By: David O. Monda
If anything encapsulated the insincerity of Raila Odinga to his supporters, it was his handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta last week. Nothing illustrates his single minded focus to access the presidency than his abandonment of the democratic ideals he claimed he fought for in the pursuit of short term political power. His actions smack a veneer of contempt upon the millions of NASA supporters that were hoodwinked into believing that Raila actually wanted electoral reform, change in policing policy, judicial reform or the entrenchment of devolution. The deal between Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta is an agreement between two political dynasties that has no input from the electorate. Raila Odinga will come to regret his action.
This deals raises a lot of skepticism because it is very opaque. Nobody but the two men that made the agreement know what was agreed! Raila has not shared what concessions (if any) he was given by the president. For instance, was he promised the Prime Minister’s Post? What agreement is there on the fundamental reforms to the electoral code, the judiciary, the police service and devolution? Are the democratic ideals he claimed were in danger when he visited the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C last year not under threat anymore? The fear of many observers of the status quo is that if no reforms are instituted in the run up to the elections in 2022, the holder of the presidency will use the same loopholes in the electoral code to undermine their opponents and wider democratic ideals in Kenyan elections.
What is more surprising is the silence from Raila’s political backyard. No governors or senators from the region have dared challenge the premise of the former Prime Minister’s negotiations with President Kenyatta. The bigger challenge with this agreement is that it is vertically driven, top to bottom. There has been no grassroots consultation on Raila’s decision yet thousands died on the streets demonstrating for ideals they thought were important to their leader. NASA supporters need to be asked whether they support or reject the deal before its concluded. As NASA said, sovereignty belongs to the people. The manner the deal was concluded is very unilateral, undemocratic and dictatorial. Raila is selling the deal as a fait accompli in his backyard when no input has been given from the people.
On the Jubilee side, Uhuru Kenyatta is sitting pretty. Raila has symbolically accepted him as the legitimate president of Kenya by going to Harambee House to negotiate this deal. The President Kenyatta did not go to Orange House to meet the “People’s President”. Secondly, Uhuru Kenyatta has not conceded to any of the demands of Raila Odinga. In addition to this, the President is able to keep those in the succession race for 2022 guessing on what his next move will be because they are in the dark over what was discussed. Uhuru has kept his political cards close to his chest and can play them as political realities make themselves clear in the run up to the next election. Raila will find himself with egg in his face as he did in 2002 when he had another famous handshake with former president Daniel Arap Moi when his National Development Party (NDP) merged with KANU. A famous Swahili saying goes “Akupaye kisogo sio mwenzio” (it’s important to know whom to trust and who not to). As Chris Musando a former resident of Ugenya in Siaya County watches this deal, will he think the fate of the father will befall the son?
David O. Monda is professor of Political Science at City University of New York – Guttman College
Image: President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA leader Raila Odinga shake hands at Harambee House in March 2018 (PSCU)