raila Odinga said, “I want us to be very careful...there are people out there who do not want to see Raila’s name on the ballot. They are using some of us to divide the Orange family. We should not allow them to succeed.” Raila knew he was being blocked.

On June 29th the so-called council of elders invited all the presidential candidates. Raila Odinga was in attendance. The candidates talked, but when his time came, Raila Odinga brought the house into a full meditation mood. When he began to speak the whole room went completely quiet and as he continued, people in that meeting were so over-burdened with the sins they had done against him that they could barely look at each other in the eye.

He directly attacked those who were attacking him and spreading prejudicial information against him that he was un-electable because he was a Luo.
There was prejudicial perception that all Luos were not circumcised and therefore Raila was becoming the victim of this prejudice, “if we are talking about sacrifice, the Luos have sacrificed a lot for the independence and democratization of this country. If Luos cannot lead Kenya, where do you want them to go, Uganda?” he asked the meeting.

Raila then took out his pocket handkerchief and dried his eyes. It was painful that he was being blocked from leading the nation because he was Luo. Raila later went ahead and signed a memorandum with the Muslim community and the Coast region.

This move was meant to garner votes for him, especially as he expected to help them solve the problems of land and historical injustices that they were facing. Raila decided to take his case to the people. This stance shocked Kalonzo, who was expecting a “Kalonzo tosha” declaration from Raila, just as he had done previously for Kibaki.

There were many challenges that were assailing the party. Things seemed to be moving from bad to worse. There was a constant oscillation of political tension. Raila was not sure with the Kalenjin votes as Moi still held a strong influence among the community and the presence of William Ruto by then would not be banked on as Ruto was still a lightweight.

In that month of July, Kalonzo Musyoka was seemingly and increasingly becoming restless in ODM-Kenya. So in response, he decided to consult with Julia Ojiambo, a well- decorated professor of nutrition, to forge the formation of LPK.
On the other side, with Kalonzo gone, things seemed difficult for Raila Odinga: yet he remained as a river which was unstoppable. “What has happened today,” he told the press conference, “demonstrates leadership.

By shifting to this alliance formation of ODM, I said the future is orange...” I want to repeat today that the future is orange.” As soon as he said these words, Raila Odinga became partyless.

The media picked up the story and talked about it for weeks on end. Raila became like a fish during that time. That split was quickly followed by a crisis meeting. Raila smelt the conspiracy.

The following day, William Ruto, who had previously met their team to study the implications of the split, announced his full support for a Raila Odinga presidency.

At this point, Raila was party-less and the dream was soon fading. The party-less candidate, Raila Odinga, was not expecting political miracles but was facing the burden of exploiting his Plan B of getting steady the bouyant rafters which were sliding beneath them.

On 14th August, the public would be treated with relief when a lawyer and politician Mugambi Imanyara, a long time friend of Raila, handed over the certificate of Orange Democratic Movement to Raila Odinga.

In a short keynote address at the party headquarters Raila was quoted saying, “There are very few occasions when I lack words to express myself; and this is one of them. ODM is like the River Nile, which starts in the mountains surrounding Lake Victoria and flows all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. Some people were trying to stop it, but it will surely reach the Mediterranean Sea.”

And so, Raila retained his birthright, which was already slipping out of the river bank. As usual, everyone who had supported Raila would land himself in trouble in Kibaki’s government. As much as the era was of democracy, Imanyara lost his job as Director of Rural Electrification. That was the price he had to pay.

Raila, with the party certificate, sought for nothing else but to solve the battle between his team and that of Kalonzo at the ballot boxes; where Kibaki, an incumbent, was also contesting.

Political Plots Against Raila

Despite several extraneous attacks by his political detractors, Raila Odinga in his daily political life had to deal with rejection, threats of assassination and conspiracy. These factors were being motivated by the way in which his political opponents viewed him.

He was viewed as someone who could deal mercilessly with people who were engaged in impunity of any kind, as one who was ruthless with oppressors and as one who could not be trusted with power. His stint in the olden days of detention was a great topic for his detractors.

They focused less on his stand on the constitution and his enigmatic traits and instead gave much prominence to his political aggression. His opponents said he could not be trusted with power at all.

So in a plot to block Raila’s presidency, six men and two women met in Uhuru’s private office in Chancery Building along Valley Road to plot Raila’s rejection.
The meeting came only a day after a major American celebration day at the American Embassy where Uhuru and Kalonzo had met and agreed on a meeting which was intended to discuss their political future. Kalonzo and Uhuru had agreed to bring in the meeting three officials each.

Kalonzo brought in David Musila, Nyiva Mwendwa, and Joe Hamisi while Uhuru Kenyatta came with Dalmas Otieno, Marsden Madoka and Naomi Shaban. The daggers at the Chancery boardroom were to be aimed directly in Raila Odinga’s direction.

The team claimed that Odinga was frustrating their political ambition. This came after several attempts by Kalonzo to hold Raila to ransom and have Raila declare “Kalonzo Tosha”. The detractors wanted to throw Raila Odinga in the wilderness of political isolation.

Uhuru Kenyatta had no kind words for Raila, especially as Odinga was one of the forces that had denied him the presidency in 2002.
“I am certainly not happy with the kind of treatment KANU is getting from ODM-Kenya,” Uhuru said, adding that, “Raila has become uncontrollable and the only way to deal with him is to isolate him.”

As Joe Hamisi, one of the meeting attendants, put it, “That evening I saw Jomo in Uhuru, complete with the former president’s menacing eyes. He was lashing out at Raila, just as his father did to Odinga.

The isolation of Raila could hatch a plan to ensure that he would not make it to the ballot. The isolation plan hatched a powerful movement called “the third force,” which comprised of Kalonzo and Ojiambo at the onset and later on William Ruto, who by then had promised his support to Raila Odinga.

In this, Uhuru Kenyatta said, “This alliance must be formidable enough to stop Raila, otherwise, this man will give us trouble.”
He later added that “These are not the people I want to conduct business with. We will never agree on anything.”

Kalonzo and Raila were leading a bare-knuckled political fight against Uhuru, a man many considered politically inept.

The fear factor of Raila was increasingly getting out of control, “He is acting like a prefect and treating us like children, behaving as if he is already the party’s presidential nomimee...can you imagine what Raila will do to all of us? He will step all over the rest of us after he becomes president. We will not allow that to happen.”

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