NAIROBI. Exactly one year ago, just two days to what was billed as Kenya’s most competitive election, opposition leader Raila Odinga led his troops for a final rally attended by a charged, extremely optimistic supporters, at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.
In the August 5 rally, Mr Odinga predicted a “tsunami” in a relay race he said he had been placed on the eighth lane – referring to the position of his name on the ballot – and he assured his supporters of victory.
He reiterated the National Super Alliance (Nasa) manifesto that was to address social ills, fix the economy, tackle corruption, promote cohesion, address historical injustices, expand the Executive to promote inclusivity in government and what he said will be the crossing over to Canaan – reference to the biblical land with flowing milk and honey.
One year later – with an annulled election, a repeat poll the opposition boycotted, his mock “oath” as the “people’s president”, protests that led to killings and injuries, and an unlikely truce with his main opponent during the election President Kenyatta – Mr Odinga is a man with a lot of unfinished business and pending promises.
His only way out, it seems, is a route joined at the hip, and almost 100 per cent, depending on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s goodwill.
It is a delicate situation summarised by Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula as one that lowered political temperatures, but one which he said cannot solve issues “that brought us where we are.”
“These issues of electoral injustice, unaccountability, tribalism and runaway corruption cannot be solved by a handshake. For instance, we can only address electoral injustices through reform of the law and the Constitution. The analogy that we accept and move on even if you are oppressed will not help us at all unless someone faces prosecution for their mischief,” Mr Wetang’ula said.
Following the March 9 handshake he had with President Kenyatta, Mr Odinga has lumped all his promises and hope for “Canaan”, the land he had promised his supporters, on the historic deal he says will solve the many promises he had made to Nasa followers.
“What we achieved in this dialogue is that we were able to bring in the five irreducible minimums that Nasa had and now put them on the table and include them in the nine-point memorandum we signed with President Kenyatta,” Mr Odinga told Citizen TV’s Hussein Mohamed on Tuesday night, in reference to Nasa’s promises and those in the handshake deal.
Cautioning that the deal was not about the 2022 politics, President Kenyatta has lauded the handshake, painting it as a near panacea to Kenya’s problems.
“We have just come from an electioneering period, and we must look for a way to ensure everyone is accommodated. We reached out to each other and agreed Kenya is more important than everyone and we cannot continue on disagreeing as our country suffers,” President Kenyatta said of the deal in Murang’a.
Following the annulled August 8 election, and the chaotic January 30 “oath” the opposition leader took, Nasa had crystallised its manifesto and its battle to five issues they said must be put on the table for any dialogue to take place.
Nasa had listed electoral justice, an expanded Executive with the option of a prime minister akin to the 2005 Bomas draft, strengthening of the devolved system, police reforms and empowerment of the Judiciary as its “irreducible minimums” that they said should form part of any dialogue.
“There is a lot of progress that has been made in Kenya, with handshake being the single biggest achievement this past year. If the things agreed upon in that deal are implemented, and we know they will, then it is as good as having achieved what Mr Odinga promised his people in Nasa,” Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, who accompanied Mr Odinga during the March 9 meeting, said.
Tied by the fact that he has no instruments of power, but hopeful because of the goodwill from the State after the handshake, Mr Odinga now wants the 14-member “handshake” taskforce to “open up our past” and work on a formula to “re-engineer” Kenya in all its fronts: Constitution, electoral laws, historical injustices, as well as reforms in the devolution, Judiciary and police sectors.
“If it is a revolution we are having here, things will happen instantly. But this is not a revolution. It is an evolutionary process. Things will be done at their own time,” said Mr Odinga in the TV interview. “But life must continue and certain things happen as we go on.”
Of the many promises Mr Odinga made to his supporters, the most crucial and most emotive of them all is the compensation for post-2017 election victims.
Neither Mr Odinga nor President Kenyatta have committed to whether or not there will be compensation and by how much for the victims and those that lost their property during the 2017 election chaos.
If addressing divisive elections is part of the nine points the two leaders identified in the Memorandum of Understanding, it is not explicit whether or not this will include compensation for victims.
Tied with the compensation talk is the clamour to alter the Constitution – an issue the two leaders seem to be reading from completely different scripts, with President Kenyatta vowing not to allow it to disrupt his agenda and Mr Odinga blowing hot and cold.
On the change the Constitution clamour, Mr Kenyatta said: “I have no time to run around telling people to change the Constitution. It won’t solve the problems we have, but engaging with the private sector on manufacturing like we are doing (I) will,” President Kenyatta said of the constitutional referendum push.
While he had earlier insisted that for the handshake to succeed, it would require a referendum, he has since grown cold and suggested, like that on electoral justice and compensation, that it will depend on the 14-member taskforce to talk to Kenyans, and “we will listen to what Kenyans will say, and Kenyatta and I will have no choice but to implement them.”
Ultimately, and following the protracted political crisis, the handshake has been seen by many from both Jubilee and the opposition Nasa as an avenue to get into government.
For President Kenyatta, this clamour for jobs presents a dilemma of how much to give Mr Odinga and his allies without wrecking the Jubilee ship that has Deputy President William Ruto and his ambitious 2022 State House bid in it.
With most government positions, right from the top at the Cabinet, being set at the maximum number in the Constitution, President Kenyatta will most likely have to raid ministries and positions shared out during the Jubilee Party deal-making process.
So real is the demand for Nasa supporters to be included in government as part of the handshake deal that on Tuesday Mr Odinga met 17 MPs from western Kenya, accompanied by Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya. Among other things, he promised to lobby for inclusion of persons from the region in the Jubilee government.
Though he publicly denied having a hand, the appointment of Mr Odinga’s closest allies has opened discussion on the opposition leader’s hand in an impending Cabinet reshuffle that might see more of his supporters join government.
Mr Mohamed, who is also the National Assembly Minority Whip, called for patience from Kenyans, comments supported by Wiper secretary-general Peter Mathuki.
“In all, we are fighting for a united Kenya, confronted by the same challenges. This new collaborative model, instead of the confrontational one we had, offers a chance for both Jubilee and Nasa to achieve the promises they made to their people,” Mr Mathuki told the Sunday Nation.
On the nine-point agenda the two leaders signed, President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga vowed to address ethnic antagonism, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, strengthening devolution, ending divisive elections, ensuring safety and security of Kenyans, ending corruption and ensuring shared prosperity.
In all, both President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga agree, the best thing about the handshake, even before any of the nine points have been crystallised into achievable objectives, is the fact that Kenya has now achieved unusual peace and calm to allow focus on development and the fight against corruption.
Whether the new-found ‘bromance” will lead to the full implementation of the nine-point agenda, and by extension allow Mr Odinga take credit for President Kenyatta’s legacy-term achievements, is a wait-and-see.