Kenya: Plans to Forge a Kenyatta-Odinga Coalition Rule

Opposition leader Raila Odinga (right) leafs through a book in the company of Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho during the devolution conference (file photo).

Plans are underway to form a government of national unity that will bring on board opposition leaders like Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga, a senior Jubilee Party official confided in the Sunday Nation on Saturday.

Mr Odinga, the official noted, has technically been a government insider since his 2018 political truce with President Uhuru Kenyatta, "only that he has not been assigned any official roles".

"The plans for the formation of a government of national unity are afoot and have been further influenced by the situation in the country, which requires all heads together in times of crisis," said the official.

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, one of those championing the Building Bridges Initiative in the Mt Kenya region, confirmed that a government of national unity that will bring Mr Odinga even closer to the Jubilee administration was in the offing.

"Yes, there is such a plan," she told the Sunday Nation. "Once the president entered into the Handshake deal with Mr Odinga, it was just a matter of time before this was actualised for the benefit of the nation."

The president, Ms Waiguru added, has sufficient constitutional and legal tools for such an arrangement, including a major reorganisation of government to include his new partners in significant roles.

WARNING SHOT

Pressed on whether the inclusion of Mr Odinga would water down or in any other way affect Deputy President William Ruto's role in the government, Ms Waiguru quipped:

"As for the DP, only himself and his relationship with the principal players will determine his best role for the country's overall benefit in such an arrangement."

But, seemingly aware of the plans of a political deal with the Opposition, Mr Ruto on Friday took to Twitter to warn Jubilee members against what he termed as "ethnic coalitions".

"The Jubilee fraternity should ignore propaganda peddled by desperados seeking ragtag ethnic coalitions," Mr Ruto tweeted, noting further that "our progressive constitution vests power in party organs, not personalities".

The ruling party, Mr Ruto continued, has no room for "selfish evil experiments meant to benefit brokers and their ilk".

The deputy president has in recent days been on a collision course with senior Jubilee officials, including Secretary-General Raphael Tuju and Vice-Chairman David Murathe, for an attempt to wrest control of the running of the party from him.

A recent attempt to change the membership of the governing council of the party caught Mr Ruto unawares and forced him to quickly fire a protest letter to the Registrar of Parties.

RAILA'S ROLE

The final decision on the matter is still pending, and the welcoming of opposition leaders into government has the potential of further muddying his political ambitions and relationship with President Kenyatta.

Sources in the party said last evening that the fate of Wiper Democratic Movement leader Kalonzo Musyoka and his Ford-Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang'ula will be decided in negotiations that are currently limited to President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, but which could in the future bring in both of them.

Since the peace deal between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga was brokered in the famed Harambee House Handshake of March 9, 2018, the ODM leader's influence in government circles has grown immensely.

Apart from giving Mr Odinga a controlling stake in the mobilisation of support and funding for a constitutional change drive through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), the Head of State has also allowed the ODM leader to make policy pronouncements.

Mr Odinga is also accorded VVIP treatment by State agencies, and is said to receive regular briefings from Cabinet secretaries, unlike the DP, whose influence in the government is fast fading.

Even though Mr Odinga and the rank and file of his ODM party have been cagey about formally joining the government, Mr Murathe earlier this month hinted at it during talks with Central Organisation of Trade Unions Secretary-General Francis Atwoli and Devolution minister Eugene Wamalwa.

PULL TOGETHER

Mr Tuju neither confirmed nor denied knowledge of the plans, only telling the Sunday Nation that, as secretary-general of the party, he cannot express his personal opinion before any matter is formally deliberated upon by the party.

"I can only express decisions which have been made, which I communicate to the public," he said. "I can't express an opinion."

On Mr Murathe's assertions, Mr Tuju said: "The vice-chairman has that latitude, but my position is official communication."

ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna said that, in the wake of the current Covid-19 crisis, it was not right to discuss such political movements and alignments.

"Mr Odinga already made it clear that talk of a government of national unity is just that -- talk. At the moment it is ridiculous to speculate about the forms of government to come when humanity is not sure we will survive this pandemic," he said.

But political analyst Herman Manyora said a reorganisation of government appeared inevitable, "partly because of the coronavirus pandemic, but majorly arising out of the irreconcilable differences between President Kenyatta and his deputy".

"Because of the pandemic, the country needs to pull together, and the absence of the Ruto team means the president has to turn to Raila's side for support. The form the cooperation takes, and the timing, will be determined by the developments on the health front and the attendant social and economic challenges," Mr Manyora said.

The current Jubilee wars, he noted, will also play a major role in the timing and shaping of "this inevitable coalition".

REFERENDUM

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, an ally of Mr Ruto, said it was the prerogative of the president to reorganise his government, and as such he would not be surprised if a government of national unity was formed.

Including Mr Odinga in government, he added, will "answer my question and those of many Kenyans who have been seeking to understand his role in government for a while now".

He said the president "is free" to go into any arrangement with the ODM leader "if this will end the rumours, conmanship and underhand dealings that undermine the deputy president", but warned that Mr Kenyatta should be focusing on rescuing the economy post-Covid-19.

During a recent interview on a local radio station, Mr Odinga downplayed claims of a possible coalition with the ruling party, noting that his focus and that of the president after the Covid-19 pandemic will be a referendum to bring changes in the country through the Building Bridges Initiative.

Mr Murathe was the first to claim a possible formation of a government of national unity as a post-coronavirus agenda, following huge cracks in the ruling party that have pushed Mr Ruto to a corner.

"Post-coronavirus, this country probably needs a government of national unity to bring everybody together so that people focus on rebuilding the nation," said Mr Murathe, adding that the country "cannot work if we have this kind of antagonism" where some people's single focus is 2022.

Deputy President Ruto, he noted, only woke up when he felt his position in Jubilee was threatened.

Political analysts say that a recent move by 146 Ruto-allied legislators to dispute proposed changes to the Jubilee Party's National Management Committee could also be prompting Mr Kenyatta to rethink his association with the DP and lean towards Mr Odinga, through whom he is assured of the support of the Opposition.

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