By Rawlings Otieno and Baraka Karama,
The talks of an alliance between Opposition chief Raila Odinga and Deputy President (DP) William Ruto continues to draw reactions from leaders across the divide on the possibility of a new political union between the two.
While Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who was the first ODM leader to meet publicly with Ruto, said the choice of working with the DP was part of Raila’s “Plan B” should his party boss be dropped off the 2022 Uhuru Kenyatta succession plan, a top party official dismissed talks of a partnership with the Deputy President.
John Mbadi, a key Raila ally and ODM chairman, charged that as a party, they have not been keen on forming an alliance with anybody including the DP.
Mbadi said that ODM will negotiate or talk about alliances after the passage of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill.
“I am not aware of any alliance or meeting between Raila and Ruto. As ODM we have not talked about any alliance with Ruto or anybody for that matter. What we are concerned with is BBI. Our only concern is that the cases touching on BBI currently in the courts should be concluded as soon as possible,” said Mbadi.
Meanwhile, highly placed sources in Jubilee Party dismissed the impact of Oparanya’s meeting with Ruto, describing the governor as a “desperate politician trying to hang onto his influence in western Kenya.”
“It was a DP strategy to counter the meetings HE (Kenyatta) had with PM (Raila). He used Oparanya who has been meeting several leaders trying to explore for himself the best route for his political future after he completes his two terms as governor. Oparanya is afraid of the rise of other leaders in Western including Mukhisa (Kituyi), who recently met the PM,” the source said.
The source added: “I can guarantee you that the former PM didn’t send Oparanya. There is no coalition on the horizon between DP and the former PM. Oparanya is just restless because of Western politics.”
On Sunday, April 12, while reiterating that ODM was keen to explore other options should it be sidelined in the Uhuru succession matrix, Oparanya told People Daily that both President Kenyatta and Raila had planned a meeting on Saturday to “seek clarification on issues from both sides following the recent political developments”.
“In politics, you must have plan A, B and C. If plan A fails, you resort to plan B. Though our Plan A, which is in the Handshake has not yet failed, working with Ruto is just part of plan B. Recent political development has given us hints that something could be amiss,” said Oparanya.
He went on: “President Kenyatta wants to seek clarification from Raila over the rapprochement he is having with Ruto, while Raila wants to know from Uhuru what his connection with One Kenya Alliance is.” Oparanya’s statement came a few days after he met with Ruto in the Masai Mara game Reserve ostensibly to discuss a political alliance with Raila.
Saving Handshake deal
The governor, who said Raila was aware of his meeting with the DP, later met with the ODM leader at his Karen home in a meeting that was also attended by Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa.
The meeting, he said, was meant to discuss how the ODM party would be strengthened ahead of the next election in 2022.
Sources intimated to People Daily that recent political developments had thrown both camps into turbulence with each side exploring efforts to save the Handshake deal.
Unhappy with President Uhuru’s apparent dalliance with One Kenya Alliance, Raila, on the one hand, is said to have explored the possibilities of working with like-minded individuals, like Ruto, to counter it.
On the other hand, the President is said to have been jolted by Raila’s alleged move to reach out to Ruto, whom his camp considers a political outcast.
Sources said both President Kenyatta and Raila camps were now pulling all efforts to save the Handshake that is threatened by suspicions and the emergence of the One Kenya Alliance that brings together ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya), Gideon Moi (Kanu) and Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper).
There are fears within the President’s camp that the collapse of the Handshake deal could be the last nail on the coffin of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that the Head of State has earmarked as part of his legacy.
Although ODM chairman Mbadi clarified that the party is not keen on any alliance talks at the moment, some Raila allies have welcomed the proposed political alliance between him (Raila) and Ruto.
“Nothing is impossible in politics and as they say there are no permanent friends and enemies. If it will be for the best interest of Kenyans so be it,” said Nyando MP Jared Okello.
“Both Ruto and Raila are leaders in this country and by the fact they are planning to work together is highly welcomed. Oparanya is also right in his capacity as a national leader to look for political friends,” said Nominated MP Geoffrey Osotsi.
ODM Political Affairs Secretary and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi supported Mbadi’s sentiments saying the idea is welcome but only after BBI is passed.
“It is not strange because the two leaders are Kenyans. As a party, we are waiting for communication but I am sure any alliance will be after the passing of BBI,” said.
But Ruto’s camp is also said to have developed cold feet at the thought of working with Raila, whom they view with lots of suspicions due to his past political manoeuvres that ended up destroying his erstwhile allies.
"We will have a meeting next week to look at what is on the table. We could become forced allies brought together by circumstances although there are some forces against it. The biggest question is if we are going to work with Raila, how are we going to work?,” posed a Ruto insider.
The source further charged that both Ruto and Raila will be forced to work together, perish together or hang separately.
“We are dealing with a President who is not keen to retire. This, therefore, means that it’s either Ruto or Raila perish together or are hanged separately,” said the source.
However, some key members of Ruto’s kitchen cabinet have come out to downplay the import of the meeting saying that any engagement with any political figure is taken cautiously.
“We don’t have any meetings. We are taking any engagement with anybody with a lot of caution,” said Garissa Town MP Aden Duale