Kenya: Storm Over Calls to Have Kenyatta Support Odinga in the 2022 Polls

President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), Deputy President William Ruto (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga (file photo).

The 2022 presidential race debate has taken a new twist following Friday's seemingly co-ordinated calls by ODM leaders for President Uhuru Kenyatta to back Opposition leader Raila Odinga's candidature.

REFERENDUM

On Saturday Deputy President William Ruto laughed off at the idea of a prospective Odinga candidature saying it stood no chance.

Speaking in Mukurweini in Nyeri County during a fundraiser, Mr Ruto said: "The riddles of succession will not start. It is development that will continue. Those pushing the President for endorsements should know that Jubilee Party has its plan and history. We know where we come from and where we are heading to."

On Friday, at the burial of Dorka Owino Nyong'o, the mother of Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong'o, Mr Odinga's allies did not mince their words, urging the President to choose his successor "wisely" three years from now.

Led by National Assembly minority leader John Mbadi, the ODM brigade stated that inasmuch as they supported the handshake between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga to unite the country and fight corruption, the 2022 debate cannot be avoided since the President's successor will determine whether their current efforts will amount to anything.

"I want you Mr President to think about the legacy you wish to leave behind with regard to who takes over as your successor to ensure he carries on with your efforts to fight corruption and not reverse them. Pray with me so that you do not leave us someone who is a thief," he said.

There was also talk of a referendum before the next election that ODM leaders have been pushing for to set the stage for the next election after changes in law.

Siaya senator James Orengo added: "You have said categorically that people should forget about 2022 because you want to build this nation to ensure inclusivity, which is becoming a reality," he said. The senator said even though the President meant well for the country, that was not "good enough in politics".

CAMARADERIE

"The agenda we have in 2022 is so substantive that all our energies should be put together," he said.

The President, however, sidestepped the issue and urged leaders to restrain themselves from early campaign.

But Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana also weighed in, saying the Kenyatta-Odinga unity offered great hope to the country.

"You have a loving brother and we expect a lot from you and your loving brother. There is hope, there is a future and Kenya is in good hands," he said.

For Mr Odinga's allies like the Siaya senator, the close relationship between the two "brothers" is a sign that it will extend to the 2022 succession. The new found camaraderie between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga was openly exhibited in Kisumu on Friday, leaving tongues wagging.

On Friday evening, the duo abandoned bodyguards for a private drive and ended up at the exclusive Yacht Club on the shores of Lake Victoria where they shared private talks over an evening meal. Before that, the two foes-turned-friends made a discreet visit to the Kenya Maritime Institute for close to an hour on a mission which Sunday Nation, established, was to assess the ongoing works at Kisumu Port.

There were no sirens, no road clearance and no flags as the motorcade drove past. As the two inspected the site, security officers kept at bay a small crowd that had started to form with the media also barred. According to our sources at the port, the two leaders also visited the dry dock where the giant MV Uhuru has been berthed.

At 6pm, as quietly as they had come in, the small motorcade sneaked out of the port through the busy Busia and Obote roads, past State House to the exclusive Yacht Club located at the shores of Lake Victoria.

TRADITIONAL MEAL

The President's latest trip was marked in a similar low-key style that he did in January when he toured the port and Yacht Club together with Mr Odinga.

In a shocking decision that caught his security guards and protocol officers by surprise, the President had abandoned the presidential jet as he ventured into the lakeside city driven in vehicle with civilian number plate.

On Friday, those who were at the facility at the time said the President and Mr Odinga walked straight to a reserved area by the lakeside.

The duo was joined by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i.

They then ordered a meal of tilapia, meat and traditional vegetables and brown ugali.

"They were also served with a few bottles of beer and fresh juice as they got engrossed in a conversation that lasted for about an hour," said our source.

However, their presence did not disrupt normal activities at the private members' club as patrons went about their evening as usual.

They left at 7.20pm for the airport where the President left for Nairobi while Mr Odinga went to his Bondo home.

The President's journey back to the airport was, however, unusually slow as his unofficial convoy snaked its way through Jomo Kenyatta Highway, Oginga Odinga Street, Obote Road and Busia Road.

While the handshake is seen as important in ensuring Mr Kenyatta achieves his second-term agenda after the controversial 2017 election win, Mr Odinga's supporters believe the March 2018 pact has given him a new lease of life. This has led to speculation that the end-game of the handshake could be to control the 2022 succession.

UNCOMFORTABLE

Their closeness has increasingly made Mr Ruto's camp uncomfortable with constant attacks on the handshake. Since the handshake, the Sunday Nation has learnt that the bond between Kenyatta and the Odinga families, strained after Jaramogi Oginga Odinga resigned from Jomo Kenyatta's government in 1966 have grown stronger. As such, it is not unusual to frequently find Mr Odinga's wife Ida at Mama Ngina's home and vice versa.

During the 25th anniversary of Jaramogi's death, the president's younger brother Muhoho represented him at Kang'o Ka Jaramogi in Bondo.

While addressing AfroChampions Boma forum on African infrastructure financing and delivery on April 4, Mr Kenyatta left the audience shocked when he openly defended Mr Odinga from attacks directly coming from Mr Ruto that the opposition leader was out to wreck the ruling party.

"We have just been talking about issues affecting our people. If it is infrastructure, what do we need to do? We discuss and we support each other," the President said and went on, "We sit; we discuss; we agree. He (Mr Odinga) also gives me ideas that enhance something and make it even better," he said.

Additional reporting by Victor Rabala and Wanjohi Githae

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