• Allies say the verbal exchange between Ruto and Raila cannot stop the two from working together in 2022
• Pundits say Ruto and Raila have fallen into Uhuru’s trap to enable him to complete his term and manage succession politics
President Uhuru Kenyatta's close allies suspect Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga could join hands in the 2022 polls.
The leaders, who have vowed to stop Ruto from succeeding Uhuru, fear there is still room for the DP and Raila working together in a strong political vehicle like the 2007 Pentagon team. Raila lost to President Mwai Kibaki in the bitterly disputed election that led to post-election violence in which more than 1,300 people killed and thousands displaced.
“If Uhuru can work with Raila then I can not rule out Raila and Ruto working together in the coming elections. I have once worked with them in the Pentagon and they know each other well,” former Cooperatives minister Joseph Nyagah told the Star.
Sources close to Uhuru say his handlers believe the handshake will define Raila’s next political step after the Uhuru completes his term. But Uhuru and Raila say the handshake is meant to address Kenya's winner-takes-all politics, reorganize the Executive and ensure free and fair polls.
“Raila and Ruto know each other well and I ask them to tone down to focus on what is good for the nation - good governance, equality and stability,” Nyagah said.
The allies warn that the current verbal exchange between Ruto and Raila cannot stop the two vibrant politicians from working together in the 2022 polls against a prominent candidate.
“I’m reluctant to say Raila and Ruto cannot work together. However, this depends on mutual respect and common interest,” nominated Senator Rose Nyamunga said.
Ruto last week alleged on Citizen TV that Raila approached him four times after the 2017 polls before Raila went ahead to engage Uhuru in negotiations that led to the handshake on March 9 last year.
But the Orange party hotly rejected Ruto's claim.
“On a TV show last night, Ruto made a myriad of accusations against the ODM Party and our Party Leader which cannot be left unchallenged. Among these lies was that the Rt Hon Raila Odinga approached him four times prior to the famous handshake for purposes he did not disclose. This would be laughable if the accusation didn’t raise such grave concerns,” ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna said.
Nyagah said he unsuccessfully tried to mediate between Uhuru and Raila. Only pressure from the West brought them together.
“I was the first to ask Uhuru and Raila to meet after I cast my vote in my village but they didn’t listen to me. I repeated later and warned that if they don’t agree to meet, the international community would dictate terms of the dialogue,” Nyagah said.
“The other day we were laughing with Raila when he reminded me that they agreed to meet with Uhuru on March 9 since the international pressure was intense and the former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was coming to Kenya.”
Nyaga said Uhuru and Raila feared the terms of the international community on the dialogue would be harsh.
“As a farmer, I support the handshake because I want a stable nation and be able to do my business everywhere. They should deliver what they have promised the nation,” he said.
“Kenyans should not listen to their tough exchange of words. The two know what they are doing.”
The handshake is the genesis of Ruto and Raila's fight but Uhuru has on a number of occasions sent mixed signals about changing the law to accommodate Raila.
“Uhuru is a beneficiary of the status quo. The possibilities that he might change the laws are very minimal,” International Center for Policy and Conflict executive director Ndung’u Wainaina said.
Pundits who spoke to the Siasa say Ruto and Raila have fallen into the trap of Uhuru’s political machinations to enable him to complete his term and manage succession politics.
“In 2007, Ruto was used by former President Mwai Kibaki and his allies to fight Raila. Uhuru knows well that he can’t manage the two politicians and he is now using Raila a decade later to fight Ruto,” Wainaina said.
“The handshake will be defined by many things in terms of succession and its impact on Raila’s political future. As long as Raila is still breathing he will still vie in future polls,” Prof Macharia Munene of USIU said.
Allies and pundits believe it would be hard for Uhuru to openly endorse Ruto or Raila for the presidency.
“Uhuru will not endorse anyone but behind the scenes a lot will be done to ensure his favoured candidate wins,” a source close to the First Family said.
Wainaina of the Internationa Center for Policy and Conflict said Ruto is well aware of the machinations and in his succession plans he is redrafting and laying his strategies.
“Raila will want to use his ties with the Kenyattas to succeed Uhuru but the Mois, Kenyattas and their people are not comfortable with Raila because of his kind of politics,” Wainaina said.
“That is when Ruto, Raila, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka will find themselves together fighting for the top post against the state's preferred candidate,” Wainaina said.
“And I see them approaching Musalia who looks neutral, acceptable and easy to sell so that they can work with him.”
Former minister Nyagah said Raila and Ruto got along well at the ODM’s Pentagon and Kenyans should not be surprised to see them working together again for the 2022 polls.
Those close to Ruto say the DP is aware Raila will vie.
“If he vies, it would be easy to divide the Western Kenya votes since Musalia has already declared his candidature. And that means Raila will not endorse Musalia,” a Ruto aide said.