President William Ruto
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Raila factor in new Ruto, Gachagua rift

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President William Ruto (left) and opposition leader Raila Odinga in Kisozi, Uganda, on February 26, 2024.

Photo credit: Pool

Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s growing influence in government circles has been linked to the feud between President William Ruto and his Deputy Rigathi Gachagua.

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader seems to have found a footing in the Kenya Kwanza administration, following his endorsement for the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) by President Ruto.

Since his declaration to go for the top regional post in February, only President Ruto and Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, who is also the Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Cabinet Secretary, have openly endorsed his bid, while Mr Gachagua has steered clear of the campaigns.

President Ruto now appears to have rolled out the red carpet for Mr Odinga. According to him, this is a ceremonious welcome at various State events, thus signalling a warm working relationship with the opposition chief, a move seen by political pundits as not welcome by the DP.

President Ruto’s soft stance towards Mr Odinga follows their fierce political contest for the top seat barely two years ago, in which Dr Ruto beat the Azimio chief by 1.64 percent of the vote.

President Ruto received 7,176,141 (50.49 percent) of the votes, narrowly beating Mr Odinga, who managed 6,942,930 votes (48.85 percent) in the August 9, 2022 elections.

Mr Odinga would later unsuccessfully petition the Supreme Court to overturn the results citing election malpractices, forcing him to hit the streets the following year in battle for the election results audit and high cost of living.

Anti-government protests

Following a deal brokered by former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo last year, Mr Odinga called off the anti-government protests and they agreed to the formation of the 10-member National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) to deliberate on the pertinent issues from both sides.

As a sign that the Mombasa peace pact brokered by Mr Obasanjo had several political undertones, it was the former Nigeria leader who accompanied Mr Odinga for a presser at his Nairobi home where he declared his candidacy for the chairmanship of the AUC in February before President Ruto promised to back him.

Political analysts argue that even though the Head of State has continued to “accord Mr Odinga great honour,” and offered him clear access to various presidents visiting the country because of his AUC support, their relationship transcends his bid for the regional post, thus causing jitters in government with Mr Gachagua appearing to be isolated.

“It is part of the arithmetic of President Ruto's re-election plans,” says political analyst and governance expert Mr Javans Bigambo.

He adds that “Raila will no doubt show gratitude by supporting Ruto's reelection and if this arrangement works, then Ruto would only need half support from Central, to escape the Mt Kenya blackmail.”

Mr Odinga, the opposition leader last week held discussions with and saw off Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni who was on a State visit to Kenya, at a time when Mr Gachagua had gone silent and missed at least seven crucial government functions.

Mr Odinga had initially joined some African Presidents at the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit in Nairobi on May 9.

In November last year, Mr Odinga was among the guests who were invited to the State banquet for King Charles III and Queen Camilla at State House, Nairobi, despite Mr Gachagua having cautioned that he had “planted spies around State House to inform him of any possible entry of the ODM leader.”

In a bid seen as a ploy to lower the rising political temperatures, Mr Gachagua on Tuesday revealed that he had taken seven days at the heart of Mt Kenya forest for prayers, fasting and meditation.

“I had taken seven days away for prayers, fasting, meditation, and no phones and nobody could disturb me. I had to meditate for the State of the Nation and welfare of this region,” Mr Gachagua said during the burial service of the Late Julius Kano Ndumbi, former Principal of Kianyaga High School in Gichugu, Kirinyaga County.

Mr Bigambo says that there is no doubt that Mr Odinga’s AUC bid has created a rare, yet essential and unavoidable political twinning between himself and President Ruto.

“This could not come without horse-trading and clandestine commitments.

The government, through President Ruto, he says, would not commit man-hours and resources without the ODM leader agreeing to make some concessions, and compromises on both sides.

DP Gachagua: How Raila behaved when we invited him to KICC

Prof Gitile Naituli of Multimedia University says Mr Odinga’s entry into the Government through his AUC quest has unsettled DP Gachagua.

“There is a great Raila factor in the squabbling in government, pitting President Ruto’s allies and his deputy. Gachagua feels that Raila is making inroads into the Kenya Kwanza administration, a government he did not support yet his Mt Kenya backyard delivered more than 4 million votes, of the 7.1 million votes Ruto secured,” Prof Naituli argues.


He, however, adds that it is not true that “Mt Kenya voted for Ruto because of Gachagua. They voted for Ruto because they viewed him as a saviour from domination of the dynasties.”

Prof Naituli argues that as things stand, Mr Gachagua has no stamina to unsettle President Ruto unless “he comes out strongly and marshals his troops in Parliament to oppose the Finance Bill 2024. It is only through this avenue that he can become a strong leader and win Mt Kenya’s support.”

“Followership emerges when you become the voice through which peoples’ frustrations find expression. If you meet that test then you develop fellowship. So, if Gachagua can do that he can become Mt Kenya leader very easily.”

United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Secretary General Cleophas Malala told Nation that the ruling party was ready to work with all like-minded parties within and without the Kenya Kwanza coalition.

“We are calling on other like-minded parties to engage in this discussion to join us in forming a formidable force and we are open to better ideas,” said Mr Malala.

Mr Odinga has also rolled out nationwide ODM party recruitment and popularisation drives aimed at strengthening the party and preparing it for coalition with other like-minded outfits ahead of the 2027 elections.

“We need a team whose singular focus is to take this party to power. ODM must rule. The party must reign,” Mr Odinga told the party’s National Governing Council last Month.

ODM, he noted, “needs a new army of dedicated and fearless men and women who can imagine a mightier political mass movement.”

Mr Bigambo observes that Mr Odinga’s closeness to the seat of power could be the reason behind the jitters being witnessed in government, pitting President Ruto’s allies against DP Gachagua’s.

“Any political deals come attached with strings of suspicion and fears of being honoured. That's what could be contributing to DP Rigathi's peace of mind, for fear of unnecessary future surprises,” the analyst says.

President Ruto’s camaraderie with Mr Odinga also seeks to sort the implementation of the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) report, which he wishes to help entrench the office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary into the constitution as well as entrenching the National Government Constituency Fund, the National Government Affirmative Action Fund and the Senate Oversight Fund, among other recommendations.

Gachagua: Raila lost AU job because of demonstrations in Kenya

The first key area was under electoral justice and related matters, the Committee looked into the restructuring and reconstitution of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), boundaries delamination and audit of the 2022 presidential elections.

For this, it recommended the reconstitution of the IEBC selection panel comprising nine members.

Future elections

On the same, it also recommended the intervals within which the review of boundaries may be done with the resolution of Parliament, that there be an investigation of the claims of marginalisation by the relevant bodies and made provision for fast-tracking enactment of a legislative framework for review of the county boundaries as provided for under Article 188 of the Constitution.

On the issue of audit of the 2022 Presidential Elections, the Committee recommended the appointment of a panel of experts who would evaluate the 2022 electoral process and a mechanism for evaluating future elections.

The second issue dealt with by the Committee was the outstanding Constitutional matters where they tackled the cost of living and related issues, implementation of the two-thirds gender rule, and governance issues including promoting national unity and inclusivity in public appointments and adequate balances.

On the fidelity to political parties or coalitions and the law on multiparty democracy, Nadco delved into possible ways of preventing interference with political parties or coalitions.

In addition, it also recommended the establishment and entrenchment of an Office of the Prime Minister in the Constitution as a means of coordination of functions of the Executive arm of Government.

President Ruto, while visiting Mr Odinga’s Nyanza backyard last year, hinted at a fresh reunion with Mr Odinga, recalling their past working relationship in ODM.

The Head of State said he was Mr Odinga's confidant when they worked together in ODM in the past, and now that he is President, their plans have started bearing fruits.

“Si mnajua ata mimi nilikuwa ODM siku moja, si mnajua ata mimi nilikuwa mtu ya Baba, lakini si mnajua siku hizi kwa sababu mimi ni Rais, Baba amekuwa tena mtu yangu, sasa shida iko wapi? Si maneni iko namna hiyo," (You all know that I was in ODM at one point, you know I was Baba's (Mr Odinga's) confidant, you know now that I'm the President, he has become my associate, where is the problem? That's how things are)," President Ruto declared.

He went on: “You know I have voted for Agwambo (Mr Odinga), yet he has never voted for me. Now I'm waiting for him in 2027.