Raila: The 2013-2022 President that never was

Azimio la Umoja Coalition leader Raila Odinga

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga who lost the presidential petition he filed against President-elect William Ruto.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Raila Odinga is the epitome of Kenyan politics. His political star started shining in 1982, when he allegedly participated in a failed coup. He would become one of the strongest opposition leaders Kenya ever had,as the king maker in the routing of Kanu in 2002.

However, Raila has failed in his attempt at the presidency a record five times—including his fifth stab in this year’s elections.

In his bid to lead the nation, Raila at one point joined the Independence party Kanu, which was headed by his nemesis, then-President Daniel arap Moi, in the early 2000s. When President Moi declared Uhuru Kenyatta as his preferred successor ahead of the 2002 General Elections, Raila led a group of progressive politicians to exit Kanu. He formed LDP, which later joined Mwai Kibaki’s NAK to form Narc, on whose ticket Kibaki would romp to State House after whitewashing Moi’s “project”.

But soon, bickering from the LDP wing of the coalition began, mainly because Raila was not named Prime Minister as per their pre-election agreement. Instead, he became Roads minister but without an oversight role. This was a big mistake by President Kibaki as it was a major contributor to the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

When, in 2005, Raila led the opposition to defeat a constitutional reform attempt, the “Wako Draft” referendum, Kibaki sacked all LDP ministers. In 2007, instead of supporting Kibaki’s re-election, Raila ran against him on the Nasa ticket. Kibaki’s PNU trounced him in an election that electoral commission chairman Samuel Kivuitu would later admit were bungled and he “did not know who had won”.

The referendum defeat sent all the gains Raila had made from 2002, when he declared ‘Kibaki Tosha’, down the drain as he lost the President’s political constituency. And, had he supported Kibaki’s re-election, he could have become President in 2013.

Even though Raila became Prime Minister owing to a negotiated arrangement by African imminent persons, the ghosts of 2007/2008 could not leave him. Had he not vied in 2007 and supported Kibaki instead, he would not have needed anybody’s support to ascend to power, even if the incumbent failed to back him. He could have easily trounced Uhuru as he would have garnered substantial votes from the Mt Kenya region and governed comfortably as President from 2013 to 2022.

The ‘UhuRuto’ ticket was propelled to victory in 2013 by the ICC cases against Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto, owing to sympathy votes, and re-elected.

Naturally, Kibaki would have ruled in 2002-2012, Raila 2013-2022, Uhuru 2023-2032 and the current President-elect, Dr Ruto maybe 2033-2042. But Raila blew a golden chance by opposing an incumbent, under the old Constitution, whereby a simple majority was all that he needed to win.


Michael Kinuthia, Nairobi

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