Raila Odinga sends mixed signals on Ruto amid pressure

Chaos was witnessed inside Bomas of Kenya on August 15, 2022 after the Azimio la Umoja faction tried to stop the announcing of the presidential result that eventually saw Deputy President William Ruto announced as President elect by IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya chief Raila Odinga has thrown allies warming up to President William Ruto in confusion after the coalition made public “evidence” that he won the presidential election last year.

The opposition alliance has told its supporters to wait for a major announcement on the “stolen victory” once Mr Odinga jets back into the country from abroad.

Mr Odinga has in the recent past been blowing hot and cold over his stand on Dr Ruto’s presidency.

On one hand, he has instructed governors and other elected leaders in his political bastions to work with the government “for the purpose of development”.

On the other, he announced plans to stage nationwide anti-government public engagements, which are to resume tomorrow, the day he arrives from South Africa.

Barely days after President Ruto concluded his tour of Nyanza, local leaders have started talks with Cabinet Secretaries to push for development projects in their regions.

Claims of vote-rigging and a potential political clash between the President and Mr Odinga are likely to jolt the rapprochement.

The mixed signals by the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition leader come amid reports of pressure from Western countries for Mr Odinga to drop his hardline position against the Kenya Kwanza administration and allow the country move beyond electioneering.

Interviews in Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga’s camps have shown that there have been persuasions from some quarters to have the two help the country heal after the 2022 divisive presidential election.

Mr Odinga is said to have been angered by the sensational claims by President Ruto of a plot to abduct and kill immediate former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati in a scheme to alter the outcome of the presidential election in favour of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leader, who was being supported by then-President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Dr Ruto’s camp and Mr Chebukati are also pushing for the formation of a commission of inquiry to look into the chaos at Bomas of Kenya hours before the declaration of the presidential vote results.

Sources told the Sunday Nation that claims by Dr Ruto informed the decision by the opposition to release the document provided by a whistle-blower working at the IEBC that reportedly indicates Mr Odinga garnered 8,170,353 votes – representing 57.3 per cent – against Dr Ruto’s 5,915,973 votes or 41.66 per cent .

The IEBC declared Dr Ruto president-elect, saying he garnered 50.49 percent of the votes cast against Mr Odinga’s 48.5.

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition wants the commission of inquiry to widen its scope and cover other aspects of the elections, including an audit of the results as well as the killing of IEBC official Chris Msando just before the 2017 General Election.

The opposition coalition told the Sunday Nation that the announcement by Mr Odinga would be followed by public rallies across the country.

“We are dealing with an illegitimate government. The public engagements we started last month will continue when Baba (Mr Odinga) comes back. We will take to the people the revelation on who won the presidential election. We will also get their views on the high cost of living and government plans to track their mobile money transactions,” Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni said.

Jubilee is one of the main parties of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition.

Mr Kioni urged Western countries to stop double standards when it comes to the presidential election.

He said it is ironic for them to say Azimio needs to remain quiet when its leaders and followers are disgruntled “yet they cannot entertain such in their countries”.

According to the former Ndaragwa MP, if a seven-member commission is split in the West and the majority are of a contrary view, whatever they do would not be consumed by the public until a consensus is reached.

For this, Mr Kioni told Western countries to allow Kenyans pursue what is right for them.

“Let them respect our sovereignty and our Constitution. Western countries should allow the will of the Kenyan people to prevail. Let them champion the same standards they would apply in their countries to us,” he said.

“It is very sad to see the international community recognise an illegality. What happened in August 2022 was a sham.”

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) chairman John Mbadi said the decision by Nyanza leaders to receive President Ruto should not be misconstrued to mean that the opposition has dropped its misgivings about the August 9, 2022 elections.

Mr Mbadi said Nyanza leaders would welcome Dr Ruto again if he visits the region for development purposes.

“The public engagements the opposition announced were not meant to dispute the election results but raise concerns about interference with independent institutions like the IEBC and the Judiciary,” Mr Mbadi said.

“President Ruto can go on with his tours. We will receive him well any time he comes to Nyanza with development as his agenda.”

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi said voters in Azimio la Umoja One Kenya zones are taxpayers just like those in areas with a huge Kenya Kwanza following.

He added that every Kenyan is entitled to government-funded projects.

Senator Osotsi said the decision by opposition leaders to receive President Ruto does not mean they are warming up for a political deal.

“Azimio la Umoja One Kenya instructed its leaders to welcome the President in Nyanza because the people there are taxpayers. When our coalition leader returns home, he will give a way forward. We still have a lot of issues with this government,” Senator Osotsi said.

Before leaving for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development consultations in South Africa, Mr Odinga held a meeting with British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott.

The meeting centred on “the situation in the country and potential areas of collaboration between Kenya and the United Kingdom”.

Mr Odinga cancelled a parallel Jamhuri Day rally scheduled for December 12, 2022, saying he was flying to the United States even as he insisted he had not been threatened or blackmailed.

He said US President Joe Biden invited him for a meeting as the African Union Special Representative for Infrastructure.

That was after holding a meeting at Kamkunji grounds in Nairobi county where he and his supporters said the Kenya Kwanza government should be pressed to institute measures to reduce the cost of basic commodities, particularly by restoring subsidies on maize flour, fuel, school fees and electricity from January 2023, “failure to which Kenyans will be free to take such steps as they may deem fit to ease the burden of the yoke upon their shoulders”.

Mr Kioni said immediately Mr Odinga jets in from South Africa, the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya brigade will appraise him on the report that “proves” that the opposition coalition won the presidential election and what action to be taken “even though some embassies would want us to do things differently”.

On Western nations pushing for a political truce, allies of President Ruto who spoke to the Sunday Nation in confidence, claimed it is the reason Mr Odinga has not subjected the current administration to the opposition “theatrics” akin to the events before the March 9, 2018 handshake between President Kenyatta and the opposition leader.

“Odinga’s silence can be attributed to foreign countries’ push. That is why there is no high octane politics in Kenya and that is why there has not been any Parliamentary Group meeting from our side,” a member of President Ruto’s inner circle said.

For National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi, Azimio la Umoja One Kenya is not answerable to local or external forces. He insisted that the opposition’s plans would be rolled out soon.

“Our programmes will continue at our own pace and according to our plans. Nobody had called for demonstrations. We’re still at the phase of public dialogue,” the Ugunja MP said.

Narok Senator Ledama Olekina said Mr Odinga has a “serious plan to be revealed soon”.

Saboti MP Caleb Amisi said Western powers should not interfere with Azimio programmes, adding that Mr Odinga cannot be cowed.

Mr Amisi said Mr Odinga has created a conducive environment for the Kenya Kwanza administration to deliver on its campaign pledges.

“Western powers have limits on interfering with democratic processes of other nations.  Baba is known for his principles. He has only allowed calm to enable the government carry out its agenda. He will unleash political missiles soon,” he said.

Implement manifesto

Former Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said it is time for uniting the country and allow the current government implement its manifesto.

He added that Mr Kenyatta is expected to leave politics and allow the growth of the former ruling party Jubilee.

“There is expectation that as a retired president, Mr Kenyatta will definitely exit politics, especially overt politics, within six months of leaving office. That is a good thing,” Mr Ngunjiri said. 

“Mr Kenyatta was our president for 10 years and did a good job. That the transition he would have preferred did not work does not mean he failed as a president. His exit from politics is also good for the country. It allows a complete break in our politics so that the new regime can be analysed independently of its predecessor.”

He added that Mr Kenyatta’s exit from the political scene would enable Jubilee to recalibrate independently in the context of the new reality, and plan how to move forward without the ex-president.

“Of course he can – and will most probably – advise from the background. I suspect everyone wants a ceasefire around the 2022 elections and a focus on development,” the former Nyeri Town MP said.

Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Joshua Kutuny said leaders in Mt Kenya are putting pressure on Mr Kenyatta to exit political arena.

“People from Mt Kenya who feel that Mr Kenyatta’s exit from the Jubilee Party leadership may give them a limelight are the ones who want him to leave,” Mr Kutuny said.

Common mwananchi

The Kikuyu Council of Elders says it is on course to reconcile President Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua on one hand and the former president on the other.

Said council chairman Wachira Kiago: “As elders, we still have a plan to reconcile these leaders because we need peace in Kenya. We are happy to see Nyanza people embracing President Ruto. We are still trying to reach out to these leaders as they are busy.”

Meanwhile, President Ruto’s camp appears split on the need to form the commission of inquiry.

Nyaribari Chache MP Zaheer Jhanda said the Kenya Kwanza administration would form the commission of inquiry immediately it has turned around the country’s ailing economy.

“We inherited a broken economy. The government has serious economic challenges and will prioritise key matters Kenyans have to grapple with. We shall revisit the issue of commission of inquiry later. For now, let’s ensure the cost of living is brought down,” Mr Jhanda said.

National Assembly Majority Whip Sylvanus Osoro said a commission of inquiry would not improve the lives of Kenyans.

“President Ruto is focused on matters of common mwananchi. The past is behind us. We can only tell tales for future lessons. We have no interest in issues that don’t improve lives,” the Mugirango South MP said.

According to Kesses MP Julius Ruto, the President intends to run a united country and is not interested in exerting revenge on anyone.

Kiambu Senator Karungo Thangwa, another ally of President Ruto, said to stop attempts by anyone to usurp people’s democratic rights, a commission of inquiry would need to be formed so as to unearth what transpired at Bomas of Kenya on August 15, 2022.

“The government will to form the commission of inquiry because we want to ensure this country has the best elections that should be emulated by others,” Senator Thangwa told the Sunday Nation.