With barely six months to go to the General Election, leading presidential aspirants have stepped up efforts to form political alliances with their rivals in an effort to bolster their chances of succeeding President Kibaki.
In the on-going realignments, campaign teams of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto are said to be engaged in talks which may culminate in a meeting of the three presidential aspirants.
“The venue of the meeting is not known and the agenda is non-specific. It might produce something that will change the race or it might amount to nothing,” said a source who cannot be named because of the delicate nature of negotiations.
However, both Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta denied knowledge of the planned meeting. Mr Ruto, who is seeking the presidency on United Republican Party, dismissed talks of a meeting as “mere rumours”.
“I’ve only heard about it as rumours and that was three months ago. What I can tell you is that we have agreed in principle to work together as URP and TNA and ensure that we secure the next government,” Mr Ruto said.
Mr Kenyatta’s spokesman Mr Munyori Buku also dismissed talk of a meeting. (READ: G7 lays out new election strategy)
“This is an attempt by ODM to disrupt our focus from serious issues and campaigns. Mr Kenyatta has not and will never meet or talk to ODM on any alliances or political engagements,” Mr Buku said.
While declining to comment on the planned meeting Mr Odinga’s spokesman Dennis Onyango said: “Party is serious about forming coalitions. PM believes it would unite the country and ease tensions.”
Mr Kenyatta, Mr Ruto and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka met last week, the first of three-way meetings intended to explore the possibilities of forming a coalition ahead of the elections.
Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta met last Sunday at the former’s house where they discussed their political future and how to reach out to other leaders and weave them into a major political alliance.
During the meeting, sources say the two leaders discussed two major possibilities. On the one hand, they considered running on a joint ticket while on the other, they considered supporting another candidate.
“We know who will not sit there but this is not an issue of personalities but about alleviating the very many challenges that every Kenyan faces every day of their lives,” Mr Ruto said.
The second option, sources close to the two leaders say, was raised “primarily because of what they foresee as antagonisms towards the Kenyan people from Western nations who support the International Criminal Court and who have been backing the Hague process”.
Asked about the meeting, Mr Ruto said: “The unity of the two parties will address and ensure the harmonies of our two people on land and other matters in the Rift Valley and national reconciliation.”
Sources say that at last Sunday’s meeting, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto discussed the possibility of supporting Mr Musyoka, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi or Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa in case the local courts prevent them from running due to the cases they face at the International Criminal Court.
It is understood that although the two leaders would want to support Mr Mudavadi if they are stopped from running, the DPM was “weak” and his position on the ICC cases was not clear. They fear that Mr Mudavadi may not withstand pressure from Western nations if the cases went badly.
This is perhaps why Mr Mudavadi — on learning about this concern — sought to state his position on the ICC cases with a media statement sent from London last week.
Mr Kenyatta is also said to be uncomfortable with Mr Mudavadi’s dalliance with State House and the fact that he has been making volleys to Central province seeking support from some local MPs. The area is largely thought to be Mr Kenyatta’s stronghold.
On the positive side, the two leaders acknowledge that Mr Mudavadi would be an easy candidate to sale across the country and might not require a lot of resources to campaign.
On Mr Musyoka, the two acknowledge that he engaged in the so-called shuttle diplomacy to try and stop the ICC case. However, they view the VP as “hard to sale” and can easily be defeated by Mr Odinga. Also, his campaign would require a lot of resources.
But it was the talk of a Raila-Uhuru-Ruto meeting that has electrified the political arena. (READ: Raila eyes other parties in bid to strengthen top seat campaign)
Talk of a visit by Mr Odinga’s confidante Lands minister James Orengo to Mr Kenyatta’s Nairobi home last week has been doing rounds even as the PM announced in Naivasha on Friday that his party is keen on building new alliances ahead of the coming elections.
“I have heard people saying that I visited Mr Kenyatta. I haven’t gone to him. It is, however, true that we are working on reasonable alliances with other parties and we are talking to many individuals and political parties,” said Mr Orengo.
Others mentioned as Mr Odinga’s pointmen in the alliances mission are Public Service minister Dalmas Otieno and his Regional Development counterpart Fred Gumo. A number of influential businessmen are also involved.
Mr Odinga’s chief campaigner, Mr Eliud Owallo, when asked about the PM’s grand political alliance strategy declined to give details but said ODM is scouting for alliance partners.
“We are going to talk to everybody. We are going to do everything that can be done including talking with everybody to ensure our mission is accomplished,” Mr Owallo said.
Mr Owallo is leading Mr Odinga’s campaign think tank that includes several political thinkers, strategists and opinion leaders.
Belgut MP Charles Keter said that though URP is open to political negotiation with other political parties no meaningful talks had taken place between the Ruto and Mr Odinga camps.
“We know that if Mr Odinga wants to talk to us he has to come alone and convince the party leadership and the Kalenjin nation. There is no need for him to send people to us,” Mr Keter stated.
An MP from Nyanza, however, confirmed that he attended one of the meetings between Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto in what he termed as a series of negotiations to bridge the gap between the two leaders.
“I was at Mr Ruto’s home and I had never been there before. Our mission there was to engage him and to offer him Mr Odinga’s proposal. He insisted that the PM must address the ICC issue first,” the MP said.
Though he has largely fallen out with the Kalenjin nation that voted for him overwhelmingly in the 2007 general elections, sources say that the community is not far from Mr Odinga’s calculations.
Among the PM’s strategies on the Rift Valley, the Sunday Nation understands, is to treat Mr Ruto, the community’s king pin, as a “friendly opponent”. “We have decided to go slow on projecting Ruto as an enemy,” said the highly-placed source.
On Friday Mr Kenyatta was the chief guest at Narc leader Charity Ngilu’s graduation ceremony pointing to a close working relationship between the two politicians.
Mr Odinga is also said to be keen on a working relationship with Nark Kenya leader Martha Karua as well as Mr Wamalwa.