Kenya: Odinga in Dilemma as Kenyatta Makes New Demands on Handshake Deal

President Uhuru Kenyatta now wants Mr Raila Odinga to put pen to paper on their gentleman’s agreement for the Orange party to reap actual benefits of their political cooperation, the Nation has established.

The demand comes after Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) staked a claim to the Nairobi deputy governor’s post, citing its role in the impeachment of Mr Mike Sonko.

The fresh condition will likely put Mr Odinga in an awkward position at a time he has launched an image-sprucing campaign — distancing himself from the Jubilee failures even as the ODM party seeks to push for more concrete benefits in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) agreement.

Now, the Nation has reliably learnt that the president’s party is keen on formalising the deal and aligning it to the Constitution for ODM to continue enjoying the trappings of power associated with a ruling party.

A source within the party said that since Jubilee had already signed a cooperation agreement with Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper, Gideon Moi’s Kanu, and Isaac Ruto’s Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM), nothing stops ODM from also following suit and later entering into a coalition “to make work easy.”

Kanu is in a coalition agreement with Jubilee while Wiper and CCM have signed cooperation pacts.

ODM strategy meeting

Tuesday, Mr Odinga met ODM county party chairs in a strategy meeting in Nairobi and is Wednesday expected to lead the party’s Central Committee in what sources revealed will discuss “sensitive matters touching on the party and the Handshake deal”.

While Jubilee Vice Chairman David Murathe Tuesday said there is no crisis in the ‘Handshake,’ he insisted that the law requires that a governor and the deputy come from the same party or coalition.

Since ODM and Jubilee have not entered into a formal coalition, this could be a challenge to bag the deputy governor’s slot.

“ODM can still propose a name and that person need not necessarily to be a member of ODM party. They can bring the name of a person who maybe even be independent. We have no problem. It will still be their choice but not party to party. They can give a name and we take it,” Mr Murathe told the Nation.

The Jubilee official, however, noted that everything will “depend on the agreement between the two Handshake partners — President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga”.

‘Trusting each other’

But in an interview with the Nation, ODM National Chairman John Mbadi Tuesday poured cold water on any push by Jubilee for a coalition deal with his party.

“We have been cooperating with Jubilee without any agreement. This thing is not about pen and paper but about what we believe in. It is about trusting each other,” Mr Mbadi said.

He went on: “We have realised that these MoUs don’t add much value. It is all about what you commit to do and that is why we haven’t signed any agreement with Jubilee and it is now over two years and we are still working perfectly well. Agreement signings are just too academic for nothing and neither we nor Uhuru’s side is in a hurry to sign it.”

Separately, ODM Director of Elections Junet Mohammed seemed to suggest that Jubilee had not written to them over the demand.

“They should address us formally and we will respond appropriately,” he told the Nation.

Whereas he confirmed Wednesday’s central committee meeting, Mr Mbadi downplayed the suggestion that it would give much attention to the issues of Nairobi.

“Central committee meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) is a routine meeting. The central committee has not met because of corona for some time and we have a lot of pending issues. Nairobi issue is a non-issue to us at the moment. If it comes it will come as an AOB,” said Mr Mbadi.

Opposition role

In his meeting with the party county chairpersons Tuesday, Mr Odinga, in a move seen to defuse rising tension about Handshake, exuded confidence that the deal remains strong and will stand the test of time amid push by Deputy President William Ruto to have him embark on his opposition role.

“I want to emphasise to you that the handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta remains strong and unshaken. The BBI too is strong and remains unshaken,” Mr Odinga said in a statement after the meeting.

“The two, which are sides of the same coin, are founded on some very solid and enduring principles that will stand the test of time.”

Mr Odinga’s statement came barely two days after DP Ruto dared him to quit the ‘Handshake’ over his criticism of Jubilee on unfulfilled 2017 election promises, alleging that the ODM leader is planning to bolt out of the deal, hence the reason for his attacks on the Jubilee administration.

“We know that our friend is planning to bolt out (of the Handshake), but first, he wants to cause more chaos in Jubilee. We want to tell him that if he is dissatisfied with things, he can leave. If this is not working for you, you can go back to the opposition,” Dr Ruto said on Sunday.

Pre-election pledges

Mr Odinga had on the same day faulted Jubilee administration of failure to deliver on its pre-election pledges during his tour of Soweto in Embakasi East in a speech that seemed to target the DP but could also be seen as hitting at President Kenyatta.

The ODM leader’s comments came just a day after his close confidant, Senate Minority Leader James Orengo, warned that they are ready to embark on their opposition role if their Jubilee partners continue undermining them.

But Tuesday, Mr Odinga put on a brave face, insisting that they are focused on the BBI drive and that nothing will break the ‘Handshake’.

“The biggest threat to our unity as a nation is the dwindling size of the national cake even as population grows. It is our position as a party and in BBI that we need to do more to grow the national cake, protect it from the thieves and share it equitably,” he told the ODM officials.

Deal with rebels

County officials who spoke to the Nation Tuesday said their meeting also focused on how to help the party grow and strategies to deal with rebels.

“We were told to remain on high alert and forward names of members associating with our opponents particularly William Ruto for action,” said one of the officials.

In the wake of camaraderie between ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and President Kenyatta, some ODM leaders have also fumed over what they have secretly termed as a “secret deal between Mr Mudavadi and the president” which they see as undermining the ‘Handshake.

Tuesday, ANC deputy leader Ayub Savula confirmed that a coalition is in the offing between his party leader and the President.

“Musalia was Uhuru’s running mate in 2002. By luck in 2013 Uhuru won. Musalia is like his first wife while Ruto second, so he must first pay the debt of the first wife first,” said Mr Savula.

“Of course we are making attempts to reach out to Mr Odinga to back Mudavadi.”

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