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September 20, 2018

Handshake blows up ambitions

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga shake hands at the foot steps of Harambee House after their meeting where they resolved to work together and unite the country after the long protracted elections. March 9, 2018./JACK OWUOR
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga shake hands at the foot steps of Harambee House after their meeting where they resolved to work together and unite the country after the long protracted elections. March 9, 2018./JACK OWUOR

Cynics who claimed there was nothing ‘enigmatic’ about the ‘freak’ handshake between opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta are still fumbling for meaning. They are yet to decode the act beyond what the two Presidents say. Other handshakes have since followed, with speculation galore.

This much is known, though there is uneasy calm where once simmered a storm. It is also suspected, without evidence, so far, that there may be more to these VIP hugs than calming post-election animosities.

A week ago, another presidential handshake complicated matters further for opinion pundits and political bandits. The Raila-Daniel arap Moi handshake, like the previous one, has attracted speculation from politicians and analysts.

Then came a third presidential handshake — Raila and Mwai Kibaki, with son Jimmy Kibaki watching. Secretary to the Cabinet Joseph Kinyua, was present to give the event an official hue. TV cameras were also around to tell Kenya something was cooking. But no one has figured the game plan, apart from the disclosure of calming post-election nerves.

Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, the inheritor of the Kabarak kraal, was around to ration appointments with his father, a President for 24 years. Again, observers saw more than Raila visiting Moi after Gideon’s father returned from treatment abroad.

Speculators are asking if there is a plot to support Moi’s son for President? Has Deputy President William Ruto lost favour with the power elite?

Decoding the presidential handshakes is the subject of columns, radio and TV talk soaps, deep-sea fishing analysis, conspiracies, and speculations, even by councils of elders. That, is enigmatic.

The Oxford English dictionaries define enigma as something mysterious or someone who is difficult to understand. Or an event whose meaning is open to speculation. The possible meanings of the handshakes have created fear and hope, despondency and uncertainty, anxiety and excitement. Fear for those who think the gestures undermine their 2022 presidential ambitions. Hope for those who see the beginning of what could be their endorsement. Something like ‘so and so tosha!’

Ruto and his allies are yet to decode the handshakes. The Jubilee principal is unsettled. Then comes another handshake, hitting the anxious below the belt, and unsettling ambitions.

The meetings of the ‘royals’ have sent ‘hustlers’ back to chicken markets, where it all started. For the anxious, prominent Kenyans cannot meet any more without a 2022 presidential succession agenda. The Raila-Moi meeting has muddled succession waters. Ruto loyalists are fumbling. Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, a Ruto chorister, is lost in the maze of meanings intended, implied and imagined.

The see-no-evil and hear-no-evil Murkomen (Mor Komer with power?) can now see corruption in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale, another Ruto lackey, does not want a referendum as part of the handshakes. There is no suggestion, so far, there is a linkage.

The political landscape, they fear, is being configured for a power-sharing deal. They do not want electoral reforms that could lead to sharing of executive power. They want the winner to hoard power. They want the loser to wait on the fringes. They prefer exclusion. They want an IEBC that sings their tune.

National Super Alliance co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka also finds the handshakes moving too fast. He would have wished he shared inside information on the handshakes. He has promised to initiate a handshake of his own for the ‘good of the country’. Uhuru is yet to find time to meet the former Vice President. He wonders whether Uhuru is too busy or those protocol issues are undermining national interest.

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