The disquiet within the ruling Jubilee Party over the Uhuru-Raila unity pact came to the fore on Sunday, when a group of leaders accused their opposition counterparts of seeking to gain political mileage from the two leaders’ handshake.
The politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto, claimed that National Super Alliance leaders had been using the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga to “push their political agenda” ahead of the 2022 General Election, even as Mr Odinga indicated in a press statement that he is not interested in an elective post.
The Jubilee leaders said the disclosure by some ODM legislators, led by Senate Minority Leader James Orengo that Mr Odinga would be their presidential candidate in 2022 was a clear indication that the “Nasa leader’s intentions are suspect”.
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen wondered why Mr Odinga, who entered into a unity pact with President Kenyatta in March, was now engaging in political activities instead of preaching peace and unity.
“The handshake is being used for a political agenda,” said Mr Murkomen yesterday at Moi Kapsowar Girls’ High School in Elgeyo-Marakwet County, during an inter-denominational prayer service attended by, among others, Deputy President William Ruto. “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.
Mr Odinga is telling us that the recent handshake is for the unity of this country, while in political rallies he is talking about 2022 politics. This means he is not sincere on this matter.”
Mr Odinga, however, distanced himself from allegations that he would seek the presidency, insisting that his focus is to unite the country, alongside President Kenyatta, under their ‘Building Bridges Initiative’.
“One week ago, Hon Raila informed the country… that his entire efforts are currently directed at the ‘Building Bridges Initiative’ and the determination that he and President Kenyatta are engaged in to bring the country together and heal the ills that have afflicted it throughout the years,” read a statement from his spokesman, Mr Dennis Onyango.
However, yesterday, Jubilee leaders said they were not scared of Mr Odinga’s candidature in 2022, saying that it would be a walkover for DP Ruto.
“We are ready and prepared to face Mr Odinga in 2022,” said Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria. “Now that Mr Orengo has told us that their candidate will be on the ballot in 2022, we now know that the ongoing handshakes are about the future of Mr Odinga.”
Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot said they would not allow amendments to the Constitution to create positions for some individuals. “We will only allow amendments if they are for the benefit of the people, but not the ones aimed at helping a few to get to power,” said Mr Cheruiyot.
Mr Ruto said Jubilee’s development agenda would not be distracted by politics, and urged those joining hands to concentrate on unity and development.
Nandi Governor Stephen Sang and Senator Samson Cherargey alleged a scheme to have Baringo Senator Gideon Moi and Mr Odinga block Mr Ruto from succeeding President Kenyatta through constitutional amendments.
“We have rejected Gideon because he is a non-performer, and not because he is the son of former President Daniel Moi,” said Governor Sang in a separate event in Nandi County.
Mr Cherargey said Rift Valley had settled on DP Ruto for 2022. He challenged Mr Gideon Moi to drop his presidential ambition in favour of Mr Ruto.
The roadmap to national healing is contained in a Memorandum of Understanding signed on the steps of Harambee House, by Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta, and the ODM leader said Kenyans should now “stay focused on the critical issues” contained in the ‘Building Bridges’ project.
He said Kenyans should “refuse to be distracted by the politics of 2022”, and further distanced himself from a proposal by trade unionist Francis Atwoli to extend President Kenyatta’s rule after the end of his second and final five-year term.
During the Labour Day celebrations in Nairobi last week, Mr Atwoli suggested that attempting to let go of President Kenyatta, who will be 60 when he retires in 2022, without any well-defined role in his retirement will be an exercise in futility as “his base will not accept it”.
And, arguing that lack of enough senior positions within the Executive had been the driver of the high-octane, often violent politics, Mr Atwoli called for an amendment of the Constitution to bring in an expanded structure.