HISTORY ON REPLAY?

How the powerful in Kanu opposed working with Raila - Mudavadi

Moi was secretive in engaging Raila, pushing his close allies at bay for the NDP leader.

In Summary

•Saitoti-Kamotho axis was particularly concerned that roping Raila in government would bring him close to the center of power,

•Moi would hear none of it, overriding the opposing voices and pushing on with major changes during a National Delegate's conference at Kasarani on March 18, 2002.

Former President Daniel Moi having a chat with ODM leader Raila Odinga and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi at his Kabarak residence in 2018.
Former President Daniel Moi having a chat with ODM leader Raila Odinga and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi at his Kabarak residence in 2018.
Image: BEN NDONGA

The decision to rope in Raila Odinga's NDP party into Kanu in 2001 was spiritedly resisted in the ruling party circles, sowing the seed of discord that eventually germinated to be part the what rooted it out of power.

ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi suggests in his new book Soaring Above the Storms of Passion that the intrigues around the cooperation between Kanu and the opposition party NDP almost two decades ago could be mirroring the undercurrents in Jubilee government, where Raila, has once again been roped in.

Mudavadi writes that then Vice President George Saitoti and politician JJ Kamotho were restive that the move to rope Raila into government was a total political blunder and that it would parachute him into the centre of state power, particularly at their expense.

 
 
 

Mudavadi adds that the then powerful Saitoti-Kamotho axis was 'extremely ill at ease', claiming that they tried every move to scuttle the cooperation and the merger of the two parties.

"Throughout 2001, they resisted efforts to merge the two parties, arguing that KANU's constitution did not have any provision for a merger with other political outfits," he writes.

But Moi would hear none of it, he writes, overriding the opposing voices and pushing on with major changes during a National Delegate's conference at Kasarani on March 18, 2002, routing Saitoti and Kamotho out of the centre of power.

"Saitoti and Kamotho were routed out of the centre of power in KANU as the new political kids took the block by storm," he says. 

Moreover, Mudavadi writes that while engaging Raila, President Moi kept his usual most trusted political circles at bay.

So secretive was Moi, he claimes, that even his close associates could only get wind of the negotiations.

"President Moi, as far as I could see, was negotiating the merger outside his usual political circles. We started [only] getting wind of it when the notion of cooperation began filtering into public ears," the book reads.

 
 
 

Just like Uhuru currently, so determined was Moi with the cooperation with Raila that his associates would ceaselessly wonder what promises he gave the NDP wing.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 9 last year reached out to Raila after the hotly contested twin-presidential election. Since then, Raila has become more powerful and influential, a development that has not gone down well with the DP William Ruto's camp.

“Raila clearly believed that he would be the third President of Kenya. While I have no clear evidence to this effect, I have always believed that Moi had promised him something futuristic,” Mudavadi writes.

Kamotho and Saitoti's coldness towards the new direction saw them marked as targets and former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo got encouraged to ran against Mudavadi to checkmate him in the  Kanu elections at Kasarani.

The two would be hounded out of the Kanu leadership with him only surviving after Luyha elders prevailed upon Jirongo to withdraw from the race. 

In addition, with the merger, Raila's side appeared to have achieved much, with him made the ruling party's secretary general and the Minister for Energy. His associates such as Otieno Kajwang' and Adhu Awiti were also made ministers and Job Omino made an assistant minister.

The merger, according to Mudavadi, made the star of Raila to rise steadily, explaining that he could have impressed the president by his role in the constitutional review process. 

Musalia Mudavadi/FILE
Musalia Mudavadi/FILE

"The Raila Odinga star was on a steady rise. He had made the right dial this time and things were looking up," he wrote, describing the opposition leader's prominent role, displacing the hitherto senior officials who had the ear of the president in the government. 

Unlike the present circumstance where Ruto's wing is taking long to come to terms with the new arrangement, Mudavadi paints a picture of a reluctantly compliant Kanu rank, accommodating the new kids in the block.

The excitement among the Raila supporting zones was palpable, just as now after his famous handshake with President Kenyatta.

There were even talks of "a possible 'Western Alliance' between the Kalenjin and Luo tribes. The Luhya would also receive an occasional mention" just as is the case presently where talks of Luo-Kikuyu alliance are starting to emerge.