Kenyatta-Odinga Handshake Shakes Kenya Opposition Unity

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga in a dialogue during a past event at Uzima University in Kisumu.

The mending of fences between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga has exposed fissures within Kenya's opposition coalition -- National Super Alliance.

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Wiper Party, Amani National Congress (ANC) and Ford Kenya, which came together to form Nasa before the August 2017 elections, have had internal rivalries based on grassroots support.

This came to the fore last week when Nasa senators voted out Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang'ula, as the minority leader. Efforts by Mr Odinga to persuade the senators to retain Mr Wetang'ula failed.

Instead, they initiated talks to thrash out the issue and report back to the principals in two weeks.

Even as the Nasa parties fight, the memorandum of understanding between Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta still remains secret. Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper, Musalia Mudavadi of ANC and Mr Wetang'ula seem to be feeling left out.

According to ODM executive director Oduor Ongwen, the MoU was just a statement of intent and the details will come out once a special committee President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga formed finishes its work.

"The initiative is a bold admission by our leaders that Kenyan nation is faced with a problem which, if not addressed, then prosperity, fairness and dignity shall remain illusory. The problem is political, fix it and all other things will fall in place," he said.

Mr Ongwen explained that the MoU is not about a coalition government between Nasa and Jubilee Party, but it is an initiative seeking to bring closure to the 2017 elections dispute after demands by Nasa for dialogue on electoral reforms and Jubilee's insistence that the only dialogue would be on development issues ended in a stalemate.

Mr Odinga's co-principals remain suspicious, terming the peace deal a betrayal.

Mr Wetang'ula has warned of a "messy" divorce, while Mr Mudavadi said that the three remaining partners would consolidate and go it alone in Nasa if ODM joins government.

After the handshake on March 9, ODM has come out to show other partners that it is the bigger party and that it is ready to operate separately to regain its strength that it lost when it compromised some constituencies to accommodate the three partners.

According to Mr Mudavadi's spokesperson, Kibisu Kabatesi, ODM has moved out of Nasa and joined Jubilee. He said that Mr Odinga's undertaking to work with the government is the same as recognising the presidency of President Kenyatta without the blessing of three other partners.

"ODM should stop fooling Kenyans and admit that it is no longer in Nasa. It is time ODM became honest with Kenyans because you cannot work with government and want to remain in the opposition at the same time," said Mr Kabatesi.

Besides other parties accusing ODM of dominating National Assembly committee slots for the opposition, signs of a split came two weeks ago when some ODM MPs from the coast endorsed Deputy President William Ruto for the country's leadership in 2022.

This was ground-breaking because Mr Musyoka, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetangula are expecting Mr Odinga to back any of them in the next elections.

Mr Kabatesi says that legally, Nasa can only be dissolved if three parties pull out. He maintained that Nasa will grow stronger because ODM was the impediment to the growth of the coalition because it was focusing on short- term gains other than the bigger picture set by the alliance.

However, Otiende Amolo, one of the Nasa lawyers said that the alliance will remain intact because the principals who are the core of the "marriage" reiterated on March 22 that they will remain united.

"You cannot talk about divorce when those in the marriage have said they will remain together," he said.

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