SUCCESSION POLITICS

Handshake bromance dashes hopes of Raila-Ruto reunion

Renewed camaraderie between Uhuru and ODM boss has silenced speculation.

In Summary

• It began with dinner at Raila's on Wednesday.

• On Thursday, Raila and Uhuru inspected state projects in Nairobi and addressed the nation at State House.  

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga at DP's Karen home. Looking on is President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga at DP's Karen home. Looking on is President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Image: FILE

In two days, Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta have put to rest a much-touted political alliance between the ODM boss and DP William Ruto.

It began with dinner at Raila's on Wednesday. On Thursday, Raila and Uhuru inspected state projects in Nairobi and addressed the nation at State House.  

In their early days in office, Ruto would have been by Uhuru's side. The two have fallen out and the DP said last week he's ready to ditch the ruling Jubilee Party. 

During an interview with a local radio station Ruto touted his ideological agreements with Raila, leading to speculation they might work together. 

Ruto praised Raila's credentials, saying he is the only politician who had built a national party like Jubilee and dismissed the One Kenya Alliance. 

But the renewed camaraderie between Uhuru and Raila has silenced the talk of a reunion by the two frontrunners ahead of the 2022 polls. 

Weeks of intense speculation over the handshake's collapse had rekindled memories of Raila's friendship with Ruto in the lead up to the 2007 elections. 

Allies of Raila and Ruto even toned down their verbal assaults on the duo, giving credence to talk of a possible alliance.

On Friday, Parliament's deputy majority whip Maoka Maore said the relationship between Uhuru and Raila has been solid throughout, but critics were “reading too much”.

“The President and the former prime minister are great friends and the principal partners in the handshake. BBI is their product and there is no way they can pull apart. Ignore naysayers,” he told the Star.

The Uhuru ally said the President's move to meet Raila is part of their plan under the handshake of bringing Kenyans together.

“No doubt that the two leaders will continue to work together in the coming months,” he said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga outside Harambee House on March 9, 2018.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga  outside Harambee House on March 9, 2018.
Image: JACK OWUOR

Politicians and analysts warned that anything was possible in next year's election, despite the recent developments. 

For Ruto, there are limited options in his alliance-building with Raila possibly out of the equation.

Already, the One Kenya Alliance of Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang'ula, Gideon Moi and Kalonzo Musyoka means no big guns are available.

The One Kenya Alliance is also said to enjoy a special place in Uhuru's succession plan.

Raila's allies have been rattled by the new alliance and have accused it of trying to hijack the BBI process to isolate Raila from the 2022 succession matrix.

On Friday, former ODM National Elections Board chairman Franklin Bett said the move by the President to affirm his ties with Raila had thrown Ruto back to the drawing board.

“The friendship had once appeared lost and the allies of the two leaders told it all. The President's efforts are meant to stabilise the country by cooling political temperatures. The duo is back together,” Bett said.

Bett, who served as Cabinet minister when Raila was prime minister between 2007 and 2013, said the DP's 2022 options are thinner.

“It may not be possible for Raila to reunite with Ruto any time soon and possibly we may end up with a three-horse race in 2022,” he said.

On Friday, a senior Jubilee official told the Star that they will do whatever it takes to stop Raila from joining forces with Ruto. 

“The handshake is solid at least for now. The President has a plan which might be disrupted should Raila be pushed to a corner where he will easily team up with Ruto,” the official said. 

There were concerns within the President's circle that the DP was relishing a moment of reunion with his former friend-turned-foe. 

That reunion, they felt, would be to teach Uhuru's allies a lesson after his removal from Jubilee Party rank and file.

The DP's allies were purged from plum and positions in Parliament following his falling out with his boss over the 2022 succession politics and the BBI.

There were fears in Uhuru's camp that antagonising Raila, 15 months to the next election, would destabilise the country and hand the DP a lifeline.

Political analyst Martin Andati warned that both Raila and Ruto have already been short-changed and that the President was buying time before dropping the bombshell.

“They have been played. Raila has been screwed, so is Ruto,” he said. He noted that Raila would blame himself for squandering an opportunity he had to fix electoral reforms.

“The system will use the IEBC to lock them out of power,” he said.  

“The numbers don’t add up. Theirs would become a Luo-Kalenjin affair. Whichever way they go, they will be hanged; the difference being whether it would be separately or together,” the analyst added.

West Mugirango MP Vincent Kemosi said the DP was focusing on his hustler national empowerment programme. Ruto would be ready to work with leaders who subscribe to his philosophy, he said.

"We in Tangatanga are not in a panic, we have enough time to market our hustler nation. Those who approve of our ideas can only join us," he said.

Raila and Ruto worked together in the Pentagon — a powerful five-member ODM summit akin to a politburo and arguably the most potent political machine in Kenyan history.

The Pentagon comprised Raila, Ruto, Musalia, Tourism CS Najib Balala and former Cabinet Minister Joe Nyaga who died early this year. Narc leader Charity Ngilu also joined the team though it retained its numerical identity of the Pentagon.

They nearly removed then-President Mwai Kibaki from power. Presidential election results were disputed, leading to the formation of the Grand Coalition government.

(edited by o. owino)