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Secrets of Raila meeting with ex-ODM ally

Friday October 12 2012

Prime Minister Raila Odinga confers with the former High Commissioner to China, Julius Sunkuli during an ODM rally in Kilgoris on October 12, 2012. With them is cabinet Minister William Ntimama. PHOTO / CORRESPONDENT

Prime Minister Raila Odinga confers with the former High Commissioner to China, Julius Sunkuli during an ODM rally in Kilgoris on October 12, 2012. With them is cabinet Minister William Ntimama. PHOTO / CORRESPONDENT 

By JULIUS SIGEI [email protected]

Prime Minister Raila Odinga promised to make Eldoret North MP William Ruto his running mate and give his party half of the slots in a coalition government if they win the next elections during their Tuesday night meeting in Nairobi.

The PM is also said to have offered to serve for a single term and support Mr Ruto for the presidency in 2017 as part of a pre-election deal.

The meeting was held at the home of businessman Joshua Kulei, who has been leading efforts to reunite the pair following a bitter falling out that saw the Eldoret North MP quit ODM in 2010 to found the United Republican Party (URP) this year.

Mr Kulei, a powerful Moi-era presidential aide, was reportedly at the centre of the behind-the-scenes negotiations that led to Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto working together in the Orange party during the 2007 election.

Mr Odinga is said to have been driven to the meeting by East African Community minister Musa Sirma, while Mr Ruto was escorted by Belgut MP Charles Keter.

The former allies-turned-rivals also discussed the trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) of Mr Ruto, TNA leader Uhuru Kenyatta, former Civil Service boss Francis Muthaura and radio presenter Joshua arap Sang for alleged crimes against humanity during the election violence in 2007 and 2008.

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“Mr Odinga is said to have given the assurance that it [ICC trials] would be his burden too and that he would handle it. It was an ice-breaking meeting really. After dinner the offer was given but there was no commitment,” said an aide to one of the two leaders who could not be named for fear of betraying the trust of his boss.

Mr Ruto is said to have promised to consider the offer and the leaders parted with a promise to hold further meetings.

The Saturday Nation has also learnt that Mr Ruto may have decided to meet Mr Odinga after failing to secure a pre-election pact with Mr Kenyatta.

An MP close to the two leaders said matters were complicated by the push by senior people from Mt Kenya to have Mr Kenyatta be Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi’s running mate.
This would in effect lock out Mr Ruto from the political high table.

Return favour

“Uhuru told Ruto ‘I can support you with all my family, but I cannot assure you that my people would support you’. It was then that Mr Ruto told Mr Kenyatta of his decision to see Mr Odinga,” said the MP, who declined to be named.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Ruto told the Kalenjin vernacular radio station, Chamgei FM, that he could consider working with Mr Odinga if the Prime Minister gave URP 60 per cent of seats in government.

It is understood that Mr Ruto went on air to prepare his supporters for his new election strategy.

“When you see me talking with others you should not panic. I know what I am doing… If Mr Odinga wants to work with me he should be able to give URP 60 per cent of the positions in the government. And if Uhuru wants to work with us he should give URP 50 per cent of the positions,” said the source.

The URP loss in Market Ward in Mr Ruto’s own constituency in the recent by-elections  is also said to have strained relations between Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta.

Turkana Central MP Ekwee Ethuro hinted that his party was uncomfortable with the failure by TNA to withdraw their candidate in the ward despite URP  not fielding a candidate in Kajiado North.

“We thought they would return the gesture. But whether Ruto and Raila met or not is immaterial. There is nothing in the works. Wait until it is there then I can comment,” he said from Kilifi where the URP team had taken their campaigns.

Saturday Nation has also learnt that this was the fifth time the two were meeting to discuss a possible political deal this year since they parted ways two years ago over the Mau Forest restoration and the ICC trials.

Some of the meetings were reportedly requested by Mr Odinga and others by Mr Ruto.

The meetings are said to have been sparked by the mutual feelings of being in government next year. 

Presently, Mr Kenyatta is Mr Odinga biggest rival, and recent opinion polls indicate that an Uhuru-Ruto ticket could win the anticipated run-off election against Mr Odinga.

With Mr Mudavadi expected to eat into ODM’s support in Western Province, party strategists say support from the expansive Rift Valley would guarantee them victory.

Signs of a possible rapprochement between Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto emerged in August when at a homecoming party for Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey, Mr Odinga said he could still work with Mr Ruto.

This was significant given that Mr Kosgey has publicly campaigned for the post.

The jostling for the position has since been muted with insiders saying the aspirants who included Roads minister Franklin Bett and her Agriculture counterpart Dr Sally Kosgei, being asked to go slow on it.

Mr Bett on Friday told Saturday Nation that he was aware of the meeting and welcomed it, saying it was good for the unity and development of the country.

“None of the leaders has categorically denied they met. Why deny a fact? I agree to any coalition arrangement and any manner the positions are shared,” he said, adding it was Mr Ruto’s safe and sure route to State House.

Meanwhile, the two leaders’ reported meeting has divided Mr Ruto’s supporters with a majority of MPs criticising the move.

MPs Zakayo Cheruiyot, Joshua Kutuny, Moses Lessonet, Charles Keter and Peris Simam on Thursday held a meeting in Parliament Buildings where they planned to confront Mr Ruto over the matter. 

The URP leader, however, did not turn up for the meeting as he was receiving Kilgoris MP Gideon Konchellah who ditched Mr Kenyatta’s side moments after leading PNU in signing a pre-election deal with  TNA to support Mr Kenyatta’s candidature.

“The move to see Raila has made us lose credibility and trust with our allies. This move will give room to smaller parties in the region to gain ground,” said Mr Kutuny.

He said if Mr Ruto insisted on working with Mr Odinga then they might be forced to join Mr Kenyatta’s TNA.

Konoin MP Julius Kones supported a pre-election pact that would take them to government, but warned the ground was hostile to Mr Odinga’s candidature.