Raila Odinga allies want unity deal cancelled

Wednesday March 18 2020

A section of opposition leader Raila Odinga’s close allies are pushing for an end to the new-found cooperation between him and President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Led by Siaya Senator James Orengo, they feel that President Kenyatta is not keeping his part of the bargain, and that the “Harambee House handshake” is fast eroding Mr Odinga’s hard earned stature as a reform icon and staunch critic of injustices committed by successive governments.

Comprising politicians and businessmen, the group argues that the hostility recently exacerbated by the deportation of lawyer Miguna Miguna had made the cooperation untenable.

They have informally asked Mr Odinga, whom together with President Kenyatta on March 9 announced that they would work together to unify the country, to suspend the camaraderie until a raft of grievances are satisfactorily addressed.

If not, Mr Odinga will become part of any injustice committed by the Jubilee administration, they warn.

They want Dr Miguna to be unconditionally allowed back in the country, families of victims of post-election crackdown by police compensated and an agreement on how to achieve electoral reforms struck.


This came out in at least two meetings last week, events that were followed by a press conference by both ODM party officials and its leadership in the National Assembly condemning President Kenyatta regime’s ‘blatant assault on civil liberties’.

Mr Orengo told Sunday Nation that in the absence of the rule of law, there was no point in Mr Odinga working with Mr Kenyatta.

“Uhuru has to be held accountable now. Any engagement with him in any process would be an act of impunity because he is condoning the blatant and brazen defiance of court orders...,” he said.

“He has put the Judiciary in an embarrassing position. His hands are there, the warning he gave to the Judiciary that he would revisit it after the Supreme Court overturned his declaration of win by IEBC is there for all to see,” Mr Orengo added, stating a popular view within ODM’s political circles.


Mr Orengo further accuses the President of violating Article 131(2) of the Constitution.

“The handshake rises or falls on the pedestal of the rule of law, and if the State is out to undermine the rule of law, then it has no basis. The joint statement by the two also talked about rights and respect for the rule of law.”

Frustrations boiled over on Wednesday night when he and Dr Miguna’s legal team were roughed up by GSU officers at the airport, where they had gone to serve court orders to immigration officials who were detaining Dr Miguna.

“The government is not keen to follow the rule of law. The GSU have clobbered us, meaning this handshake between Uhuru and Raila is baseless,” he stated.

“So they have assaulted lawyers, defied the court & deported Dr Miguna...! I feel helpless & angry as an Advocate! Useless as an MP & angry as a Kenyan!!!,” an equally frustrated Mr Amollo posted on his twitter account.

National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi warned that the stability and peace that the country has witnessed after the handshake may be eroded by the inhumane treatment Dr Miguna was subjected to at the airport.

“We take note that the recent developments, particularly the return to Kenya of Miguna and his second deportation have cast doubts on the deal,” he said.

But the Jubilee government through various actors maintains that the whole drama about Dr Miguna was about enforcing the law, and that it could have been avoided had he cooperated with the authorities.

ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna has already signalled a return of running battles with security agencies to force the State allow Dr Miguna re-entry.

“All Kenyans of goodwill must come out to defend the Judiciary, the rule of law and court orders.

"To this end, ODM calls on Kenyans of goodwill, members of the bar, civil society and the church to come out at an appointed date next week to effect the court orders by arresting the convicted criminals; Fred Matiang’i (Interior CS), George Kinoti (the head of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations), Gordon Kihalangwa (Immigration chief) and Joseph Boinnet (Inspector General of Police), and bring these fugitives before the law,” he said.

Mr Odinga has been roundly criticised by his supporters mostly on social media, who feel that working with Mr Kenyatta is a political blunder.

They are demanding that he brings back his mojo to keep the government in check.

Critics of the handshake within Mr Odinga’s inner circle argue that Mr Kenyatta has demonstrated bad faith and that the opposition chief should not feel beholden to the ‘terms of the truce’.

Dr Miguna was refused entry into the country by the immigration officials on instructions from the State.

The government insists that he is not Kenyan and as such, requires a visiting visa.


But while some leaders have criticised the handshake, it still enjoys support from a section of Mr Odinga’s allies, who feel that the misgivings surrounding the handshake are misplaced.

“I think Orengo is frustrated with the Judiciary for its reluctance to enforce its own orders rather than the handshake itself,” a close ally of Mr Odinga based at his Capitol Hill office said.

“I have heard the grumbling but they should know that Miguna is his own worst enemy, the handshake is well-intentioned,” a second-term MP from the former South Nyanza, who sought anonymity, said.

But a leading figure in the Orange party accused his colleagues who still support the handshake of being blinded by fringe benefits coming their way as a result of the cooperation.

“We should not bury the ideals we believe in for the allure and luxury that comes with supporting the regime, what if it stinks?” the official wondered.

Uncharacteristic of him, Mr Odinga declined to speak about the recent developments in the political arena.

His spokesman Denis Onyango was also not available for comment.

Additional reporting by Peter Leftie