Raila Odinga
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Capitol Hill office visits: A new centre of power in the making

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Azimio leader Raila Odinga with Gender Cabinet Secretary Aisha Jumwa (left) at Capitol Hill Square after a meeting with the Multi-sectoral Working Group on the two-third gender principle.

Photo credit: Pool

Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s meeting with Gender Cabinet Secretary Aisha Jumwa mirrors how top government officials in former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration trooped to his Capitol Hill offices following the handshake.

Just a day after President William Ruto and Mr Odinga made a surprise joint visit to Uganda for a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni in what projected a major political rapprochement, Ms Jumwa led the multi-sectoral working group on the two-thirds gender principle for deliberation with the former premier.

Images of Mr Odinga chairing the meeting at his office triggered a debate that President Ruto could end up walking in the footsteps of his predecessor, Mr Kenyatta, who made Mr Odinga to influence his administration by getting briefs from government officials.

Following the meeting, Ms Jumwa, who turned into a fierce critic of Mr Odinga after ditching his ODM party in the run-up to the last poll, uncharacteristically made a long Facebook post using flowery language to describe the opposition leader.

“I would like to thank ODM leader Raila Odinga for creating time to meet me and members of the multi-sectoral working group on the realization of the not more than two-thirds gender principle at his Capitol Hill office,” said CS Jumwa.

“This meeting came at a very critical moment because the input of the ODM leader in this discourse is key…the consultations cannot be complete without the insights of the ODM leader and that is why my team and I paid a courtesy call on his office today,” she added.

Mr Odinga said, during the meeting, that “there was widespread consensus that enhanced collaborative efforts are essential for fully realizing its implementation as intended.”

Similar scenes of Cabinet Secretaries lining up to meet Mr Odinga at his private office were witnessed following the March 9, 2018 handshake when officials in Mr Kenyatta’s administration could brief the ODM leader on government programs.

Besides being the face of the botched Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) BBI, CSs became part of delegations that visited Mr Odinga’s Capital Hill to brief him on various government projects.

At one point Mr Odinga led then CSs James Macharia (Transport), Peter Munya (Agriculture) and John Munyes (Petroluem) to inspect progress of the Kisumu Port project.

During the handshake period, Mr Raila also chaired a regional ministerial meeting on Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) project when Mr Kenyatta announced changes in his Cabinet at State House Mombasa.

David Monda – a professor of Political Science at the City University of New York – described the truce between the two political protagonists in the 2022 presidential race as yet another “handshake”. He described the deal as a win-win for both President Ruto and Mr Odinga as it would mean a dignified exit for the former premier and an “easy” 2027 re-election for the Head of State.

“Based on the recent meeting between Ruto and Raila at Museveni's Kisozi mansion, I suspect this AU deal for Raila might be a secret handshake between the two to give Raila a dignified exit from Kenyan politics that will not enrage Raila’s followers,” said Prof Monda.

“I am sure both men discussed the post Raila political dispensation and 2027 politics,” he added.

But a close ally of Mr Kenyatta who spoke off record claimed that the government could be seeking to set up Mr Odinga by making him feel comfortable working with the Kenya Kwanza administration.

The official in Jubilee Party said President Ruto is out to accrue political credit for taking a leading role in lobbying for Mr Odinga when it is not guaranteed that the former premier will win the African Union Commission Chairmanship.

The official said Dr Ruto has created enemies in the region and could end up ruining Mr Odinga’s chances.

“He is being set up by the government. His win is not guaranteed because those people campaigning for him have so many enemies in the region. They should take a back seat and allow Raila and Uhuru to use their networks to compaign,” said the official.

The deal between Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga has since sent shockwaves amongst their allies and foes alike with fears that it may leave a trail of casualties in the political scene while giving rise to new centres of power.

The famous handshake also gave rise to new power brokers while edging out erstwhile close allies of Mr Kenyatta.

In the 2018 deal, Dr Ruto, who was then serving as deputy president, turned out to be the main casualty. His decision to oppose the truce made him lose favour with his then boss, Mr Kenyatta, before he was tossed out from the core of running of government.

The deal was, however, a win for Mr Kenyatta as he was able to govern in the absence of any political turmoil that had the potential of ruining the economy.

It is on this basis that Mr Gachagua has been against any truce between his boss and Mr Odinga. He opposed the formation of the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO) report whose proposals on various issues are currently before Parliament.

Mr Gachagua is yet to comment on the latest development and declaration by President Ruto to lobby for Mr Odinga in his quest for the Africa Union Commission chairmanship bid.