Kenya's Most Authoritative Political Newspaper

Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 7 September 2014



After its first year that was widely denounced by political pundits as a waste of time and energy, opposition  outfit Coalition for Reforms and Democracy steadily reinvented and repositioned itself  at the end of May this year with Raila Odinga’s homecoming from a three-month sabbatical leave in the United States, changing the political scene in the country drastically.

Cord has since reenergised its political base and given the ruling Jubilee Alliance of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto a blistering run for their money, and sleepless nights.

First, on May 30, came the call from the Cord principals at Uhuru Park for a national dialogue. The call was made so rudely and loaded with such conditions that Jubilee was immediately cornered.

Raila’s ‘Baba While You Were Away’ homecoming rally began with a massive chanting of “Uhuru Must Go!” by a capacity crowd at Uhuru Park that marked the rejuvenation of a strong opposition in the country’s politics. The more than 200,000-strong crowd shook the CBD with its yelling as a massive security cordon was put in place.

The following day was June 1, Madaraka Day, a national holiday. Addressing the nation from Nyayo Stadium, Uhuru welcomed the proposal for a national dialogue on a number of pressing issues afflicting the nation, including the upsurge in insecurity and even invited Raila for a cup of tea at State House.

Cord principals-former PM Raila, former VP Kalonzo Musyoka and Bungoma senator Moses Wetang’ula quickly upped their game, rejecting Uhuru’s invite to a chat over a cup of tea as trivialising their call for a national dialogue on their own terms.

And then Ruto struck, publicly contradicting his boss Uhuru and saying flatly that there would be no dialogue with Cord. Ruto pointed the opposition to seek refuge in parliament and the senate, two creatures of the new constitution which he himself initially opposed as the leader of the red No side at the 2010 national referendum.

Uhuru agreed with his deputy and dropped the dialogue invite like a hot potato.
Cord further upped its game and called for the Saba Saba “storm” scheduled for July 7. Tensions rose skyhigh in Kenya and there were genuine fears to the continuing peace and stability.
When Saba Saba came, Cord called for a national referendum. Jubilee was completely cornered and found dumbfounded.

Now the referendum preliminaries have entered a political horse-trading phase full of badmouthing the other side and bribery of MCAs. When Jubilee offered MCAs Sh12 billion in perks to oppose the referendum push, including fully equipped and staffed offices, car loans, mortgages, etc, Cord kept quiet and then unleashed a counteroffer – of a whopping Sh21 billion. One of these offers is genuine – it is also entirely possible that both are just political traps.

In the middle of all this jockeying for advantage, Raila finally announced that he would be in the running for the 2017 presidential race, something he had postponed for more than a year. But he made the announcement in such a way and with such timing as to suggest that he had the automatic and unchallenged support of the other principals.

And then two of the most significant political developments of the year happened but were barely noticed in the entire hullabaloo about dialogue, Saba Saba and referendum: both Kalonzo and Wetang’ula warned Raila not to dare give the impression that his 2017 candidacy was a done deal and had their endorsement.

Here lies the greatest dilemma of Raila’s long and chequered political career. He would dearly love to mount his fourth presidential campaign in 2017, which will also be his third in a row against a Kikuyu candidate. He would dearly like to be the Odinga who dislodged a Kenyatta from State House after just a single term. He would also dearly love to have the same line-up behind him in Cord as he had in 2013.

However, much as he would love all these things, Raila will be 72 years old in 2017. As a loser in presidential polls since 1997, some in controversial ways, Raila is out to make his final bid. However, others say Raila plot to declare he will be in the race is to confuse Jubilee side. Already, within Jubilee, talk is to introduce a debate banning Raila running on age factor.

Analysts say Raila’s decision to declare he will run is aimed at hoodwinking his enemies to pass the age limit so as he can gracefully get out of the race and groom another person. Political analysts say the age limit aspect will work in favour of a united opposition as Raila will be technically out. He sat out of the 2002 event and threw his weight behind Mwai Kibaki.

Word has it that if he runs in 2017, not every Luhya (the second numerically largest community in Kenya) or every Mkamba (the fourth largest, some now say third) might feel like investing all their hopes in Raila yet again. That is why the Raila factor in 2017 is at the centre of discussion and critical thinking, analysts say. 

There are two more complications on Raila’s path to yet another stab at State House, a place he has tried everything to occupy, including an attempted coup in 1982, a marriage with Kanu in its final months in 2002 that was not consummated, mass action 2007 and court action 2013.
The first roadblock to Raila as Cord’s candidate in 2017 comprises Wetang’ula’s own real intentions.

The senator is working hard to become the undisputed political king of the Abaluhya ethnic communities. Raila also owes Wetang’ula big time for the support he delivered to him in 2013 and the sacrifice he made by not launching his own maiden presidential campaign.

When Wetang’ula shot down Raila’s declaration of being Cord’s 2017 candidate, he told him the opposition must hold fit and proper nominations for the unified candidate.

Unlike Wetang’ula, Kalonzo has already stood for president, in 2007, but came a remote third to Kibaki and Raila. However, Kalonzo entered government by siding with Kibaki when Raila declared mass action and the country descended into the post-election violence crisis of 2007-08 pandemonium. Had Kalonzo sided with Raila in 2008, they would almost certainly have effectively illegitimated Kibaki’s victory as declared by the then Electoral Commission of Kenya.

The 2017 race could yet see a second time that Kalonzo plays spoiler for a Raila attempt at State House. Kalonzo does not have the numbers going by the 2007 presidential results. However, he is unlikely to attract the huge total votes that Raila has generated on two consecutive failed attempts, 2007 and 2013, adding up to almost 10 million. Kalonzo will never make a mark unless he is Raila and Wetang’ula’s genuinely chosen unified candidate.

However, analysts say both Kalonzo and Wetang’ula are lawyers and men of huge egos. And both are clearly not in a mood to play second and third fiddle to Raila all over again as they did in 2013. They are also getting older.

There is yet another scenario that vastly complicates Raila’s last chance prospects in 2017: the spoiler factor. Either Kalonzo or Wetang’ula could be made seriously rich in a currency (including hard) of his own choice by the Jubilee candidates, who will have all the advantages of incumbency and all the desperation for a second term.

A second term for Uhuru would build his legacy and put him in a powerful position to influence his own succession, just unlike Kibaki before him. A second term as DP for Ruto would be a powerful springboard for the Uhuru succession in 2023.
Raila will almost certainly be betrayed from within by one – or both – of his fellow principals inside Cord.

Among Raila’s closest advisers on his 2017 strategy is self-proclaimed Prophet David Owuor, a man that Raila’s American backers hold in the greatest contempt. Also leading Raila astray are old school of politicians, Anyang’ Nyong’o, Otieno Kajwang’ and his wife Ida.

It is this group of hugely unpopular strategists that prevailed upon Raila to just stand by as the Orange Democratic Movement national delegates’ conference was sabotaged on February 27 by the so-called Men in Black.

It is also this group of totally incompetent and visionless persons that has convinced Raila to postpone the repeat of the Orange party’s internal polls indefinitely, thus giving the former PM the negative image of a man who is afraid of even his own party’s internal elections. Raila’s argument while terminating ODM conventions indefinitely was that the party had been infiltrated by Jubilee “decoys”, by which he meant Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba and Mombasa governor Hassan Joho, the Young Turks who make Nyong’o, Kajwang’ and Orengo look like political fossils who belong in a museum.

Raila’s lip-smacking appetite for a national referendum has seen his detractors aver contrasts sharply with his strange reluctance to install internal democracy inside ODM or to have a real, nail-biting, thrill-a-minute presidential nomination inside Cord.

Analysts further say Raila’s political hunger for being seen to confine Uhuru to only one term at State House is to teach his deputy Ruto a lesson. Ruto is the force behind the Uhuru presidency just like Raila was to Kibaki in 2002. The two happen to be kingmakers in short and their own right. Surprisingly, just like Raila advanced the Kikuyu factor to propel Kibaki to power, it is the same Kikuyu strategy Ruto used to deny Raila presidency in 2013.

While Raila’s problems inside ODM and Cord seem to be giving him a headache, Uhuru’s own impediments seem to be falling and giving way as if bewitched.
Uhuru’s biggest setback in his life yet, the ICC crimes against humanity case, is all but over without ever having really started. Analysts say further project that the Uhuru case has hit a snag. However, the surrounding of his deputy is complicated and the dimension it is likely to take will either help to consolidate Jubilee or break it ahead of 2017. Infact, if Ruto is found guilty, then Jubilee will die a natural death. Uhuru will be a one term president then, pundits say.

 Raila 2017 plot is also said to be putting in consideration the ICC idea in relation to Ruto not Uhuru. When The Hague court’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, of the Gambia announced on Friday last week that she and her team did not have enough evidence to commence trial against Uhuru and begged for one more postponement in the world’s most postponed major court case ever, she blamed the government of Kenya.

Now, even if Nairobi produces all the documentation that Bensouda is seeking in order to commence the trial, it will take years to verify and authenticate. Many of the institutions involved, such as banks and mobile phone providers, including cash transfer services, exist on a confidentiality basis in most jurisdictions. Such institutions, both in Kenya and around the world, are likely to give the ICC prosecutors or investigators hell for fear of losing business to competitors who never betray their clients’ secrets even under conditions of war.

If Uhuru’s case collapses in the course of the next 12 months, he will be in a position to concentrate on securing a second term and his legacy with maximum incumbency advantages.
For Raila, the final political battle of his life -2017- is beginning to look like a very steep mountain to climb. And President Kenyatta II is sailing in the same boat.   

 Political history has shown that in Kenya, since the introduction of multi-party politics, alliances formed to win power never last to the next elections as they end up splitting and entering into new alliances. Whereas Ruto has said he will back Uhuru in 2017, the possibility of renegotiating in any new formidable alliance that happens to emerge ahead of 2017 cannot be ruled out. On the other side in Cord is the fear if they will still stick together and back one of their own.