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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 14 September 2014


Raila Amolo Odinga, who wears the twin hats of ODM chieftain and Cord senior principal, is admirably considered to be Kenya’s third foremost living elder statesman, after retired presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki, is slowly being sidelined in the corridors of power in the most authorative nation in the world, USA.

In Raila’s own eyes,    President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is 18 years younger, is his senior only by his State House status and designation and up to now, he still insists that his victory at the 2013 general elections was hijacked as a matter of stolen victory. As for Deputy President William Ruto, who is 21 years younger, Raila has nothing but political contempt for him until farther notice.

However, as President Uhuru prepares for his first address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, the president returns to the United States for the second time in two months after his first entry at the invitation of President Barrack Obama.

A year ago, Uhuru’s maiden appointment with UN General Assembly was rudely interrupted by the Westgate Mall terrorist attack on September 21. There was also the factor of the lowest point in relations between Kenya and the Western powers.

 A remarkable state of affairs obtained in Kenya just a year ago. US, UK, Germany, France and a number of other powers, including Japan, had preferred Raila to win the presidential race of 2013.

The Nairobi regime has been having a very hard time indeed getting a hearing in Washington, London, Bonn, Paris and Tokyo. When Uhuru was invited to a Somalia conference hosted by Britain in June 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron played a dirty trick on the then neophyte Kenyan head of state, whereby they arranged that no photographs of both men together would feature anywhere.

This wounded the Jubilee regime public relations deeply and now the president does not leave home or travel overseas without his own cameramen and women who maintain a strong Facebook and other social media presence for him on the pulpit.

The first Kenyan presidency under the new constitution was, and still is, composed of suspects with crimes against humanity cases at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Part of president Uhuru and deputy Ruto’s deepest problem with the West was former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, the mediator of the 2007-08 Kenyan crisis caused by Raila’s refusal to accept defeat by President Mwai Kibaki at the ballot box. The Ghanaian became virulently anti-UhuRuto and unreasonably pro-Raila.

Annan has the ears of Western statesmen and women, of the UN system and of the donor sector. When he visited Kenya to review the progress of his mediation, President Kibaki did not grant him an audience as often as then Prime Minister Raila. Indeed, towards the end of his tenure, Kibaki completely ignored Annan as he worked overtime to be succeeded by UhuRuto.

Annan spent hours behind closed doors in Nairobi as well as at his Kofi Annan Foundation offices in Geneva, Switzerland, with PM Raila. And why the Waki Commission decided to hand over the envelope containing names of suspects  of 2007-2008 post- election violence to Annan, a career diplomat perse and not Kibaki aroused political nerves in the diplomatic circles as protocol was thrown through the window to fix UhuRuto, observers note.

The president and deputy president are in no doubt that Raila lost no opportunity to paint them in the darkest colours in his engagements with Annan and interactions with key members of the Washington, London, Paris, Bonn and Tokyo mature democracy regimes.

And when Raila set off on a near-three month sabbatical leave at the Boston University African Presidential Centre early this year, he gave the impression of completely having outflanked Uhuru and Ruto in the eyes of the West.

However, the turning point in Western relations with the Jubilee administration came after Raila returned from America and set the political scene afire with calls for national dialogue, a Saba Saba Day storm and a national referendum.

The Western powers looked on as Raila took Kenya to the edge in terms of political polarisation and tension in the middle of the worst terrorist threats and political-network violence for decades. Above all, they noticed that Raila’s stance on the insecurity was actually ‘the more the merrier’, because it made the Jubilee administration look incompetent and bad. By contrast, Uhuru, being the Commander-in-Chief and having both everything to prove and everything to lose, is absolutely opposed to the upsurge in terrorism on his watch.

But one event became the game-changer in US-Kenya relations and the declining of the Raila factor in Washington. When Obama went out of his way to include Uhuru in the first-ever US Africa Leadership Summit in Washington DC in early August, despite the ICC case, the turning point for the Jubilee administration arrived.

In barely 72 hours, Uhuru was given a rousing welcome at several levels of American politics, trade, commerce, business and investment. He was warmly received by not one but four US presidents – the incumbent Obama, his predecessor George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

When Uhuru returned home from America, he quickly made his first substantive shuffle of top officials. He made changes in Intelligence and Immigration that seemed to strengthen the pro-American factor in the Kenyan power structure and to get rid of anti-West influences.

Now, it is Raila who is struggling to maintain his relevance with the West, but he is taking all the wrong steps, including being hostage to the Kisumu Mafia inside ODM which won’t allow internal elections or a generational change of leadership until it is too late.

The Migori incident in which Uhuru’s goodies tour of Luo Nyanza was rudely cut short has also got the Americans and other Westerners wondering about Raila’s democracy bona fides. And yet all sides of the political divide and all close observers are of the opinion that the Migori disruption of the presidential function would not have happened without Raila’s direct nod.

The Americans are impressed above all by Uhuru’s tough anti-terrorism and anti-drug smuggling stance and actions. In September alone, he has hosted two big continentwide anti-terrorism summits in Nairobi. The first was the high profile meeting bringing together spy chiefs from all over Africa early this month.

The intelligence officials met under the auspices of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa and reviewed security challenges on the continent and exchanged intelligence to develop a shared understanding of common security problems.

The meeting came against the backdrop of increased security challenges across the continent, mainly emanating from terrorism, extremism, ethnic strife as well as power struggle.
The committee said there could be no better venue for the conference than Nairobi which they said “has paid dearly for its principled stand against terror”.

Then followed the AU Peace and Security Council counter-terrorism Summit in Nairobi which was aimed to strengthen international cooperation against terrorism.
The presidents of Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda, among other countries attended.

Africa’s terrorism threats are especially concentrated in the Sahel-Sahara region, as well as including Somalia and Djibouti, the Horn of Africa and Kenya. In West Africa,  Boko Haram has deeply humiliated Nigeria’s military and intelligence organisations.

The AU Peace and Security Council counter-terrorism summit agreed on action steps to strengthen anti-terrorism within the framework of the AU efforts to effectively respond to terrorist threats.

In between these crucial conferences which the West monitored closely and even sponsored, Uhuru donned a five-star general’s military attire and launched the East African Brigade, whose task includes anti-terrorism.

Above all, ignoring a court order, Uhuru personally presided over the sinking of a ship with more than Sh1 billion of heroin on board in the deep waters of the Indian Ocean.
This is easily the most forthright anti-drug-running and anti-money-laundering symbolic action taken by a head of state anywhere in the world in 2014.

This is the kind of action-oriented national and regional leadership Washington has been looking for on its favourite themes in Africa, and which Raila and his strategists and networks were assuring the West that Jubilee cannot deliver.

The Americans have taken a long hard look at Raila and concluded that he belongs to “the wrong side of history” as long as Uhuru is delivering from the driving seat of power in Kenya, the region and AU.

Uhuru’s second outing in the USA this week as president will be interesting to observe. It is no secret therefore that Raila sees himself as both the senior and superior of the two incumbents of the first presidency of the new constitution.

In fact, Raila does not wish Ruto well, considering him to have been instrumental in denying him the Kibaki succession presidency that Uhuru now enjoys.

If Ruto had not led his Kalenjin community out of ODM  into URP/Jubilee, Raila has no doubt that he would today be president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces in Kenya on the eve of a multi-trillion-shillings economy that would lift many parts of the country, if not in fact all, out of poverty within his lifetime.

In his more clearheaded moments lately, Raila has realised that focusing on bringing down Ruto is the key to destroying Jubilee’s second-term chances for good. His calculation is that the fall of Ruto would mean that the Kalenjin would opt out of the ‘Tyranny of Numbers’ arrangement with TNA and perhaps even return to his side. Failing this, Raila’s strategists reckon that once the Mountain and the Valley part ways, he can finally prevail with the support of much of the rest of the country.

Ruto’s removal can happen in a variety of ways, including an act of God.
Raila is therefore watching the unfolding situation at The Hague extra closely, particularly now that the eight reluctant witnesses against the DP have been compelled to testify via video link from a secret location in Nairobi.

Like the president and deputy president, Raila is surrounded by prominent lawyers – particularly in his own party, ODM, and the opposition alliance, Cord. Recently, Senator James Orengo, one of Kenya’s foremost legal minds, was overheard telling Raila how easily Ruto’s case could backfire against the DP and result in immediate locking up.

Orengo also, interestingly, urged Raila not to endorse anyone else for president in 2017. The last time Raila endorsed a candidate other than himself was in October 2002, when he backed Kibaki.

Orengo’s legal eagle eye has told him that Ruto’s case has reached a dangerous stage at which reluctant witnesses are not only readily and recklessly admitting perjury (lying to the court) but also accusing the ICC’s network of having financially compromised them as well as coaching them to lie.

Orengo has clearly sensed that when the eight reluctant witnesses finish their video link evidence from the secret location in Nairobi, anything could happen, particularly the judges taking umbrage at the ICC system, networks and processes being ridiculed under oath by recanting witnesses who apparently do not fear the court’s consequences for committing perjury.

The judges could come out fuming and accuse the DP and the Jubilee administration of gross interference with witnesses and sabotage of the prosecution. The consequences for such an outcome are only known to lawyers and legal scholars. Raila and his closest strategists and legal advisers are literally falling to their knees several times a day and praying that Ruto meets with the judges’ full-frontal wrath as a head-on collision follows.

Raila and company are praying daily to a variety of deities of a variety of faiths, including Luo traditional and supernatural, that the DP’s lawyers and entourage are suddenly, in the near-future, ordered by ICC judges to leave The Hague without him and that he is convicted not on the PEV atrocities but on witness interference and sabotaging the ICC.