By Philip Otieno and Shadrack Muyesu
On March 9, 2018, two hands embraced to herald hope in a country facing severe division after a double election. Reasons for the handshake were clear from their speeches, with both men telling the need to place their personal differences aside for the sake of national unity. The Nation was facing ruination and political temperatures were at an all-time high. A quick fix was needed and there it was before the entire nation in a joint address.
A year later, only half the story has been told. We await the other half from a special taskforce set up to look into the nine point agenda that was canvassed and thrown at them by the two chiefs after their totemic meeting. The structure, funding, resourcing and composition of the taskforce were an agreement between two individuals or no agreement at all. Nobody knows of its operations; it is amorphous as they come.
The taskforce is yet to present its findings and the former Prime Minister is already acting with a vindictive relish, like he were one pillar of a de facto co-presidency, all with the blessing of the man on the hill. This begs the question, what position does he actually hold? Which position allows him power to the extent of hosting Cabinet Secretaries in formal meetings in his private office at Capitol Hill?
A civilian coup has been staged within the Jubilee Party. The handshake has come with its problems and, as Shakespeare reckoned in Hamlet, when sorrows come they do come not in spies but in battalions. An outsider has come in to ruin a marriage that was well consummated and was seemingly blossoming. As he did with KANU back in 2000, Raila’s covert operation has been so smooth that a year on, a section of the party is yet to catch on, on the developments. The de facto co-presidency is creating a wedge through a rocky marriage that is no doubt headed for a nasty breakup.
Process without law
There is no legal framework that contemplates a handshake scenario after an electoral malfunction. A handshake, therefore, which creates a vacuous position, not defined in law and bestows powers arbitrarily to a person who has the audacity to summon cabinet secretaries in his private office, strike truces with county governments on behalf of the National Government and even go for international trips on behalf of the government, can only be illegal. What’s more, there isn’t a measure of transparency or financial accountability guiding the process.
The former Prime Minister seems to have carte blanche powers to lord over government officials without any ostensible legal authority. The initiative by both men, which was heralded as a catalyst for change is now turning out to be a political trickery by one of them into the fray without breaking a sweat.
It is no secret that the Jubilee administration was a peaceful entity before the entry of the handshake. Whether that peace was real or perceived, we may never know, but there was relative calmness bar the bickering of a normal political marriage – in came the handshake idea and a storm is brewing. Kenyans have a right to be told what position Odinga holds in the regime.
There is need for far-reaching uncomfortable conversations among Kenyans. An agreement between two individuals –however mighty, cannot solve the problems facing this country. Our problems lie far deeper than the handshake. The initiative only seeks to satisfy a few individuals at the expense of the whole nation.
In the words of a high-flying Jubilee politician, “The Building Bridges Initiative is nothing more than an entrenched political cabal’s way of ensuring that state power does not land in the “wrong hands”. The Kenyatta family would like to have a political stranglehold on Kenya the way the Bongo family in Gabon has done.”
The much talked about handshake does not have a degree of achievability since it is not anchored in law; the longevity of this newfound marriage or alliance will be tested with time. Having been built on a shaky foundation or a no foundation at all, it is going to cause more problems that it strives to solve. Here is a man who has got what he wanted. Among others, the Building Bridges Initiative team reports to him.
Christened the enigma of Kenyan politics, is Raila a revolutionary, a man who has the best interest of the country at heart, or is he another savvy politician riding on the emotions of his supporters for selfish gain? The lines have never been blurrier. Gone are the calls for a national dialogue and the clamour for electoral reform.
As the blood of those who took to the street in his name wails from beyond the soil, without as much as an apology from those who brought the peril to start with, Raila cosies in his office, with his new found friends and powerful a portfolio as the de facto leader of government business. There are even rumours of a stake in the oil riches of the north.
Through the years, the Luo have borne the brunt of government’s heavy handedness. Unfortunately, the weight of communal loss is borne privately. There are no monuments in honour of the Msando and Odhiambo Mbai’s of this world, or indeed the ordinary citizens who time and time again, have risked their all in answer to Raila’s calls for mass action. But there is always something for the General.
The handshake would have had meaning if it brought peace to the country and restitution to those who gave their lives, thus providing a stepping stone towards the much needed reform. Unfortunately it has not. While Raila frolics with the enemy, as he and his close allies enjoy the fruits of the illicit love, corruption thrives untamed; impunity reigns in parliament, those who walked with him in the moribund NASA wander rudderless while Miguna is dismissed as a madman in a foreign country. (