Kenya: What Next From Kenyatta-Odinga Bag of Political Tricks?

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nasa leader Raila Odinga.
analysis

The surprise meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga was billed as consensus on the need to resolve Kenya's immediate political impasse in the wake of a disputed presidential election.

What happens next will be keenly watched in so far as it impacts on political re-alignments and the presidential succession race leading to 2022.

If it is true that all their key lieutenants -- notably Deputy President William Ruto from President Kenyatta's Jubilee Party, as well as Mr Odinga's co-principals in the National Super Alliance (Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Moses Wetang'ula and Mr Musalia Mudavadi) -- were in the dark about the meeting, then the president and his long-term rival have sown a great deal of confusion in their respective camps.

Mr Ruto, who is President Kenyatta's heir apparent, was quick to post a gracious congratulatory message on social media as soon as the two leaders jointly addressed the press.

But key figures in his political constellation were scrambling to make sense of the surprise development.

RUTO'S PRESIDENCY

Their biggest concern was that beyond heralding a ceasefire on the post-election impasse, it might signal realignments that could adversely affect Mr Ruto's prospects in the 2022 presidential race.

The Uhuru-Ruto political deal that captured State House in 2013 and 2017 explicitly provided for Mr Kenyatta to serve two terms and then hand over to his DP.

On the other side, Mr Musyoka of Wiper party, Mr Wetang'ula of Ford Kenya and Mr Mudavadi of Amani National Congress released a statement stating that they were kept in the dark on Mr Odinga's engagements with President Kenyatta.

Already, Nasa has been pulling apart after the three skipped Mr Odinga's mock swearing-in as the "Peoples President" last month.

The co-principals have also been complaining that Mr Odinga's ODM Party has been taking them for granted and making unilateral decisions.

RAILA RETIREMENT

If they were seen to have betrayed Mr Odinga on the swearing-in, then he has extracted sweet revenge on them.

Also germane is that Nasa has its own succession tiffs.

The agreement that handed Mr Odinga the coalition's ticket for the second time, with Mr Musyoka again as running-mate, explicitly provided that, win or lose, Mr Odinga would not run again.

The presumption was that it would be Mr Musyoka's turn come 2022, but Mr Mudavadi is also eyeing the ticket.

After five years in the wilderness following his ill-fated dalliance with Jubilee at the 2013 elections, Mr Mudavadi returned to the main opposition grouping ahead of the 2017 polls to lay the groundwork for 2022.

POLITICAL ALLIANCE

Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi have not been very keen on Nasa's continued agitation for fresh elections, suggesting that it might be time to lick their wounds and focus on preparations for 2022.

With that have come suggestions from their supporters that it is time Mr Odinga started to wind up after many unsuccessful stabs at the presidency.

One problem, however, is that Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi have been having their own tug-of-war over the Nasa ticket.

Mr Wetang'ula has also been insisting that he is in the race, though he was relegated to the background after Mr Mudavadi came to the fold.

All previous succession agreements become redundant if the Kenyatta-Odinga peace amounts to new political alliances.

UHURU'S TERM

That is what is occupying presidential aspirants in both Jubilee and Nasa, with observer wondering what else might be pulled out of the Kenyatta-Odinga bag of tricks.

Of course, it might all amount to nothing in terms of succession politics.

Mr Kenyatta is serving out his last term, and would have little to gain from a new alliance, which might jeopardise his partnership with Mr Ruto.

The UhuRuto alliance, as it is popularly known, is not just about two leaders, but a peace pact between two communities -- Kikuyu and Kalenjin.

The two communities have been at the centre of bloody political-ethnic conflicts in the Rift Valley since the early 1990s.

VIOLENCE

Survival of the pact is incumbent on Mr Kenyatta working to ensure that massive Kikuyu voting blocs back Mr Ruto's 2022 presidential campaign.

There have also been elements of blackmail, with dark ramblings that Kikuyu settled in the Rift Valley, who have always borne the brunt of political violence and forced displacement, would suffer dire consequences if the UhuRuto alliance is reneged.

Mr Kenyatta seems determined to meet his side of the bargain.

To leave a solid legacy at a time when the economy is tanking and some of his flagship projects are faltering, it makes sense for President Kenya to strike a peace deal with Mr Odinga.

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