It could have been an innocent statement made at the spur of the moment, but the Senate Minority Leader James Orengo may well have given away a deep secret on the status of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga political dalliance when he claimed on Tuesday that the President’s inaccessibility was responsible for the current revenue allocation impasse in the Senate.
And the Siaya senator’s comments were not made out of context. There was a buildup to the utterances following threats by Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kangata, a week earlier, that the Kenyatta-allied politicians would abandon the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) if the Odinga-allied MPs did not help them to push through the revenue-allocation formula, based on population size — a position some see as favouring the Mt Kenya region.
While the Kenyatta side feels they are not getting much help from the Odinga team, the leadership of the Orange party reads political betrayal by the President. They think Mr Kenyatta wants to throw the former prime minister under the bus and that the BBI and the ongoing revenue allocation debate in the Senate are mere excuses.
“There is no connection between BBI and the standoff in the Senate. This is clearly blackmail, which is unacceptable to us. And because sharing of revenue is a political issue, we cannot rule out external influence on the matter,” says National Assembly’s Leader of Minority and chairman of ODM, John Mbadi.
Having embraced the handshake deal with President Kenyatta and played a big role in politically neutralising deputy president William Ruto, who has clearly fallen out with his boss, including helping to weed out DP’s allies from parliamentary leadership, and pushing through the President’s other agendas in and out of Parliament, there are loud murmurs of Kenyatta betrayal within ODM. And this is precisely what Mr Orengo alluded to in passing last Tuesday.
But a top Jubilee party operative, who declined to be named, dismissed the claims of Odinga political betrayal as “utter nonsense”.
“In everything we do, including with William (DP), the deal is reciprocal and above board. We skin the animal and share out the meat in the open. And this explains why Raila is today enjoying powers and influence only second to the President, courtesy of state machinery. And for kicking out Ruto-friendly MPs, his MPs have been rewarded accordingly, including the likes of Gladys Wanga, who now chairs a plum House committee. This matter is sorted out and we have no political debt,” the politician told the Sunday Nation.
The DP’s supporters, who have repeatedly lamented that President Kenyatta reneged on a deal to support Dr Ruto’s presidential bid after his 10-year tenure in office, have similarly been reminded that nobody is owed a political debt: “The DP enjoyed his share of power and control of half the government during the first term in office, and is therefore settled,” says the Jubilee politician.
And with fresh separate claims of a disputed political deal with Mr Odinga emerging from Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, the “error” of political betrayals is apparently not over yet, with just under two years to go to the next General Election.
In an interview with Sunday Nation, the former vice-president revealed he had entered into a deal with Mr Odinga in regard to the 2022 elections, a claim that ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna dismissed in a strongly worded press statement. The ODM party leader is yet to make a pronouncement on the matter.
Confirming knowledge of existence of the said deal, Kitui Senator, Enoch Wambua, however maintains he is not authorised to comment on it “either in endorsement or otherwise”.
“The ODM SG is calling unnecessary attention to himself by attempting to respond to a matter that is way, way above his pay grade. And so to the extent that Mr Sifuna purports to be addressing himself to the question of the deal between the two leaders, he is grossly out of order,” says Wambua.
“The two of them owe it to themselves and to the cardinal principle of trust to handle their deal. For us their lieutenants we should play within our respective political leagues until and unless advised otherwise,” added Wambua.
Also on the receiving end in political betrayal is Amani’s Musalia Mudavadi, who in 2013 was momentarily endorsed by Kenyatta and Ruto as their compromise candidate for presidency.
Kenyatta would turn around hardly a week later to rubbish the endorsement.
Prof Macharia Munene, who teaches history and international relations at USIU) says the so-called betrayals are part of political intrigues. Most, however, are simply political competition instances and not betrayal.