• Betrayal, use-and-abuse, and treachery are hallmarks of Kenyan politics.
• Just ask William Samoei Ruto.
The recent pronouncement by the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga that the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) is not in government raises a fundamental question. If ODM is not in government, what is its relationship with Jubilee? When asked about ODM’s relationship with Jubilee, the former premier was opaque in his response. Rather than clearly identify the relationship and shed light on its dynamics, he instead stated that ODM's role is one of providing advice to Jubilee. This response leads to another quagmire of questions such as: What type of advice is ODM giving Jubilee?
Secondly, if ODM gives Jubilee bad advice, and Jubilee follows that bad advice, is ODM culpable for the resultant mess in governance by association? On the other hand, if ODM gives Jubilee good advice and Jubilee implements that good advice, can ODM claim credit for the benefit of its good advice, but not the mess of the bad advice? It would appear disingenuous for ODM to claim the benefit of good advice to Jubilee but reject the consequences of its bad advice to the Jubilee administration. If on the other hand ODM claims ownership of all advice it gives Jubilee, doesn’t that then make ODM part of government? At the very least, that would make ODM an appendage of the Jubilee government and responsible for all mistakes and triumphs of the Jubilee administration.
However, I digress. Back to the original question. If ODM is not in government, what is its relationship with Jubilee? Nobody other than Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga really know the answer to this question. This is not good for Kenya, which is a representative republic. In this form of government, the people delegate their power to representatives who are to use, hold and transfer that power in trust via constitutional frameworks. The implied consent of the governed is the accountability of elected leaders to the people. Part of this accountability involves full disclosure of the details in pacts such as the “handshake”. As it stands, all power now resides with the co-principals by virtue of the opaque handshake.
The people do not know the details of the handshake pact.My take on ODM’s relationship with Jubilee is that it is a symbiotic relationship. It benefits both Jubilee and ODM in different ways. With the handshake, ODM gets to claim the credit for the success of Jubilee policy by association but can also absolve itself from the failures of the Jubilee administration. This is a dangerous game to play for ODM because Raila Odinga is losing his image as a charismatic leader. He is fast gaining the reputation as an opportunistic, self-centered, transactional leader, that will stop at nothing, including abandoning the principles of his anti-Jubilee campaign in 2013 and 2017, to become president.
Jubilee on its part, benefits from the symbiotic relationship by neutering the opposition. It gets to legislate with no real checks from an opposition. This is because ODM will support all Jubilee initiatives, as Raila Odinga calculates his ethnic coalition arithmetic for the 2022 elections. It also alienates President Kenyatta's former ally and now greatest critic. Deputy President William Ruto.
Therefore, if ODM is not in government, and its relationship to Jubilee is as yet amorphous, ODM should be careful. Betrayal, use-and-abuse, and treachery are hallmarks of Kenyan politics. Just ask William Samoei Ruto. The handshake deal between the son of Jomo and the son of Jaramogi does not guarantee Raila the presidency in 2022. 2022 could be 1969 all over again. Another hurtful deja vu! The handshake spins the suspense in the run up to the 2022 elections. Ultimately in Kenyan politics, it is not the vote that counts, but the consensus of the most powerful coalition of elites to retain power, which carries the day. The intrigues of Kenyan politics continue to flow. Watch this space.
Prof Monda teaches political science, international relations, and American government at the City University of New York (York College), New York, USA. [email protected] @dmonda1