Raila Odinga talked exclusively to Macharia Gaitho from his Capital Hill Square office.
You’ve been accused of abandoning what Nasa was struggling for, to strike a ‘private’ deal with President Uhuru Kenyatta. What happens to the quest for electoral justice and the rest of the #Resist campaign? Have you sold out?
Anybody who would believe that does not live in Kenya.
We have been talking all along about two things: One was dialogue, the first option since we boycotted the repeat poll of October 26.
There were very good reasons we decided to stay away from the election.
The issues that undermined the first poll of August 8, the illegalities and irregularities identified by the Supreme Court, were not addressed by the electoral commission.
We, therefore, felt it would be futile to participate in the repeat poll.
Thereafter we had the option to go the route of popular amendments to enable us attain electoral justice.
This would be through the people’s assemblies under Article 1 of the Constitution, onto people’s convention, then draw up a bill based on resolutions passed, and then a referendum.
Even with that route, we still would have had to talk to Jubilee because any bills from the people’s assemblies would still have to go through county assemblies and the National Assembly before going for a referendum.
We also have the electoral commission that was going to conduct the referendum.
The other option was dialogue, to negotiate critical issues we had identified as “irreducible minimums” to be met.
Jubilee had said they were only ready to talk on their “Big Four” agenda. Circumstances, you know, changed.
Circumstances changed, meaning what you’ve been struggling for was put aside?
Nothing was put aside. Ultimately, there was an offer for talks, so we can talk about talks.
The agreement was reached that it would be just between the two of us, me and Uhuru, nobody else would be involved at initial stages.
Did you foresee a fallout when your partners in Nasa felt excluded?
There was no fallout, that’s the making of the media.
But we’ve heard Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetang’ula and Musalia Mudavadi complaining about being left out?
The media is just misreading the situation. What happened is first that Uhuru and I agreed to meet, just the two of us; to sit down and try to bridge the gap.
We came to an understanding that it was possible to bridge that gap.
We agreed we would appoint experts to put on paper the issues we felt were crucial that needed to be addressed in order to unite the country.
That’s why this document we signed talks about the background, where we came from, where we want to go, it talks about ethnicity, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution and elections.
Also, security, corruption and prosperity. You can see those are the points we addressed as Nasa that are covered in this document.
You can also see the four-point agenda of Jubilee included.
An agreement was reached that neither Uhuru nor I would inform anyone from our respective sides until we were ready to go public.
You need to know that my partners knew about this at the same time as the President’s partners in Jubilee knew about it.
So DP Ruto and others on the government side were not in the picture?
Uhuru called the DP (William Ruto) in my presence to inform him for the first time, and I also called my deputy, Kalonzo (Musyoka), in his presence.
That was from Harambee House? Before or after the handshake?
Before we stepped outside for the handshake.
But, why the need to keep it so close? Was it that neither you nor Uhuru could trust your own people?
Any discussion or negotiation must have a beginning. In these kind of issues, there are things that must be kept confidential until it is time to reveal them.
We have since made public what we discussed, so we shouldn’t be more concerned with style rather than content and substance.
We can now begin serious discussions on the issues we have identified that are of concern to all of us.
There is the perception that Uhuru is the big winner in all these. He has conceded very little, but you’ve implicitly recognised his presidency, dropped your own claims to the office, and abandoned the #Resist campaign. What do you win?
Nobody wins and nobody loses, it’s a win-win situation. We have just created an enabling environment for negotiations.
The #Resist campaign was not an end in itself, it was a means to an end.
It has been suspended, not scrapped, in order to give discussions a chance.
There is always an exit window and if the dialogue initiative does not work, we can continue with #Resist from where we left.
So, how do you say somebody has won and somebody has lost?
Because we are hearing some Nasa MPs, particularly from ODM, now talk of supporting Jubilee’s development agenda, and others engaging in Jubilee succession politics with support for Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid. Has ODM crossed over to Jubilee?
The reason we decided to keep this thing initially between just the two of us is that we didn’t want it reduced to a 2022 campaign affair.
We know there are people who are obsessed with 2022, and they might want to know if this advances or undermines their chances in 2022.
That is what it’s not about. We decided to keep it out of 2022, otherwise, it will not succeed, it will be undermined.
We’ve asked our MPs not to fall prey to manipulations around 2022.
And the ouster of Wetang’ula as Senate minority leader?
That had nothing to do with me meeting Uhuru.
Those are internal wrangles in the Senate, which are not related to the handshake. They were there even before the handshake.
Will Wetang’ula survive given that you and the other principals have interceded on his behalf without success?
We had a lengthy meeting on Saturday with senators. We told them Wetang’ula is the only member of the Nasa Summit who is also in Parliament, and that’s why we want him to remain the minority leader in the Senate.
But, we know the senators remained adamant. Your own senators, from ODM and Kalonzo’s Wiper, defied you.
We agreed they need to go on a retreat so they can iron out their differences.
I would not say that they were adamant, but they had made a decision and felt they can’t just be ambushed and change their minds.
They need to deliberate among themselves first, forgive each other and gel.
Do you see this leading to a power-sharing coalition government ahead of 2022?
No. That does not arise. We’ve said we’re not after nusu mkate, we want real change
What will be done differently?
The intention is that best practices from around the world might show us how to make institutions work.
But, we have to insulate the process from politics. We recognise our problems and want these things to stop with us, the two of us. We want to bequeath a country that is working.
But, that still limits it to an Uhuru-Raila process?
Other people and groupings will be involved, but we must be on guard against vested interests that may try to tilt things in their favour.
We want to do this in the best interest of the country.
How did this initiative come about, who approached who?
That I will not tell you. I will not tell you!
Fresh revelations on the role of Cambridge Analytica in the Jubilee campaigns of 2013 and 2017 bring back to the spotlight the dark side of Kenyan electioneering. Would you want those issues revisited in light of the new political accord?
What is coming out in the open are the things we’ve brought out in the past.
We were dismissed and accused of making them up.
In 2013, we went to the Supreme Court with evidence of massive manipulation of election results, but our affidavits were thrown out on a technicality, being out of time, and expunged from the records.
In 2017, we brought up a similar issue of algorithms introduced to produce the desired election results, but the electoral agency defied the Supreme Court’s orders to open their servers.
Maybe the records will be found in Cambridge Analytica’s servers.
We also know that the firm was responsible for dirty election campaign propaganda depicting me as an anarchist who would make Kenya hell on earth.
These matters should be investigated not just in Europe, but also in Kenya.
We haven’t heard anything since the first announcement on establishment of a joint secretariat. Any progress in that regard? Other than neutral experts, will it be expanded to include other stakeholders, such as civil society, religious groups and business lobbies already involved in trying to set up a dialogue?
All will be involved. When the committee of experts is unveiled, they’ll come up with structures and a timetable of events toward achievement of objectives contained in the MoU.
In regard to Nasa, there was a pre-election arrangement where you undertook not to vie for the presidency again after 2017, win or lose. In light of these new developments, does that still hold? Does anything change? Will you stand for President in 2022 or any other time?
That question I don’t want to be asked. Not now. That’s between me and my colleagues.
I want to spend time to unite the people, bring the country together. Nothing has changed in Nasa.
And, take it from me, Nasa is very united contrary to what media is speculating.
The media is working on statements made in public by co-principals, and their MPs and party officials.
Yes, some people are complaining, but the media is prophesying the fall of Nasa.
They’ve written Nasa’s obituaries I don’t know how many times. You want to play the role of undertaker and grave digger.
That is called shooting the messenger. You have been involved in various alliances and initiatives over the years which promise to take the country forward, but still we were stuck in the same old problems of ethnic-political conflicts. What confidence should Kenyans have that this initiative will finally move to resolve these issues beyond temporary power-sharing deals that do not last beyond an electoral cycle?
I disagree with you. Ours is not a static society. Everything we’ve done has contributed to fundamental change for the country.
When we founded Forum for Restoration of Democracy, Ford, in the early 90s, we secured repeal of Section 2A.
The detentions of Matiba, Rubia and others gave results.
The ‘No Reforms, No Elections’ campaign of 1997 gave us the Inter-Party Parliamentary Group (IPPG) and we repealed detention without trial, the Public Order Act and Chiefs Act.
Then followed the Kanu-NDP cooperation and eventual merger, and the split and weakening of Kanu to what it is today.
Then followed the ‘Kibaki Tosha’ moment and the Narc revolution. At that period in government, a lot happened.
When we came in annual revenue collection was Sh300 billion. It rose to cross the trillion barrier.
The campaign for a new constitution was renewed in earnest, resulting in the ‘Banana and Orange’ referendum of 2005, which changed the character of politics in our country.
Those of us in Orange were dismissed from the government, but that set the stage for 2007 elections, and then the unfortunate events that followed.
After that came the grand coalition, which many now believe was the best government in Kenya since independence because of in-built checks and balances.
It gave us the new constitution. We can say something good came out of it.