The enigma of Raila's handshake power

In Summary
  • Raila who until March last year was unwanted visitor in the corridors of power has today transformed into the darling of the system, something that close allies are concerned has made him ineffective opposition chief.
  • Just in the past two days, the former premier has held meetings with two powerful personalities both from the former royal families something that was unheard of in his decades career in politics which was largely confrontational.

AU Special Envoy for Infrastructure Raila Odinga has lately become the magnet of real power, leaving friends and foe baffled on his actual position in the country’s power matrix.

Raila, who until March last year was an unwanted visitor in the corridors of power, has today transformed into the darling of the system -a thing close allies are concerned has made him an ineffective opposition chief.

In the past two days, the ODM leader has held meetings with two powerful personalities both from royal families. This was something unheard of in his decades career in politics, which was largely confrontational.


On Wednesday, Raila held private discussions with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s sister Kristina Pratt at his Capitol Hill office in Nairobi.

Yesterday, the former Prime Minister hosted Doris Elizabeth Chepkorir Moi, the daughter of Kenya’s second President Daniel Moi.

Pratt’s meeting, which was widely shared online, follows similar meetings with Uhuru’s  uncle George Muhoho at his Bondo home, and he recently hosted him for a fundsdrive in Homa Bay county.

In January, Muhoho attended the memorial service of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in Bondo where he was hosted by Raila.

Last month, Muhoho in another visit to Raila’s backyard accompanied the ex-PM to Ringa Boys Secondary School in Kasipul, Homa Bay.

While at Homa Bay, Muhoho rallied Kenyans to support the handshake, saying it has brought peace.

He said that the handshake between Uhuru and Raila is aimed at uniting Kenyans.

“I know the handshake was meant to bring Kenyans together and not to scatter people. Let’s embrace what makes the country grow economically,” Muhoho said.

Since the March 9, 2018, deal, Raila’s private office at Capitol Hill has become a beehive of activity. He has received top diplomats, state officials including Cabinet secretaries, politicians and diplomats.

I know the handshake was meant to bring Kenyans together and not to scatter people. Let’s embrace what makes the country grow economically

Delegations from regions, previously seen as “enemy territories” have been flocking there, climaxing in Raila's appointment as AU envoy.

It is this over indulgence with the system which is now currently brewing discord among staunch supporters who are concerned that he has abandoned the opposition and is being slowly swallowed by the system.

The first to openly fire a salvo at Raila’s cosiness with the system is economist David Ndii, who was part of Raila’s inner think-tank in the run-up to the 2017 General Election.

Ndii, in a rare attack, described Raila as a let down. He tagged a the picture of the ODM leader with Uhuru’s sister. He was handing her a book.

“We have truly lost this one, what a let down,” Ndii tweeted.

But Raila’s close allies have come out strongly to defend the opposition leader. They claims that he has been drowned by the state and rendered ineffective in discharging his oversight mandate.

Raila’s ally John Mbadi (Suba South MP), who also doubles as ODM chairman, defended his boss. He said his type of engagement is necessary as it has proven to be more effective.

“There is always a reason why people need opposition in a country; you need opposition to check the government. If you can talk to that government and the government listens it is even a better opposition in my view,” Mbadi told the Star on phone.

He further said that though Raila has no formal position in Uhuru’s administration, his truce with the President explains the frequent visits by CSs and other government officials to Capitol Hill Square.

“You are forgetting that when these guys shook hands they said they were bringing the country together. How do you bring the country when one is far removed from power, he is enjoying power but informal power, there is no formal position of Raila in government?” he said.

“The handshake was to bury the past and bring the country together. You can only bring the country together when people see you working together, and there is no way Uhuru will work together with Raila without government also working with him.”

Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang'  trashed assertions that Raila has been swallowed by the Jubilee administration.

He said that Raila’s closeness with the head of state has been triggered not by his appetite for power, but by the need bring peace and empower the masses.

“Raila Odinga has never sought power as an end. He has always sought power as a means to the end. To him, power is a tool and means through which he can empower his people,” he said.

ODM secretary general Edward echoed similar sentiments. He disputed claims that the once vibrant and fierce opposition leader has gone to bed with the Jubilee government.

Sifuna said Raila has only changed tack and strategy in engaging the government for the sake of development and peace.

“Raila has not transformed. He is still the same Raila that we have known since 1980s. What has changed is that now the President can pick up Raila's calls and vice versa and they can sit on the table and discuss issues. It is his approach and tack that has changed. Raila is still the opposition leader. He not a member of the government,” he said.

University of Nairobi don-cum political commentator Herman Manyora said Raila is an unpredictable and dynamic politician whose cosiness with the President has only made him more powerful and visible.

“He has not been swallowed neither has he swallowed the Jubilee government. It is a kind of relationship that is a bit unique. Unique in a sense that you rarely get such things in the world,” he said.

“Even before Raila joined Uhuru, he was arguably the most powerful man in this country. Even those with state power were not as powerful as him. So what people are seeing is the same powerful Raila who has been added a small thing of state power. So the association with Uhuru has not put him in government but now he is okay with the government and the state.”