ODM leader Raila Odinga has intensified his efforts to reach out to President Uhuru Kenyatta's Central region as part of his building bridges plan.
The former PM has stepped up meetings with individuals and groups, some of which were stridently opposed to him during the last election, ahead of his expected tour of the region next month.
"The President and I are determined to unite the country," Raila said moments before he left for the UK on Sunday for a series of lectures.
Raila has been meeting covertly with influential Mt Kenya leaders and Uhuru’s close relatives before and after their March 9 handshake settlement.
The deft moves have stirred anxiety among supporters of Deputy President William Ruto who read mischief in the deal. They believe the opposition leader is using the handshake to reposition himself or at least deflate the Jubilee succession game plan.
Raila met former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and he was warmly received at the funeral service for Kenneth Matiba in Muranga three weeks ago.
Last Friday, the the NASA leader held a two-hour closed-door meeting with leaders of the Gikuyu, Embu and Meru Association (Gema).
"The journey to Canaan is still on course, we realised there were crocodiles in Jordan so we had to build 'bridges' to cross to the other side," Raila told the Gema business leaders during the meeting.
Denying that the unity pact is intended to politically benefit him, Raila said last week: “It [the handshake] was too significant an event to be reduced to a struggle for positions, promises and ambitions of individuals.”
And for the first time yesterday, Raila's ODM party pitched tent in Uhuru's home county, Kiambu, for a daylong meeting with party members in what was described as a strategy to rebuild the party.
Central Kenya has traditionally not voted for Raila. It embraced him temporarily in 2002 when he played the leading role in the Narc campaign that led to the election of Mwai Kibaki but deserted him in the subsequent elections when he ran for President.
On September 16, Raila told Al Jazeera TV in an interview that “ethnic chauvinists” were to blame for preventing the Kikuyus, and the Central Kenya population generally, from voting for him.
He said that Kikuyus do not vote for him because he is a Luo but because of propaganda that he will undermined their interests. This, he said, had driven a wedge between him and Kikuyu voters.
"I work with Kikuyus. My legal adviser is a Kikuyu. I have a lot of Kikuyus who work with me. But Kikuyus have not voted for me because, basically, there is this propaganda spread by ethnic chauvinists to keep them away from me," Raila told Al Jazeera.
Former Nyeri Senator Mutahi Kagwe told the Star yesterday that Central Kenya “is very happy” with Raila's peace efforts and push for constitutional reforms.
"What they [Central] are looking at is a peaceful Kenya and they have identified the person who is seeking peace and prosperity in the country as Raila. He is the one who did the handshake for that purpose, he is advocating a change in the Constitution that will accommodate everyone in a progressive manner,” Kagwe said.
Kagwe said Raila has earned goodwill in Central which is the “political capital he is using to create peace and harmony among the various groups across the country".
Ethnicity plays a big role in who makes it to the presidency in Kenya. The country has 43 tribes and competition for political seats has never been more serious, as most Kenyans getting behind candidates from their ethnic groups.
The five largest ethnic groups — the Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo and Kamba — make up nearly 70 percent of the country's 45 million population, according to the 2009 census.
Most of the leaders playing an important role in deciding election outcomes are from these tribes.
Raila is scheduled to deliver public lectures at Cambridge University on Tuesday and at Oxford University on Thursday as a guest of the Cambridge Union and Oxford Union, respectively.
On Wednesday he is scheduled to meet the UK minister for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Harriett Baldwin.
A meeting with Kenyans is scheduled for Friday at the Greenwood Lecture Theatres of King’s College, London.
Raila's moves have virtually killed NASA. The alliance's Summit, as well as the Management Committee have not met for two months despite assertions that the alliance is intact. Sources said NASA secretariat staff at Capitol Hill are now operating as part of Raila's staff, a clear signal the alliance has crumbled.
Before the handshake, the NASA Summit — comprising Raila, Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang'ula, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and ANC's Musalia Mudavadi met every Thursday.
The last time the principals met was on March 12 at Stoni Athi Resort in Machakos county where Raila unsuccessfully tried to explain why he clandestinely met Uhuru without his co-principals.
Even more confusing was the move by Ford Kenya and ANC to merge; it has run into disputes over leadership.
On Sunday, Wetang'ula said it was over between him and Raila.
"Divorce is not an event, it's a process, the process has just started. Watch this space ... I have disengaged politically with Raila, the rest are details." the Ford Kenya boss stated.
"The harsh critics of the Jubilee government are now part of the quartet singing praises where praises are not necessary."
Wetang'ula was removed as Senate Minority leader on March 20 — two months after he and his two colleagues — Kalonzo and Musalia snubbed Raila's swearing-in as the People's President at Uhuru Park on January 30.
Barack Muluka, ANC’s contested secretary general, yesterday told the Star it will be difficult for the Summit to meet until NASA principals “begin treating each other as equals".
Speaking on KTN, Wetang'ula said NASA was still in existence but said he could not vouch for ODM’s status.
"Ford Kenya, ANC and Wiper are still in NASA, I don't know about ODM and I don't want to talk to them," Wetang'ula said.
Under Article 15 (1) of NASA's coalition agreement on dissolution, an exit of at least three parties automatically leads to the dissolution of the coalition.
"In The Political Parties Act, the merger will cause ANC and Ford Kenya to cease to exist as political parties, which will mean they are no longer in NASA. And again that will not mean that NASA has ceased to exist because we will not have been three parties pulling out," Muluka stated.
"Having therefore become a new outfit we can ask to be allowed to be part of NASA and those remaining in NASA will exercise the option of admitting us or rejecting us."
Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa downplayed the falling out in the alliance, maintaining it is intact, even after being rattled by the March 9 handshake.
"NASA is there. What happened there was an outcry about the issue of the handshake, which the principals said should have been more inclusive and structured. I think plans are going on and very soon you are going to see the Summit up and kicking," the National Assembly deputy Minority whip said.