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Kenya’s Raila set to unveil ‘handshake deal’ team

NAIROBI. ODM leader Raila Odinga is this week expected to unveil his full team to facilitate the national unity and reforms agenda signed with President Uhuru Kenyatta last month, the Sunday Nation has learnt.

Mr Odinga will hold the meeting on Tuesday to unveil the names of those who will work with lawyer Paul Mwangi before flying to Kakamega County to deliver the keynote address during the fifth devolution conference on Wednesday.

A source close to the former prime minister, who spoke in confidence, told the Sunday Nation that the names are to be forwarded to the President before the end of the week. The President is also expected to reveal the names of the team he wants to work with Mr Martin Kimani after that even as a definitive announcement on the launch of the “building bridges” programme is expected during his State of the Nation address to Parliament on May 2.

DIVISIVE

Yesterday, Mr Odinga hinted at the imminent appointment of the team when he said he, together with President Kenyatta, will form an advisory team on uniting the country following divisive elections last year.

“We want to come up with a solution that will answer our needs. We don’t want to have another election that will divide us,” he said, when he attended a funeral service in Bondo, Siaya county.

Mr Odinga insisted that Kenya needs a proper foundation for the take-off to be realised and promised to continue talking to different leaders across the country.

According to the source, there was a hint that Mr Odinga will pick seven individuals suggesting that the programme the two leaders had promised will be implemented by a team of about 14 to 16 advisers under the leadership of Mr Mwangi  and Mr Kimani.

NOMINEES

Other sources have claimed that Mr Odinga had already identified the names and the Tuesday meeting will only be to inform his close advisers. Further, the sources said that Mr Odinga will involve a nominee each from Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi.

The opposition leaders have been lukewarm about the handshake after they were left out. It was not immediately clear if Mr Odinga would include representatives of Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula who has in recent weeks attacked the former Prime Minister, especially after he was ousted as Minority Leader.

Yesterday, Mr Mwangi told the Sunday Nation that plans to launch the team are at an advanced stage, but would not offer details of the progress.

“We are lining up a lot of activities to realise the nine-point plan because we have a broad-based agenda to fulfill. You will be seeing a lot of activities in the coming weeks. We are in the process of setting up offices. We are on this full time,” he said.

The agenda revolves around ethnic antagonism and competition, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, divisive elections, safety and security, corruption, shared prosperity and responsibilities and rights.

REGRETS

Senate Minority Whip Mutula Kilonzo Jnr says that as much as the March 9 handshake was a good gesture, the process needs to move to the next stage.

“It would be better off if the conversation went beyond the handshake and involved the people. It is one and half months already but the anxiety remains as high as it was on the day of the handshake. Time has come for the conversation to go beyond the two leaders to the public,” he said.

The Senator regrets that few outside the two leaders know what the deal entails and suggested one of the better ways of moving the conversation forward would be to have all the senior leaders on one table as one of the ways of assuring the public the process is genuine.

But even though the sceptics question the deal, the events of the last two weeks show that the effects of the handshake have started solidifying with the increased role of Mr Odinga in government in the recent past.

HIGH PROFILE

Not much has been said or even done since the day of the handshake, but in the last two weeks, Mr Odinga’s image in official circles has slowly been on the ascendancy.

This was on display on Friday when the Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua accompanied him during the high-profile meeting with retired President Mwai Kibaki on Friday.

The meeting, held at the former President’s Muthaiga home, came a week after a similar meeting with the second President, Daniel arap Moi. Mr Odinga would soon after travel to South Africa as an official representative of the Kenyan Government at the burial of Winnie Mandela.

On arrival in South Africa, Mr Odinga was received by the Kenyan High Commissioner to South Africa Jean Kamau, and her team at the airport. He enjoyed all the necessary treatment as the country’s representative and was accorded private talks with top leaders.

At the funeral, he met South Africa’s deputy president David Mabuza, former presidents Jacob Zuma, and Thabo Mbeki, and Mozambican High Commissioner to South Africa Paulino José Macaringue, among other dignitaries.

INVITATION

Just before the trip, there was a botched meeting between him and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, and Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata where it had been revealed that President Kenyatta had ordered the CS to personally deliver an invitation to Mr Odinga to address the devolution conference which starts Monday in Kakamega town.

As to whether Mr Odinga’s increased official engagements in the last couple of weeks signify his final entry into the government is hard to tell. This is because there has been little, or no, public pronouncement on the status of the Harambee House handshake.

By virtue of his position, Mr Kinyua is no ordinary public servant. He sits at the apex of the government and he is the official executor of all policies on behalf of the President. He attends all Cabinet meetings where he takes minutes of the proceedings since the President has never picked a Secretary to the Cabinet after the exit of Francis Kimemia in 2015.

PRIVATE

“The head of public service is the de facto president. His presence at the Muthaiga meeting demonstrates the official nature of the meeting. It was neither a family meeting nor was it a meeting of friends, colleagues or two people who shared government. His presence means that this was no longer a private affair,” the University of Nairobi don Herman Manyora mused.

The don argued that the Friday meeting was the closest to any confirmation that the handshake was taking effect. “If it was a private meeting what was the head of public service doing there? This can only have been a continuation of the handshake. It was a very formal engagement.”

Minority Whip in the National Assembly Junet Mohammed told the Sunday Nation there was nothing out of the ordinary in what his party leader has been doing in the last couple of weeks.

He denied that Mr Odinga’s recent movements are indicative that he is enjoying the trappings of power, revealing that the former Prime Minister’s security detail and convoy remain as they have been all the years.

GOODWILL

He claimed the decision to send Mr Odinga to South Africa was arrived at after the government realised that the former PM would attend the funeral as part of his pan-African credentials.

“The only thing I can confidently say is that what the two leaders have set out to do enjoys unparalleled goodwill, both at home and international and that there is a lot of support coming through,” he said.

He added: “For us, the country is bigger than titles and government offices. Mr Odinga would have walked out of Harambee House with a big title and an office if that was the motivation soon after the handshake.”

AGENDA

Mr Mohammed, who is also the Suna East MP, insisted that the intention of the handshake was never about joining the government but an opportunity for the country to address the violence it faces after every election cycle.

“Everything the country is seeing is the easier part. The hardest part of the implementation of the memorandum of understanding signed by the two leaders and which contains the nine-point agenda they promised to implement,” he said, adding that the presence of Mr Kinyua in the Friday meetings was a sign of the goodwill the handshake is enjoying across the board.

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