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Peter Kenneth: Why Raila is best to succeed Uhuru

Former Gatanga MP says Odinga has been at the centre of every struggle to make Kenya better

In Summary

• Kenneth was part of the delegation to Raila's Bondo home.

• He says there is a lot of misleading propaganda around the BBI report.

Former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth with ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Former presidential candidate Peter Kenneth with ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Image: ALICE WAITHERA

Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth has for the first time publicly extolled ODM leader Raila Odinga and declared him ideal to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022.

In an exclusive interview with the Star, Kenneth described Raila as a man who has been at the centre of every struggle to make Kenya better.

He expressed his willingness to team up with him, saying Raila has  “the right energy levels”.

Kenneth a former Planning assistant minister and a 2013 presidential candidate is touted as a possible successor to President Kenyatta in the Mt Kenya region.

“I think Raila  has what it takes should he offer himself for the presidency. He has been involved in all the battles to make Kenya better, but I cannot speak for him,” Kenneth said in his Upper Hill office.

“I do not know what the handshake between him and the President entailed when it comes to 2022. Both of them have publicly said it’s not time for politicking.

"Therefore, until it's quite clear he will be a candidate, it would not be right for us to discuss that candidature. 

The former lawmaker said it's too early to plan for the next election in the middle of a pandemic and with BBI proposals likely to alter the Executive architecture.

“I have worked with him [Raila] before in many instances. So why can’t I work with him again," Kenneth asked.

They worked together in the Grand Coalition and in articulating  BBI issues.

Kenneth’s latest political activities, including a visit to Raila’s Bondo home alongside hundreds of Kikuyu elders, have set tongues wagging.

The visit came just weeks after some Mt Kenya leaders, including Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe and veteran politician Maina Kamanda, said Kenyans should prepare for a Raila presidency.

Coincidentally, Kenneth, Murathe and Raila, among other leaders, have in recent months met several times at Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli’s home in Kajiado.

In the interview, Kenneth reminded Raila’s critics that half of the country has voted for the ODM boss in the last three elections.

“It’s also important for Kenyan to remember that despite the fact that the Hon Raila Odinga has lost elections; he has never lost a referendum. We have had only two and in both he was on the winning side,” he stated.

But Kenneth reckons that the 2022 polls could bring forth many political surprises as the road ahead remains unclear.

“Supposing the principals of the handshake decide to back a third candidate, what would that entail? And suppose they decide to back themselves and in this case, Raila ?” he asked.

Despite remaining guarded on his own plans, the former MP — previously voted the best in management of the CDF —  says he is ready to serve Kenyans.

“Of course, I have something to offer  Kenyans. I have always said that. And whenever I have been given an opportunity, I have been able to show  I am able to offer something to make Kenya better,” he told the Star.

Is he ready to take over as the Mt Kenya kingpin?

“I don’t think it’s a question of being ready. First, in a new dispensation, it's a question of  ensuring the region is adequately represented at any negotiating table… I have what it takes to represent the region but that is not a priority now

"I believe if the opportunity is granted as first amongst equals, I should be on that list,” Kenneth stated.

He said the President has the prerogative to dissolve his Cabinet as retired President Mwai Kibaki did in 2005, should some members of the Executive oppose the BBI plebiscite.

“In all democracies where a ministers or government officials have opposed a particular government motion, they have to resign or be fired,” Kenneth said.

Here is an abridged version of the verbatim interview:

Former PS Bitange Ndemo said his phone stopped rigging after he left office. How has life been since 2013?

I have been alright. I had businesses running, so I just went back to the businesses. So for me it was just a move from public office to private office. It’s given me opportunity to grow the business which probably I would not have gotten if I was in public life. For me it’s been busy. Genuine friends  will always be genuine. They would stand by you. So I have never had an issue. In fact, I would wish that it [the phone] would ring less [laughs].

What do you do away from politics?

I am in the financial sector in six African countries for banking and insurance. That keeps me busy. A little tea farming and dairy farming here and there but the main line is in the financial sector. 

What are your views about the BBI report?

Those who are opposed to the report need to tell Kenyans what is wrong with BBI proposals. Is there a problem in giving ward funds? is there a problem in increasing county allocations? is there a problem in number two in an election being acknowledged as leader of official opposition?

Is there a problem in saying court cases should be determined in two years? Is there a problem in the police reporting somewhere? Where on this good world is an independent police without reporting to some office? Are we saying if there is cattle rustling it is for the police to decide whether they should go and stop or not?

There must be directions. Directions do not necessarily interfere with the independence of a force. Why is that so critical to those fighting BBI yet they are not asking the President to stop being commander in chief of the armed forces?

The consensus must be purely on items that were discussed within the handshake. We are not reviewing the Constitution. The Constitution has a lot of things that we should review if you ask me. We need to look at our Bill of Rights. Was it too liberal?

Some say Mt Kenya is hostile to BBI and it could sink in the referendum.

I am not sure about it falling. There is a lot of civic education to be undertaken and once you separate the truth from the lies, people will make a more credible judgement. In my view, there has been a lot of propaganda but the truth is these whole proposals called BBI are beneficial to that common person in every region.

I know we are at the centre of a pandemic, but the country must move on and I think creation of any law that betters the country will always be a priority for Kenyans or for any country.

Your trip to Bondo alongside Kikuyu elders caused a furore. Why?

A lot of things were said. But it’s very interesting that when the elders attended a funeral last week of a Luo elder, they were warmly welcomed, there was no furore and accusations that they are not the real elders.

You can clearly see those who felt they were left behind were the ones making the most noise. The trip was a pure arrangement between the Kikuyu Council of Elders and the Luo Council of Elders. We were invited to attend.I did not imagine that my appearance would create such a furore against a legitimate group going to visit another legitimate group.

There has been a lot of debate on the youth vote. What's your view on the hustler campaigns?

Any country that has a high rate of unemployment would always be on the edge when it comes to any form of incitement to any group. In the case of Kenya, we have a high rate of unemployment of our young people. We need to think of how we can better their lives.

And the only way we can do it in my view is creating more employment spaces. Creating more security so investors can feel  Kenya is the choice destination for their investment...So yes, if we create narratives that take advantage of situations we are in terms of unemployment, it could create a problem.

(Edited by V. Graham)