SUCCESSION

Will Kenyatta Family back Raila in 2022?

Raila Odinga shares a piece of cake with President Uhuru Kenyatta in Mombasa on January during Raila's birthday. / JOHN CHESOLI
Raila Odinga shares a piece of cake with President Uhuru Kenyatta in Mombasa on January during Raila's birthday. / JOHN CHESOLI

President Uhuru Kenyatta is torn between sticking to the pre-2013 political deal with Deputy President William Ruto and supporting ODM party leader Raila Odinga.

He is under immense pressure from some of his kitchen cabinet and the family to abandon Ruto and craft a new political arrangement with his two-time rival turned ally Raila with whom he entered a deal through the now famous handshake last March.

Although Majority Leader Aden Duale has said Uhuru will stand with Ruto in the 2022 presidential race, Mt Kenya tycoons and close associates of the President, uncomfortable with a Ruto presidency, are spending sleepless nights plotting how to ruin the DP's dreams.

The ODM leader has had meetings with close members of the first family including Uhuru's mother Mama Ngina, his influential uncle George Muhoho and sister Anne Nyokabi.

The larger Kenyatta family has played a major role in mending relations between Uhuru and Raila following the fallout after the August 2017 presidential race. In the March 2018 deal, Uhuru and Raila agreed to end their political war.

Events by the Kenyattas seem to be strategic and have sparked political discourse on whether the first family has settled on Raila.

On January 20, President Uhuru Kenyatta's powerful brother Muhoho was the main guest at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga's memorial service in Bondo constituency in Siaya county.

The influential and reclusive businessman, the power behind the Kenyatta family business empire, was hosted by Raila in a clear show that the relationship had grown beyond Raila and Uhuru to include members of both families.

“I am not a politician, but a development-oriented person who will stick by Raila for the vision of prosperity to be realised for all Kenyans,” Muhoho said in Bondo. Observers note that only a day earlier, Uhuru was with Raila at the burial of former Youth Fund boss Bruce Odhiambo in Koru, Kisumu County.

Uhuru was in Bondo in December last year and was again hosted by the Odingas. No Nyanza MP or politician accompanied Raila on both occasions.

In a concerted effort which political pundits say could be a psychological war targeted at the Deputy President, on January 23 Raila met with two of Uhuru's cousins - nominated senator Beth Mugo and her brother Ngengi Muigai - at his Capitol Hill office.

Details of what they discussed during the closed door meeting have remained highly guarded. Before the handshake, Mugo, the veteran city politician, was a chief critic of Raila.

"I was happy to catch up with longtime friends senator Beth Mugo and Mr Ngengi Muigai. The three of us have a long history dating back to the struggle for multiparty politics and a new Constitution in the 1990s," Raila posted on his twitter handle after the meeting.

While Raila has been keen to defuse talk of his possible candidature in 2022, his lieutenants, including Siaya Senator James Orengo, have repeatedly said Raila will make a fifth stab at the top job.

Orengo and company are believed to be flying kites for the ODM chief.

They live in the hope Uhuru will endorse him.

"Mambo ya 2022 ni mambo ya Mungu lakini tunaona dalili nyingine hapo wewe ndio unajua, mimi sitaki niulizwe. Muheshimiwa Ruto amesema ako hapo katikati lakini wewe unajua, wewe unajua.(It is only God who knows about the 2022 race but we have seen the signs that only you (Uhuru) know. I don't want to be asked...Ruto has said now he is in between you and Raila but it is only you who knows)," Orengo said during Uhuru's tour of Nyanza region last month.

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Raila and his allies are pushing for a referendum to mend the Constitution and create the position of a powerful prime minister and a ceremonial president.

ODM has made radical recommendations to the Building Bridges Initiative task force - a team that was put up jointly by Uhuru and Raila after the handshake team. The proposals include a single seven-year term for the head of state

The Building Bridges task force has started public hearings across the country and its final report could alter the country's political terrain ahead of the 2022 General Election.

On the other hand, Ruto’s close ally Duale has maintained that Uhuru will not only support Ruto’s 2022 bid but will be the campaign manager.

Appearing on a late night TV interview on Tuesday, Duale insisted Uhuru will honour his pledge and support Ruto and disclosed what he termed as secret meetings in which Uhuru has confirmed Ruto is his man.

Duale who said he speaks only in concurrence with Uhuru and Ruto assured Jubilee supporters that Raila's entry into government has nothing to do with 2022.

"The deal where the President will support the DP for 10 year has not changed. During our first Parliamentary Group meeting in 2013 - I am now talking as an insider - the President said when the time comes in 2022, he will be the campaign manager for DP," Duale said during the TV interview.

He added: "In private , not once or twice, he has said he is going to support the DP. So, all these people who are making noise that the President has changed tack are wrong . The President doesn't need to go to a political rally or TV to say his preferred candidate is Ruto. That is not what the President will do. I can tell you as a Jubilee insider that the Jubilee plan is still on course".

But Alego Usonga MP Sam Atandi downplayed the secret meetings, maintaining Ruto will not succeed Uhuru.

The first time lawmaker said the opposition side is unmoved by claims of Uhuru’s behind-the-scenes assurance to DP.

“Whether he (Ruto) receives the President backing, he will not see State House; take that to the bank. We are not bothered with Ruto’s 2022 ambitions. We want the Building Bridges Initiative to succeed,” Atandi said.

He however stayed clear of opposition’s expectations from the Raila/Uhuru truce which some quarters have argued should end in the endorsement of Raila.

Raila, who has not openly expressed his 2022 interest, has kept the country guessing on his next move since March 9 last year.

The ODM lawmaker said unity of purpose and eradication of ethnicity and corruption is all the country is expecting from the handshake.

“A more united Kenya, devoid of ethnicity and corruption, working devolution which is beneficial to our people in terms of more resources allocation and full integration of our people into the national government,” he added.

Duale also disclosed the former Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe was pushed out of the ruling outfit after crossing the red line.

He said his negative remarks on the Deputy President were not in tandem with the party, saying he was not an ordinary member.

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