There is growing anxiety in Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga camps over the Building Bridges Initiative roadmap and 2022 succession framework. On succession, there is concern that whereas the president’s close allies, including family members have been sending political signals they are likely to back Raila, Uhuru himself has never come out in the open to declare so.
To complicate matters was when the president during a tour in Central Kenya declared he will not back anyone to succeed him. Informed sources say, Uhuru wants to play it safe in his succession race and that is why he is openly befriending leading politicians in the race to succeed him to the chagrin of Raila who wants to be in a monogamous political relationship. The president, Weekly Citizen, has reliably been informed, phones Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka just the way he does to Raila. Uhuru has also been sending signals he still has a soft spot for his deputy William Ruto, making political analysts go back to the drawing board, and Raila stew with rage.
The two’s body language during the recent BBI report launch at Bomas of Kenya and Uhuru’s remarks to the effect that he had briefed Ruto on the handshake deal and even given him an opportunity to nominate some names to the BBI panel left political analysts and Raila handlers suspecting that the two are in constant touch and could be clandestinely cohabiting politically when Uhuru had made Raila believe that the marriage was dissolved due to irreconcilable differences. There are fears in Raila’s camp that the president is just buying time to finish his term peacefully, and if the push comes to shove, he might pass the leadership baton to his deputy, contrary to their expectations.
Raila, insiders aver, is hoping to ride on the BBI to make another shot on the presidency and that is why he is hellbent on bringing in a governance structure tailormade to suit his interests. But there are those in the president’s camp who are of the view that the ODM leader is a spent force way past his sell date, and fielding him in 2022 will result in a heavy defeat in the hands of Ruto, Mudavadi, Musyoka and the rest. Ironically, this very fact that Raila is now a pale shadow of his former self is why some in the president’s side want him president so that they can misuse him as he dozes through his term just like some did to Jomo Kenyatta in the years leading to his death.
The disquiet in the two camps has been linked to heightening mutual suspicions with concerns that the president, who has not overhauled the cabinet to pave way for the appointment of Raila’s allies in government, is using the BBI as a tool to firm up his stay in power which could have been complicated if he had not courted Raila. Uhuru, insiders say, compromised Raila after it dawned on him that his overambitious deputy was planning to reduce him to a lame-duck president three years to the end of his tenure. Raila, on the other hand, was seeking a way out of the National Super Alliance agreement that would have seen him either back his running mate Kalonzo or Mudavadi for the presidency in 2022. Raila was also keen to recoup the billions he had used in the 2013 and 2017 election campaigns.
It is worth noting that the reason Raila did not participate in the repeat election as ordered by CJ David Maraga in 2017 was that his coffers were empty. The coffers are however now overflowing. The ODM leader was thus seeking ways to replenish his wallet after spending a fortune in two unsuccessful presidential elections that had left him financially drained. Insiders say that the president is using the handshake to retain his grip in power which would have been shaky were he alone as Kenyans would be demanding he acts decisively to address growing disillusionment brought about by corruption perpetrated by some of his allies and close family members.
This explains why Uhuru has been giving conflicting stands on the BBI whereby in one forum he roots for consensus on the document only to contradict the same in another forum by insisting the document would not be changed. This was evidenced when the president rooted for consensus in his address to the joint sitting of the national assembly and the senate while a few days earlier in Naivasha he had joined MPs in stating the document would not be amended. The disquiet in BBI started growing during the launch of the report at Bomas of Kenya when the president publicly stated he had allowed Ruto to nominate three members of the Yusuf Haji-led panel.
The disclosure that the head of state had consulted his deputy over the composition of the team was a slap in the face of Raila who all along had publicly stated the process was solely owned by two people – him and Uhuru. More shocking to Raila is the emerging trend where the appointees of the deputy president are rocking the BBI boat from within. Ruto, insiders added, forwarded the name of John Seii, the former chairman of the Kalenjin council of elders and other two members for appointment to the BBI steering committee. Curiously, it was Seii who went public that the final BBI report was doctored with members being forced to sign it in front of Raila before it was handed over to Uhuru and Raila at the Kisii State Lodge on October 21.
Seii’s remarks that the sweeping proposals were totally alien because they never featured in their initial deliberations, which included the addition of 70 more constituencies, sent tongues wagging on the true intention of the process. Seii further left Kenyans guessing when he stated the illegal BBI changes were inserted without their knowledge and that a high-level meeting attended by Raila and Interior principal secretary Karanja Kibicho three days to the Kisii event pressured the steering committee members to sign the report containing new elements they had not seen.
This was followed by claims the signatures of some members were forged with another appointee to the team believed to have been fronted by Ruto, Florence Omose, stating her signature was forged and that is why it had similarities with that of another member, James Matundura, in the contentious report. Insiders add that Raila’s camp started questioning the president’s sincerity on BBI during its launch at Bomas of Kenya after the head of state disclosed that Ruto was part of the process from its inception. At Bomas, Uhuru made reference to a relay race where one runner instead of waiting for the baton and going forward to the finish line, runs in the opposite direction, in reference to his relationship with Ruto.
Uhuru narrated how he and Ruto walked together but somewhere along the journey, 2022 matters became the priority and the deputy president forgot everything else but cautioned him to go slow. This was, however, interpreted by the Raila camp as a signal the president still has a place in his heart for the man they dread most and could pass the leadership baton to him in 2022 if he stops running and waits. At Bomas, matters were not helped by the drama where Uhuru laughed as Ruto stood up and took to the podium, giving the crowd his back, whispering a joke in the president’s ear, to which he laughed, then went back to his seat. The president even went ahead to thank his deputy whom he claimed he had kept abreast of what was going on as he was part and parcel of the BBI process, to the consternation of Raila who has been adamant Ruto was not aware of the handshake details.
The disclosure further affirmed Ruto’s sentiments in past media interviews that he was always consulted by Uhuru before the president entered into a handshake with Raila. Insiders say it is out of fear that the president could be using Raila to solely ensure a smooth ride in his last term that has seen the Orange party boss scale down his meetings with the president. This was evident last week when Raila joined Ruto to cheer Harambee Stars when they battled it with Comoros at Kasarani Stadium. In the past, Uhuru would have attended the match in the company of the ODM leader as it happened with AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia game but this time around, he was nowhere to be seen. It was also in contrast to the past when Uhuru and Raila would be seen at night inspecting ongoing development projects in Nairobi’s central business district using the same car.
More questions were raised when the president and Raila snubbed a two-day retreat in Naivasha organized by the Council of Governors. The meeting was aimed at according the two leaders an opportunity to rally the support of the county chiefs for the report since the constitution stipulates at least 24 out of the 47 counties have to pass it before it passed to IEBC to organize a referendum. It was expected the head of state and the former prime minister would use the forum to drum up support for the report. More questions were asked when the government stopped the county assemblies forum meeting at Bomas of Kenya where the two leaders were again expected to attend and rally the MCAs to back the report.
The government cited the rising cases of Covid-19 infections as the reason for the cancellation of the meeting but this was not convincing as many read a sinister motive. Insiders are also reading mischief in the decision to hand over the report to politicians for editing instead of the law experts or alternatively the Attorney General’s Chambers for polishing and refining. The politician tasked with editing the report included Siaya senator James Orengo, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, Murang’a senator Irungu Kangata and leader of majority in the national assembly Amos Kimunya who are in effect rubberstamps. The politicians last week cooked the document at the BBI secretariat offices in Runda, Nairobi together with the two whips of the national assembly and senate.
But their move left many questions unanswered since Uhuru and Raila at the inception had set up a 30-member technical team to collect, compile and analyze Kenyans’ feedback on the report. The team included Raila’s allies Larry Gumbe, Awour Achoka, constitutional expert Kenneth Rotich, Technical University don Patrick Kiliku, political scientist Cess Mutua and ODM executive director Oduor Ong’wen.They were assisted by lawyers Ben Sihanya, the Dean School of Law at Kabarak University, Catherine Muma of the University of Nairobi and Tom Macharia, a counsel in the taskforce.
Insiders say the document could also have been presented to the Attorney General’s Chambers for expert review instead of handing it to constitutional laymen with vested interests. Sources added that a section in Uhuru camp also believes fronting Raila for the presidency will be a disaster and that is why the president has kept on pushing forward the date to formally introduce him as his ideal successor in his Mount Kenya backyard. The president only hinted he could back Raila when he accompanied him in his Luoland backyard after launching BBI in Kisii.
Sources say the thinking in Uhuru’s camp is that Raila’s main selling point is his role in the country’s second liberation where he teamed up with the likes of Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia, lawyers Paul Muite, Martha Karua, Gitobu Imanyara, Orengo and John Khaminwa, among others, to fight for the reintroduction of political pluralism. The agitation for political pluralism saw Raila detained alongside Matiba and Rubia. But this narrative, Uhuru’s camp believes, cannot guarantee them victory in the polls if they field Raila given that close to 75pc of the voters in the 2022 polls were born between 1990 and 2002 and second liberation is ancient history.
Most of the voters born between 1990 and 2002 have no clue on why Raila was detained, and neither do they care. To complicate matters, Ruto has endeared himself to these voters by aggressively challenging the status quo which he is part of. In fact, it is said by Raila handlers, just the way Ruto was fooled by Uhuru to fold his URP helping him get second term presidency, Raila is also being fooled by the handshake. They say the handshake has seen their boss be part of the deep system that is always hated by a majority of voters due to failure to deliver on manifestos they promised during the campaign period. Raila has abandoned his powerful opposition vote bloc with Ruto making inroads after Kalonzo and Mudavadi failed.
In fact, Ruto allies are now seen as the face of the opposition. Sources added that there are murmurs in Raila’s camp that the president has not made government changes to help their man win the presidency in 2022 but all the attention is going to Baringo senator Gideon Moi. For months since the March 9, 2018 handshake between Uhuru and Raila, there have been talks the president would reshuffle his cabinet to pave way for the appointment of the ODM leader’s allies to the government. The talk was that Raila would be given three lucrative dockets that include infrastructure which would be key in helping him mobilize resources for the 2022 campaigns.
But two years down the line the president has not reshuffled his cabinet leaving many with more questions than answers. The closest the president came to appointing Raila’s allies was in January this year when he made changes to the cabinet in a closely guarded secret that even his deputy was not privy to. The changes that also caught many, including cabinet secretaries, flatfooted, came after Uhuru and Raila met in Mombasa for more than four hours. At the time Ruto was in Khartoum in Sudan on a private engagement. The deputy president had left the country in a chartered flight accompanied by two members of his family. In the reshuffle, Uhuru named Raila’s allies to senior positions in government.
They included one-time assistant minister Peter Odoyo, activist Zack Kinuthia, Hussein Dado, Hassan Noor Hassan, Rashid Amana, Maureen Mbaka and Nadia Abdalla who were appointed chief administrative secretaries. Kalonzo also benefitted when the president appointed Wavinya Ndeti and her niece Mercy Mwangangi as CASs. Insiders say that there is disquiet in BBI over Gideon’s growing influence in government since his party signed a post-election coalition deal with Jubilee. The Baringo senator whose long friendship with Uhuru dates back to their days at St Mary’s School in the 1970s has become the centre of power in Uhuru’s government and today the president speaks to him often on a wide range of issues.
Gideon’s allies such as West Pokot Senator Samuel Poghisio (Kanu) have also been handsomely rewarded. Poghisio replaced Elgeyo Marakwet senator Kipchumba Murkomen as senate majority leader. Insiders add that there are murmurs in Raila’s camp over Gideon’s growing influence in East Africa and beyond where he has developed a close relationship with Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Malawi’s Lazarus Chakwera, as their man watches in disbelief but cannot raise his voice. Gideon represented Uhuru during Chakwera’s inauguration in what many interpreted as introducing the son of the second president to international networks. The Baringo senator flew to Malawi capital Lilongwe in a military plane.
Insiders added that the Raila camp is also getting jittery that Gideon is placing his allies in lucrative parastatal leadership as he seeks to boost his campaign kitty. The latest appointments include that of Nick Salat who was moved from chairing the broke Postal Corporation of Kenya to the Agricultural Development Corporation to replace former Baringo governor Benjamin Cheboi who is a close associate of the DP. Also raising eyebrows in Raila’s camp is the elevation of those he accused of rigging the 2013 and 2017 elections in favour of Uhuru to senior positions.
Former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Director Emmaculate Kassait was the first Data Commissioner.
Kassait is the wife of Tiaty MP William Kamket, a close ally of Gideon. The Data Commissioner, a creation of the Data Protection Act, is a powerful position which makes the titular head the owner Kenya citizens’ data. Kassait’s appointment followed those of other IEBC officials Raila in 2017 accused of stealing his victory. They are former IEBC officials Betty Nyabuto (ex-IEBC deputy CEO), James Muhati (ex-ICT manager), Praxedes Tororey (ex-legal affairs director) and Anne Nderitu (director – electoral training) among others, who were rewarded with senior state appointments.
For Kassait, she was mentioned by Nasa in numerous court filings and press conferences as among IEBC officials who sabotaged scrutiny of the August 8 presidential election. Nasa had even threatened to institute private prosecutions on Kassait alongside former chief executive Ezra Chiloba for allegedly rigging the election in favour of Jubilee. Kassait is now in charge of data ranging from the National Registration Bureau, NSSF, NHIF, IEBC, immigration, political parties register and the already controversial Huduma Namba. The anxiety in Uhuru and Raila camps comes as Kenyans await the gazettement of the BBI referendum bill that could dash hopes for groups pushing for amendments to the report.
Last week, there were reports the publication of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which will guarantee strict adherence to the June 2021 referendum timeliness unveiled in Naivasha, could be done soonest.
Once published, the Bill will be the basis for collecting one million signatures to support it to be submitted to the electoral commission and will be final as the law bars the promoters of a referendum from amending any part once supporters append their signatures. Sources say Uhuru aware of the bad blood between Raila and Ruto may decide to work on a compromise alliance bringing on board Mudavadi, Kalonzo, Gideon, Mwakwere and dissenting voices in Mount Kenya region. The idea is to have new political seats created by BBI and dangle them to the said seasoned politicians.
Those behind the said theory argue, if Raila wins, Ruto will not agree and the same with Raila if Ruto wins. The president’s legacy of a united Kenya will have evaporated as he has no other tangible projects worth writing home about. Remember in Moi succession race, Raila was lured to cooperate with Kanu only to find himself isolated to join forces with Mwai Kibaki, George Saitoti, Charity Ngilu and Wamalwa Kijana. Is history likely to repeat itself? For now, trouble is the same Gideon who was instrumental in Moi succession is a key player in the Uhuru 2022 power deal. Raila has fallen out with his Nasa co-principals Mudavadi, Kalonzo, Moses Wetang’ula and Isaac Ruto. If Uhuru isolates Raila and Ruto will the two team up?
That is the question. But one thing is clear, Kalonzo, Mudavadi, Wetang’ula cannot team up again with Raila. If the trio is with Gideon in a new alliance Ruto will not join. Further, it is said, Ruto is not willing to step down for any other presidential candidate as he sees 2022 as his time. Raila is said to be aware of the suspicion in the handshake and that is why he has not declared to be running for presidency openly although his body language and actions speak volumes. Talk is, Gideon and Uhuru are comfortable with Mudavadi but the trouble is, he is not a fighter and go-getter.
To them, Mudavadi is the man who can take Ruto on and give him sleepless nights and at the same time, protect the Kenyatta and Moi families with Kalonzo to bring on board Mwakwere the Wiper party deputy leader. For Mombasa governor Hassan Joho, his newfound relationship with Uhuru and Gideon and bearing in mind that he is serving his last term governor, his future will depend on a new alliance. The future here is business which the Joho family is well known for. Political observers say, of late Joho relationship with Uhuru is too close after Uhuru rescued the family business investments from Ruto onslaught.
Mudavadi compared to Raila is also acceptable among Kalenjins and Kikuyus. For Fred Matiang’i, the powerful Internal Security CS, his rise is due to Uhuru’s influence and wherever the president will direct him, is where he will land. Back to BBI, Raila handlers fear is that counties in Uhuru’s Mt Kenya region may not back it. If it happens, then it will signal Raila if he runs for presidency 2022 will not be the region’s favourite. To them, Uhuru is using the BBI to gauge who is popular and that is why he is playing a cat and mouse game.
It is this fear that Raila wants to deliver his perceived stronghold of Western and Nyanza to vote yes as he keenly watches unfolding political events in Central and Rift Valley that were behind Jubilee in 2017 presidential race. For now, it is like Uhuru wants Raila to carry the BBI burden for he has nothing to lose serving his final term, on the other side Ruto who believes 2022 presidency is his for the taking does not want to occupy an office with dilute powers hence his opposition to BBI.