Why US and Britain are isolating Raila

Why US and Britain are isolating Raila

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There is growing anxiety in the National Super Alliance over reports that the United States and European countries have abandoned Raila Odinga as he seeks to unseat Uhuru Kenyatta as president using ‘people’s power’.

Already, Raila has declared that he will use the people’s assembly to push through multiple amendments to the constitution as he is of the view that the repeat presidential election was a subversion of the supreme law.

It has emerged that western capitals are now shifting from the fight for democratic rights to business contracts in an effort to counter China influence in Africa hence the current situation Raila and his allies are finding themselves in. The Trump administration wants to put America as first in world power system and to them, the magic is not to fight for freedom goals but economic goals. They are not only targeting Raila but his co-principals in Nasa namely Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula. Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration seems to understand what Trump want in Africa, hence the controversial award of the expansion of Nairobi, Mombasa super highway project to cost billions before August polls, sale of warplanes to Kenya and Energy ministry move to send samples of Kajiado gas findings to America not China as it could have happened before for laboratory checks.

Word has it that in the second term of Uhuru presidency, America will be out to out do China in military, infrastructure and energy sector. The fight against billionaire Jimmy Wanjigi who is said to have been the linkman between China and the Mwai Kibaki regime then to Uhuru first tenure has a secret America hand. Wanjigi was a key financier of Nasa using money from Chinese firms.

America has issued travel bans on Wanjigi. America has Uhuru among African youthful leaders it wants to engage to fight China and other East power houses in the battle for Africa resources. Uhuru is to be America blue eyed boy in Africa in the new set up, hence Raila’s current tribulations with European Union. America has influence on EU.

The opposition leader’s declaration came a few days after he rejected overtures from the diplomatic community to rescind his decision to boycott the October 26 repeat presidential election. Nevertheless, the election went on in many parts of the country with Uhuru emerging the winner with over 7.4 million votes.

Ahead of the repeat poll, Raila had met members of the diplomatic community where they discussed election related matters. In meetings held at his Capitol Hill offices, he was accompanied by chief campaigner Musalia Mudavadi and Siaya senator James Orengo while the diplomats were led by US ambassador Robert Godec and chief observer EU monitoring Kenya Marietje Schaake.

The diplomats wanted Raila to rescind his withdrawal from the repeat election and to respect IEBC as an independent body with the sole power of conducting elections.

But Raila and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka rejected the overtures arguing that they were withdrawing from the race because the electoral agency had not heeded their call for reforms as advised by the Supreme Court.

The diplomats later issued a statement saying they regretted Raila’s decision but were emphatic that the constitution and the Supreme Court ruling must be respected by all across the political divide.

The European Union has been supporting programmes at the IEBC. Through the UNDP, the European body, the UK and the US pumped about Sh500 million for programmes that range from training to civic education.

Ahead of the October 26 poll, the UK had called on Raila and Uhuru to ensure the presidential election was held according to the ruling of the Supreme Court, maintaining that all parties must work within the constitution and other Kenyan law and those engaging or inciting violence should be held accountable.

In the same vein, the US ambassador maintained that his country was a neutral partner but said it viewed the election as  an extraordinarily important event for the future of Kenya.

Before their meeting with Raila, the diplomats from US, UK, EU, Germany and Australia had warned of unspecified sanctions against trouble makers, warning that the demands from Nasa  and Jubilee were difficult to solve, given the tight schedule for the repeat poll.

Again in mid-September this year, Kenya’s democracy and economy were at the centre of a discussion in Washington, United States, attended by government officials, human rights groups and envoys some of whom are supporters of Raila.

Notable presenters during the discussion included Johnnie Carson, a retired US ambassador to Kenya who also held the top Africa post at the State Department during the first Barack Obama administration.

In his presentation, Carson appeared to contradict Raila reform call when he cited a series of reforms, including adoption of the 2010 constitution, devolution of political decision-making and diminution of presidential power, decrease in electoral violence, a growing willingness to take electoral disputes to court and the emergence of a more independent and courageous judiciary as some of the bold steps Kenya has taken to further cement democracy.

Carson and the six other panelists who took part in the discussion with the theme ‘Spotlight on Kenya’ acknowledged that ongoing electoral uncertainties pose risks of political and economic destabilisation with him assuring that democracy is messy, and Kenya’s is no exception.

In the discussion, the government was represented by Korir Sing’oei, legal adviser to William Ruto.

The discussion came a few days after Raila had expressed his disappointment with international election observers for stating that the August 8 polls were credible.

But there is growing anxiety in Nasa over reports that world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, supported Uhuru during the elections at the expense of Raila.

The opposition leader was the darling of Western nations in the 2013 polls, with his Cord coalition benefiting from massive campaign funding. At the time, Uhuru and Ruto were swimming against the tide, with the ICC cloud hanging low over their heads.

But this now seems a distant memory as the world’s elite leaders appear to have rapidly embraced Uhuru and his regime. While the US is cautious not to openly back a political cause abroad, several developments indicate the super power’s soft spot for Uhuru.

Trump called Uhuru in March, the fourth call to an African leader after he took over White House.

While Obama was supporting Raila for the presidency in 2013, it is under Uhuru’s rule that he made his maiden trip to Kenya, the first such trip by a sitting US president.

During the visit, Obama openly reprimanded opposition leaders when they demanded that Obama pushes Uhuru to initiate political change in the country.

Raila did not do himself any favour during the US elections last year when he declared support for Trump’s rival, Democratic Hillary Clinton, which to many, was a political miscalculation.

In contrast, Uhuru never made his choice public and was quick to congratulate Trump upon his win.

Trump also has no time for Nasa as it was getting campaign financing from individuals barred from entering the US. Among those listed is Jimmi Wanjigi, who is the chief financier of Raila’s campaigns and Johnson Muthama who was barred from travelling to the US in for allegedly being anti-democratic.

The world’s soft spot for Uhuru has also been underlined by the fact that in the past three years of his rule, Kenya has hosted an unprecedented number of influential world leaders and international conferences, many of them for the first time in history.

The top leaders who have touched down in Nairobi include Obama, Pope Francis, Xi Jinping of China and Park Geun-Hye of South Korea, prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, Nahendra Modi, India and Shinzo Abe, Japan as well as former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

According to sources, the writing has been on the wall for Nasa since the Supreme Court ruled on September 1 that the August 8 general election had been bungled.

Raila had no kind words for the election observers who had given the election a clean bill of health. He told off missions, including the one from the Carter Centre in the US led by former secretary of state John Kerry, the African Union mission led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki and the European Union mission.

The relations between Raila and the West deteriorated further when he indirectly accused US ambbassador to Kenya Robert Godec of kowtowing to the Jubilee government in order to push for business deals for American companies.

This was after it emerged that an American firm, Bechtel International Inc, had been awarded a multibillion shilling project to construct the 473km high-speed expressway between Nairobi and Mombasa.

Raila had expected his withdrawal from the race to create a crisis leading to IEBC declaring repeat election within 90 days in line with formerr CJ Willy Mutunga’s bench ruling in 2013 that if a presidential candidate withdraws from the race, the election stands postponed.

The opposition leader had cited paragraph 290 of the ruling in which the six-member bench led by Mutunga ruled that if a candidate withdraws, the election stands postponed. The paragraph states: “Suppose, however, that the candidates, or a candidate who took part in the original election, dies or abandons the electoral quest before the scheduled date: then the provisions of Article 138(8) (b) would become applicable, with fresh nominations ensuing.”

But his hopes were dashed following a ruling by the High Court a day after he withdrew ordering the inclusion of EkuruAukot together with all the other candidates in the race.

Raila’s departure to London soon after his withdrawal ostensibly to explain his reasons for quitting the presidential race at a meeting in Chatham House presented an opportunity for the diplomatic pressure to be sustained.

According to the reputable Indian Ocean Newsletter, Trump’s secretary of state Rex Tillerson implored the Nasa leader to end his demonstrations demanding the resignation of several IEBC officials. Similarly, British Foreign secretary Boris Johnson urged Raila to take part in the election.

Others who urged Raila to rethink his decision were European Union Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and his African Union counterpart MoussaFakiMahamat.

But Raila refused to budge and instead accused Western countries of being partisan and favouring Uhuru.

Unlike in the 2007/08 post-election dispute that pitted Raila against former president Mwai Kibaki where the West dispatched mediators, this time round Raila is on his own as demands for talks between him and Uhuru have not received the backing of the diplomats.

In contrast during the 2007/08 crisis top diplomats flew to Nairobi to nudge both sides to go to the negotiation table. The US president at the time George W Bush dispatched his Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to Nairobi to push the two sides to end the violence. Others who rushed to Nairobi to talk to Raila included current South African vice-president Cyril Ramaphosa and then Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete.

It was the West that got the two sides to settle on former United Nations Secretary-General Koffi Annan as the chief negotiator.

But prior to the October 26 date, the tone of the diplomats from the countries that had cajoled and nudged him to enter into negotiations 10 years ago, had changed.

Reading a statement from 20 of his colleagues, including the 28-nation European Union, the US ambassador called on the political rivals to unite to allow a credible election take place. It was telling that the statement came hours after IEBC officials were attacked in Kisumu while on training.

Raila’s sister Ruth Odinga and Kisumu senator Fred Outa have been charged in court over the attack. The diplomats said they had been working behind the scenes to encourage Raila to rejoin the race without success.

 Godec said the IEBC had made some efforts to ensure a credible election, including staff changes and technical processes.

The statement was endorsed by Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. The envoys also used the opportunity to advise Raila and the IEBC to use courts to resolve any disputes, saying Kenya’s current challenges must be found in its constitution, not outside it.

In the grand coalition government Raila was the darling of the US but this time round the door appears to have been shut.

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