Opposition leader Raila Odinga has maintained that the National Super Alliance revolution he leads is still on course, but admitted that the route he has chosen means it will take longer to get to ‘Canaan’, his figurative reference to a time of good tidings.
Mr Odinga defended the route of national dialogue — symbolised by his March 9 handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta — as the best option at the time to “steer Kenya in the right direction”.
In his first television interview since the historic deal with President Kenyatta, Mr Odinga implored his supporters to support the initiative, saying while it will take longer than they expected, it will, in the end, achieve the Kenya that Nasa had promised its supporters.
“We were able to include our five irreducible minimums in the nine-point agenda we signed with President Kenyatta,” Mr Odinga told Citizen TV’s Hussein Mohamed on Tuesday night.
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 it insisted must be on the table for any dialogue to occur.
In the nine-point agenda the two leaders signed, President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga planned to address ethnic antagonism, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, strengthening of devolution, ending divisive elections, ensuring safety and security of Kenyans, ending corruption, and ensuring shared prosperity.
After the prolonged 2017 election stalemate in which he took a mock oath as the “people’s president”, Nasa had three options, Mr Odinga said: A popular initiative to force another election, “indefinite mass action until the government surrenders”, and dialogue. The first two forceful routes, he suggested, were overtaken by the dialogue option cemented by the handshake.
“If this were a revolution, things would happen instantly,” said Mr Odinga. “However, this is not a revolution, but an evolutionary process. Things will be done at their own time. Life must go on, and certain things will happen as we go on.”
He was optimistic of the progress so far, saying that, unlike in the recent past, he does not have to call press conferences to point out corruption in government. All he does, he noted, is make a call and share his concerns with President Kenyatta, “and he will act.”
The handshake, he said, will “re-engineer” Kenya and refocus it to take another aim at ‘Canaan’. “We want all Kenyans to cross River Jordan to get to Canaan,” he said.
On the 2022 politics, Mr Odinga refused to indicate whether or not he will run for the presidency for a fifth time, but insisted that members of his party who are openly backing Deputy President William Ruto’s State House bid should be punished.
“You are campaigning for another candidate for 2022, but has Wiper, or ANC, or Ford-Kenya, or ODM said they are not going to produce a candidate in 2022?” he posed, referring to the parties that form the Nasa coalition. “We cannot be campaigning from Year 1 to Year 5. At what point will we talk about development?”
Vocal Nandi senator Samson Cherargei quickly took this caution to mean the ODM leader was declaring his bid for 2022.
“From the interview, we now know for sure that Raila is running in 2022. How is it that he says it is okay for him to have a handshake with Uhuru, but he wants to punish ODM MPs who want to work with William Ruto, the man who deputises the same man whose hands he shook? It is hypocritical!” said Mr Cherargei.
Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen had on Tuesday night taken to Twitter to voice the same sentiments, saying: “Just like that, he (Odinga) has declared his candidature (for the Presidency) in 2022. Game on!”
On Wednesday, Mr Odinga received, in his office in Capitol Hill, Nairobi, a progress report from the 14-member team tasked with implementing proposals of his peace pact with the President. He said he was happy with the progress.
Asked why the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission report — which he had vowed to implement if elected — was not expressly put as one of those to be executed through the “handshake”, Mr Odinga said that “does not have to be expressly stated”. “It is implicit that if you implement the MoU, you will have implemented the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission report,” he said.
Throughout the 77-minute interview, Mr Odinga did little to address the mystery surrounding the handshake, his newfound relationship with President Kenyatta, and what that portends for the opposition.
He appeared unwilling to commit to a definite end-game of the deal, instead piling a review of the Constitution, a path to compensation of victims of the 2017 election chaos, and that of determining how to address Kenya’s electoral problems — including reviewing the current team — on the 14-member taskforce chaired by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji and University of Nairobi lecturer Adams Oloo.
He vehemently defended himself against the “sellout” tag by critics of his pact with President Kenyatta, insisting that the only reason he left his Nasa colleagues — Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi of the Amani National Congress, and Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula — out of the handshake deal was that he was looking for “talks about talks”.
On his colleagues abandoning him as he took oath, he said: “The January 30 date was cast in stone, and every Kenyan who follows the media knew the event was happening. Attendance was by choice, and so those who wanted to come, came, and those who did not want to come, did not come. I do not want to be accused of not calling people. Those are excuses.”
He refused to discuss the thorny subject of his treatment of one of his supporters, activist Miguna Miguna — deported twice and his citizenship revoked — after he administered the “oath” to Mr Odinga, saying: “You know what I did to him, and what he has been saying about me.”