Opposition leader Raila Odinga is poised to be named an African Union Special Envoy as part of his truce with President Uhuru Kenyatta, effectively elevating him to a continental statesman.
The Star has established that talks are at an advanced stage with the African Union Commission to appoint the Nasa leader to the league of respected continental leaders overseeing peace efforts in different parts of Africa.
Uhuru is personally leading the lobbying at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa and Commission chairperson Moussa Faki is said to have agreed to appoint Raila to the position.
The AU, UN and western powers mounted pressure on Uhuru and Raila to cease hostilities leading to the historic handshake of March 9, which ended a seven months’ political standoff after last year’s two disputed Presidential elections.
As a special envoy of the AU chairperson, Raila will have an office in Addis but with frequent travel across the continent to mediate in peace negotiations and conflict resolution.
Raila will also have a fully-furnished office in Nairobi, with staff and advisers to boost his local presence and unity programmes with Uhuru. He will however not be engaged in the country’s daily politics.
This raises the possibility that Raila, 73, who has unsuccessfully run for President four times, could be exiting the Kenya’s political arena ahead of the 2022 polls.
The government is said to have already identified a building along Harambee Avenue which is already undergoing renovations in anticipation of Raila’s enhanced roles.
The offices of the President and Deputy President are located along the same road.
National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale lauded Raila’s imminent appointment saying the NASA chief had earned his place as a distinguished democrat.
“I am not aware of that offer, but if it is there, Raila Odinga is a statesman par excellence. Raila is one man who if he gets that offer will enable AU to handle dangerous zones,” he told the Star on phone from Garissa.
“Raila is the only person among the NASA principals who has the statesman’s credentials which will also help him build his legacy,” Duale added.
Yesterday, Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen told the Star that Raila’s next continental role demonstrates Uhuru’s respect for Kenya’s former leaders.
“It is one of the ways for the President to extend goodwill and Raila having been a former competitor, I think it is a positive message,” said the Elgeyo Marakwet senator.
Murkomen said given that since being an African statesman is a preserve of former heads of state and government, Raila’s subsequent assignment befits him.
“It demonstrates that Kenya takes seriously its former leaders and that efforts made in the past by the leaders are recognised,” said the hitherto strident critic of Raila.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa told the Star that Raila’s fight for the enhanced democratic space in the country was worth rewarding.
“He [Raila] has earned his stature as a true African statesman, something like that is good for him,” said the chairman of the National Assembly budget committee.
ODM chairman John Mbadi was apprehensive. “If there is anything to talk about it’s how to take the country forward but not about who gets what,” he said.
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Once appointed to the influential position, Raila will join the elite club of eminent and respected Panafricanists, including former presidents Thambo Mbeki [South Africa], Olesugun Obasanjo [Nigeria], Festus Mogae [Botswana] and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
These are among several statesmen who have often been dispatched by AU to lead efforts to solve emerging political conflicts across Africa.
Currently, the AU has about 13 special envoys with specific assignments in various jurisdictions across the continent, including those responsible for countries facing civil unrest and inter-clan conflicts.
UN secretary general Antonio Guterres sent Obasanjo to Kenya in early January to mediate the stalemate between Uhuru and Raila while Mbeki led the AU’s election observer mission to the 2017 General Election.
Details of the March 9 Uhuru-Raila pact have been scant, but the latest moves to assign the opposition leader more privileges is a demonstration of increased goodwill between the two.
The Star has also established that Raila is already enjoying the trappings of power from the deal, even as finer details are being worked out by the two-man taskforce of Paul Mwangi and Martin Kimani.
Among others, Raila has been assigned six top-of-the-range vehicles, a lead police chase car and additional bodyguards, signaling his elevated public status. His wife, Ida, has two state-issued luxury vehicles as well as police bodyguards at her disposal. Their Karen and Opoda (Bondo) homes have also been put under armed police guard round the clock.
In the lead-up to the August 8 General Election, Raila was forced to use his personal Toyota Prados after the State withdrew the two remaining official Mercedes-Benz. He later enhanced his facilities during the post-election protest activities.
Yesterday, Raila pulled up at his Capitol Hill offices in a fleet of new Prado vehicles led by a police chase car. His elaborate security ring, coupled with his toned-down criticism of Uhuru’s Jubilee administration signals a new dawn in the life of Kenya’s foremost opposition figure.
With the NASA coalition on the verge of collapse after his co-principals accused him of betrayal over the handshake, Raila seems destined for a new life beyond the threats of his partners.
Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper, Musalia Mudavadi’s ANC and Moses Wetangula’s Ford Kenya parties appear to be plotting their future without Raila, whom they have vowed to teach a political lesson. But there is anxiety among Raila’s supporters who have been thrown into confusion by the lack of clarity about their status in the wake of the handshake.
Lawyer Paul Mwangi and ambassador Martin Kimani, whom Raila and Uhuru picked, respectively, to flesh out their handshake, are yet to come up with a framework for the pact agreed a month ago this week.