Raila Odinga: Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya leader on a warpath
What you need to know:
- He is quietly satisfied that he has rattled the Ruto government, which seems to have put aside other business to react to whatever he is planning.
- But there are still some hard questions
Far from the charged, angry, bitter politician taking to the public platform with charges, for the fourth time in succession, that he was robbed of presidential election victory, Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya leader Raila Odinga is calm, relaxed and cheerful as he receives The Weekly Review at his Capitol Hill office.
He looks trimmer than usual, accentuated by a slim-fit silk shirt untucked over fitting trousers, the casual style completed by comfortable blue canvass loafers. The Raila in a private meeting is a big difference from the political platform lion. He is friendly and considerate of the comfort of his guest, taking the courtesy of putting his cellphone, which tends to ring perpetually, on silent mode.
I was a bit apprehensive meeting him just a day after penning, in my Daily Nation column of Tuesday, a scathing dismissal of his claims that fresh whistleblower evidence proved he had been rigged out of the 2022 presidential election victory.
There is no tongue-lashing, no complaint, no reference at all to the negative article. Instead, he is keen to expound directly on claims that a whistleblower had provided incontrovertible proof, extracted directly from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission servers, that he had won the presidential elections with 8.1 million (57 per cent) votes against President Ruto’s 5.9 million (41 per cent).
Just two days after a charged political rally at Nairobi’s historic Kamukunji grounds, symbolic of political protest, where he launched his fresh campaign for an audit of the elections and declared that Azimio does not recognise Ruto as president, Raila looks energised. He is in his element, preparing to go back to the trenches, and it emerges that a series of planning meetings are already taking place for a sustained series of rallies to make his push for an inquiry into the elections.
He is quietly satisfied that he has rattled the Ruto government, which seems to have put aside other business to react to whatever he is planning.
But there are still some hard questions. The Supreme Court threw out Raila’s petition challenging Ruto’s presidential election victory, closing the door on any other judicial processes. His demands for an audit of the elections and ‘opening of the IEBC servers’, which he insists will unearth the truth, could be simply ignored. He could apply pressure through political rallies as well as street protests and demonstrations, but at great risk that things could spiral out of control and into violence and bloodshed, for which he could be held accountable.
His latest manoeuvre is also fuelling counter-attacks around the narrative that he is the serial election loser who then instigates unrest so that he can secure a peace settlement that brings him into government. He dismisses all such concerns, but is still hard-pressed on veracity of the whistleblower claims. His stock response is that access to the IEBC servers is what will reveal the true picture of how the election was allegedly stolen.
One area that he fumbles a lot is on is why he doesn’t simply produce copies of the election count results forms that should have been collected by campaign agents from all the 46,000 polling stations and the tally forms from the 290 constituency tallying centres.
Those, before peering into the IEBC servers chairman Wafula Chebukati at the Bomas Kenya National Tallying Centre, are what would prove the incontrovertible evidence if the numbers posted on the elections portal were, indeed, doctored.
Pressed on that, Raila makes the startling admission that it was logistically impossible for Azimio to have agents at all 46,000 polling stations. He claims that in hostile regions, his campaign agents were harassed, beaten and denied access to polling stations.
All those might be minor details at the movement for a politician intent on reclaiming his space. If Raila came out of the presidential election loss and the Supreme Court dismissal tired and defeated, one now sees a veteran opposition leader doing what he has always done best: stoking the flames and keeping government distracted and preoccupied with countering him.
Aside from the election fraud demands, Raila seems quietly satisfied that he has latched onto the Ruto government’s Achilles Heel in its inability to find a quick fix to economic travails and fulfil extravagant campaign promises. He also points out serious credibility issues facing the Kenya Kwanza administration over the rapid withdrawal of corruption and other criminal cases facing favoured acolytes and their appointments to key public offices.
The people are realising that they were cheated, he says, and one suspects he is hoping to capitalise on growing disillusionment and discontent.
But he must also be aware that he could be losing ground if the growing stampede towards the Ruto government from his own ranks is anything to go by. Azimio ranks in Parliament and county governments have been rapidly depleted as elected leaders are lured to support the government, but he seems to be taking all that in his stride, pointing out that defections have been a trend since reintroduction of multi-party politics.
Raila is clearly gearing up for resistance politics all over again, and for him that is engagement with the masses rather than the boardrooms. He warns of a looming tyranny, regression to Nyayo-era politics in what he says is Ruto’s push to seize control of Parliament, neuter the courts, intimidate the media and install a compliant electoral commission.
In that environment, he says, he cannot abandon the people and slink off into retirement. He turned 78 in January. At the next elections in 2027, he will be 82, but insists there is still work to do. Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, the perpetual gadfly in his constellation, is already staking claims to the flag, but Raila describes him as a loyal and steadfast Azimio leader alongside Martha Karua, Wycliffe Oparanya, Hassan Joho and others who will be ready to run the ship when the times comes.