DON'T MAKE RAILA AN ENEMY

Handshake cracks expose shaky Uhuru-Raila camaraderie

Falling out with Raila over composition of Parliament committees will only benefit Deputy President William Ruto whom Uhuru has shunted aside

In Summary
  • The cracks between Jubilee and opposition Nasa in Parliament put President  Kenyatta in a tough corner especially after he severed links with DP William Ruto.
  • Analysts caution that any falling out between President Uhuru and his political ‘brother’ Raila Odinga will not only sink Uhuru’s political career but uplift DP Ruto.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga during the handshake on March 9, 2018.
IS IT SLIPPING? President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga during the handshake on March 9, 2018.
Image: JACK OWUOR

The cracks between Jubilee and the opposition Nasa in Parliament put President Uhuru Kenyatta in a tough corner, especially after he severed links with Deputy President William Ruto.

Analysts caution that any falling out between President Kenyatta and his political ‘brother’ Raila Odinga will not only sink Uhuru’s political career but also resurrect Ruto's career.

Raila’s ODM party and Uhuru’s Jubilee lately have been picking expensive fights in the House following the reconstitution of some crucial reform committees, which made ODM uncomfortable.

Minority leader John Mbadi rejected a list presented by his Majority counterpart Amos Kimunya, arguing that some of the proposals did not take into account the envisioned reform agenda.

Former Gatanga MP and the President's loyalist David Murathe stoked the political fires when he dismissed Raila’s faction, telling them, "House business is a concluded matter."

Murathe, a key figure in the Jubilee administration and the party's vice chairman, went further to tell ODM that Jubilee is doing them a favour by allowing the Minority Nasa coalition to chair three committees outside the oversight ones.

The two sides had agreed to allow the Minority to chair Education, Finance and Broadcasting, in addition to Public Investments Committee,Public Accounts Committee and the Committee on Implementation.

“There is no room for consultations. As for the other side (ODM), is a favour we are extending them in committee leadership posts. They cannot now come making demands and telling us whom we should include. That is our business and it is concluded,” Murathe told The Standard.

On Tuesday, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, who is also the Minority whip in the National Assembly said he met Kimunya over the House committees issue and "mutually agreed on the list, to be tabled when House resumes next week".

But according to political analysts, President Kenyatta is safer with either Raila or Ruto on his side, and fighting both all at once might be a political blunder he could live to regret.

Governance expert Javas Bigambo warns against  any attempt to push Ruto and Raila together on one side, arguing the President should guard against making  powerful enemies in the last leg of his final term.

“While Ruto and Raila cannot be compared in terms of their political significance, Uhuru Kenyatta should be very careful not to make too many enemies, especially ones who are big and influential and at the centre of politics right now," Bigambo said.

"They are going to have huge implications, even in terms of implementing projects  he still wants to implement within the life of his presidency,” he said.

“If it's a question of  legacy issues, or rather the succession issues, he should not want to have Raila Odinga far off as an enemy, in the same way now that Ruto is an enemy in the Kenyatta succession politics," the analyst said

The governance expert further said President Kenyatta is safer with Raila’s support both inside and outside the House.

“He needs to demonstrate national unity by the manner in which he shepherds his foot soldiers in Parliament, especially his side, so his goodwill can be seen from near and far," Bigambo said. "It should not be assumed there could possibly be a hidden agenda in how he is associating with Raila Odinga."

Political analyst Danstan Omari says, however, the political landscape will change drastically this year and Uhuru's use-and-dump methods will expose him to a  palace coup that will shape the country’s political history.

“At this time, if Raila pulls out — and he will pull out — the tenure of Uhuru comes to an end. William Ruto has bolted, (Musalia) Mudavadi has bolted. The people who are being brought on board— Gideon Moi and Isaac Rutto — bring no tangible benefit.

“What is the scenario when that happens? He will not get support from (Yoweri) Museveni, he will not get support from (Pombe) Magufuli, he will need support from within. It will likely be a political palace coup and Uhuru will find that he has nowhere to clutch."

But analyst Joseph Mutua disagreed, terming the debate on the possibility of Uhuru opening two battle fronts a creation of the media.

Mutua said Uhuru could not make such a move, saying it would be the greatest blunder in his career as President.

"Uhuru and Raila are still cordial and I don't think their relationship has been disrupted by anything. Issues in Parliament cannot threaten the relationship between the two," he said.

Mutua further said the [severed] relationship between the President and his deputy appears to have already been decided.

"The President appears to have made up his mind about Ruto," he said, "and this can be demonstrated by the absence of the Deputy President from some key party and government functions."

Jubilee and ODM have been working together in and out of Parliament since the March 9, 2018, handshake that ended political tension in the country.

The handshake has been premised on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which is being touted as the right prescription to a number of historical injustices  that have seen Kenyans turn against each other after every general election.

The Initiative is also expected to radically alter the country’s political landscape.

The team led by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji was tasked with tackling the identified nine-point agenda that includes ethnic antagonism and competition, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, safety and security and corruption.

The BBI task force last Tuesday announced it had completed writing the final report and was awaiting the availability of President Kenyatta to present it.