Opposition leader Raila Odinga has said there was no Handshake talks between him and President William Ruto in their three meetings within 24 hours over the weekend.
Mr Odinga on Tuesday termed his meeting with President Ruto at the burial of Ms Mukami Kimathi in Nyandarua, before they both met at Kasarani for the Kip Keino Classic on Saturday and then thereafter during the Mashemeji derby at Nyayo Stadium on Sunday as “chance meetings” that had nothing to do with the political situation in the country.
Mr Odinga had entered into a post-election agreement with former President Uhuru Kenyatta—popularly known as the Handshake—and has been under constant attacks by the Kenya Kwanza administration that the anti-government demonstrations by the former prime minister was a plan to get back to such kind of an arrangement with President Ruto.
Dr Ruto has insisted that he has no such plans with Mr Odinga, insisting the only talks he had authorised were those in Parliament with a 14-member bipartisan team co-chaired by Dr Otiende Amollo (Rarieda, ODM) and George Murugara (Tharaka, UDA).
Speaking in Nairobi on Tuesday, the Azimio leader said they did not discuss anything political with the President during the three meetings saying they only talked about football while at Nyayo Stadium at the VIP Lounge.
“I want to tell Rigathi Gachagua that we did not talk about anything other than football. For the record, we don’t want any handshake with the government and we have not asked for it. It was a chance meeting, I did not know he was coming to Kasarani. I was invited to the event and when I got there, I saw him (president) also arriving. Nothing was planned,” Mr Odinga said.
On their meeting at Nyayo Stadium during the derby between Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, Mr Odinga said he only learnt that the President was going for the match while he was at Makadara on his way to stadium.
“I encountered a traffic jam at Makadara while on my way to Nyayo and when I asked, I was told that it was the President who was going to the stadium for the match. While there, we met at the lounge at half time and we only talked about football,” Mr Odinga said.
On the burial of Ms Mukami, Mr Odinga said it was a State burial and he had to attend when he met the President and they shook hands.
The meeting between the President and the former Prime Minister in the three events had set political tongues wagging that a political truce could be in the offing.
Both camps shared pictures of the President and Mr Odinga sitting at close range, sharing heartily both at Nyayo and Kasarani in the absence of the Deputy President.
In a joint media interview on Sunday, President Ruto told reporters the DP was not present in the three places because he had other engagements hence people should not read much about.
“Did he say that he was to come to Kasarani? My deputy had other engagements and therefore you should stop this,” President Ruto told the reporters when asked why his deputy was absent both at Nyayo and Kasarani where he met with Mr Odinga.
This comes as Mr Odinga continued to pile pressure on the government over the Finance Bill, 2023 threatening to mobilise Kenyans to reject it if Kenya Kwanza uses its numerical strength to pass it in the National Assembly.
“If this Bill is railroaded through Parliament, Kenya Kwanza must prepare that we will have no option but to mobilise citizens around the country to fight for themselves. We will have no option but to mobilise all the social sectors and take all the necessary political actions to stop this blow and burden,” Mr Odinga said.
He said the coalition demands a major surgery to the Bill in the interest of the suffering people of Kenya.
“The Finance Bill 2023 unfairly punishes a diminishing middle class that is already suffering severe blows and can least afford to pay more taxes. The most tangible result of this Bill will be the incorporation of more Kenyans into the ranks of the poor,” Mr Odinga said.
Mr Odinga also told members of the public to lobby their elected leaders to stand with them by rejecting the Bill in parliament.
The Azimio leader who was flanked by her running mate during the August poll Martha Karua, Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni, former Murang’a governor Mwangi wa Iria, former Defence CS Eugene Wamalwa and Wycliffe Oparanya that Azimio will not support the Bill in the floor of the House.
He pointed out that the government should address the economy’s many structural shortcomings instead of levying more taxes on Kenyans.
Mr Odinga said the government should focus on addressing underlying reasons on why Kenya Revenue Authority cannot meet its revenue targets, the weakening shilling and strengthening institutions tasked with fighting corruption.
Mr Odinga termed the action taken by President Ruto over the scandal at Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) as reactionary to a major issue of corruption within the government.
He said the scandal at Kemsa is just the tip of the iceberg of major scandals in Kenya Kwanza administration.
“We are going to see a haemorrhage of corruption in this corruption. We have always asked why it is the President who normally talks about even policy issues at ministries yet there are Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries in charge of their respective ministries,” Mr Odinga said.
“It is CS or the accounting officer who is the PS who should have raised these questions at Kemsa. The action by the President raises more questions than answers about this government,” Mr Odinga added.
On Monday, President Ruto sacked Public Health Principal Secretary Josephine Mburu and the entire board at Kemsa in the wake of a Sh3.7 billion botched tender for the supply of treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria among millions of low-income households.