esident Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga kept their talks secret even from their closest allies because they did not want the initiative scuttled by vested interests from their respective political groupings.
In his first interview since the political truce was signalled by the famous March 9 handshake from the steps of Harambee House, Mr Odinga said neither he nor the President wanted their dramatic move disrupted by 2022 presidential succession politics.
Mr Odinga’s co-principals in the National Super Alliance – Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Moses Wetang’ula and Mr Musalia Mudavadi – were kept in the dark throughout a series of negotiations with Mr Kenyatta conducted through just a few trusted aides.
Also out of the loop from President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party side was Deputy President William Ruto.
Mr Odinga was present in Mr Kenyatta‘s Harambee House office when the President phoned his deputy to brief him on the impending development just a few moments before the two of them stepped outside to make their deal public before the media.
As President Kenyatta was calling Mr Ruto, Mr Odinga was simultaneously picking up his own phone for the first time to brief Mr Musyoka, his 2017 and 2013 presidential election running-mate.
In a wide-ranging interview from his Capital Hill Square office, Mr Odinga addressed a variety of issues arising from what is now popularly referred to just as ‘The Handshake’ that signified an accord between two hitherto implacable foes whose feud goes back a generation to the time of their fathers.
He answered queries on what motivated him and Mr Kenyatta to abandon intransigent positions; if he has sold out on the opposition quest for reform and electoral justice; whether he was the loser in the in the deal; the fallout in Nasa and the fate of ousted Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula.
The big question was if he had abandoned Nasa’s #Resist campaign which aims to force through another repeat poll after refusing to recognise President Kenyatta’s legitimacy after boycotting the October 26 election.
According to Mr Odinga, the question of selling out or abandoning the #Resist campaign does not arise because Nasa always had to two options.
First was the demand for dialogue to push the case for electoral justice, and failing that came the popular resistance, from his swearing-in as ‘people’s president’, on to formation of peoples assemblies and then people’s conventions.
Ultimately, he pointed out, Nasa would still have had to talk to Jubilee because any legislative proposals that came out of the people’s convention would still have to seek passage in Parliament.
Denying that he conceded a lot and was therefore the loser in the whole arrangement, Mr Odinga pointed out that all the key Nasa demands – electoral justice, judicial independence, restructuring the Executive, police reforms, strengthening devolution, tackling corruption, tribalism and exclusivity – were covered in the joint communique or memorandum of understanding he signed with Mr Kenyatta.
Also incorporated were issues around the Jubilee government’s ‘Big Four’ development agenda.
There were no winners and losers, he insisted, but a win-win situation “for the good of the country”.
And could he have foreseen that a fallout within Nasa as principals questioned his “private” deal with the President?
Mr Odinga insisted, against all evidence, that the opposition alliance remained solid and united.
He accused the media of exaggerating and blowing out of proportion the debate and writing premature obituaries on Nasa.
But this is a feud that has been played out in public, with Mr Kalonzo of Wiper Party, Mr Mudavadi of Amani National Congress and Mr Wetang’ula of Ford-Kenya openly expressing dismay over the behaviour of their Orange Democratic Movement colleague.
There have been threats to kick ODM out of Nasa, with some affiliate parties accusing Mr Odinga’s party of abandoning the opposition to seek a partnership with Jubilee.
ODM senators retaliated by removing Mr Wetang’ula as Senate minority leader.
According to Mr Odinga, however, Mr Wetangula’s problems emanated from differences in the Nasa Senate contingent that existed even before the handshake.
He, however, expressed hope that as the only member of the Nasa Summit in Parliament, Mr Wetang’ula would be spared.
Mr Odinga acknowledged having failed, alongside Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi, to persuade Nasa senators to reinstate Mr Wetang’ula but hoped that a planned retreat would allow for a cooling-off period and opportunity to resolve differences.
He rejected the notion that the accord was a Raila-Uhuru deal between individuals rather than a wider dialogue involving their respective political groupings and other stakeholders.
His explanation was that any move of such nature must have its initiators who conceive it and nurse it through formative stages before bringing others on board.
“Every discussion must have a beginning,” he said.
“If I called you and said we should meet, you don’t always have to say that you must first consult someone else.”
He said in any case, what had happened so far were just initial discussions, “talks about talks”, rather than any substantive discussions or negotiations.
When the time came, he promised, no stakeholder would be excluded, though there would still be need to ensure that politicians with an eye on the next elections did not hijack the process.
He did want to be drawn much on programmes and timelines but said things were on course towards the establishment of a joint secretariat to drive the next phase dialogue.
There has been no word from Mr Martin Kimani, representing President Kenyatta, and Mr Paul Mwangi, representing Mr Odinga, the men tasked to set up the secretariat, but Mr Odinga said things were proceeding smoothly.
He said it would be premature to release information at this stage, but divulged that initially independent experts, rather than politicians, would be tasked to frame issues of discussion before the scope was widened to actual negotiations.
Mr Odinga flatly rejected the insinuation that the whole effort might be geared towards winning him a share of power in a coalition government.
“We have said no to nusu mkate”, he said. “We want real change.”