ODM leader Raila Odinga on Monday defended his handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta, saying it was not meant to push Deputy President William Ruto out of Jubilee Party.
His pact with President Kenyatta, he said, was to prevent the country from disintegrating after the disputed 2017 elections that resulted in his swearing-in as the “people’s president”.
He explained: “We would have continued the hard way but we thought of Kenyans and decided we should come together with President Kenyatta. There are those saying that Raila wants to wreck Jubilee and chase others out. That is nonsense. We want to change the country for the better.”
Politicians allied to the DP have expressed their reservations about the handshake, questioning Mr Odinga’s honesty in his dealings with the President.
They claim that the Building Bridges Initiative, which is part of the handshake, was geared towards constitutional change that would bar Dr Ruto from succeeding Mr Kenyatta.
The DP has also on several occasions warned that “Mr Odinga will not follow me into Jubilee and eject me the way he did in ODM”.
Mr Odinga, however, said the handshake had been misunderstood and mixed up with the 2022 succession.
“The people were angry and saw only darkness. The President said we should talk. We agreed to end fighting and address the real causes of the hatred among Kenyans and poverty,” Mr Odinga said.
He said it was too early to start campaigns for the 2022 elections.
“The 2022 poll will come and people will contest. We are still in 2019. Give us time so that we can build Kenya first. When 2022 will come, men and women will vie. It is still too early now. What we want is growth. Let’s wait for direction. It is not time for election campaigns,” the ODM leader said.
He vouched for the expansion of Mombasa Port and Moi International Airport to create more jobs for locals.
Mr Odinga, who turned 74 yesterday, spoke in Mombasa in the presence of President Kenyatta, who launched a Sh460 million Mama Ngina Drive rehabilitation project.
Other leaders present included Tourism CS Najib Balala and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho. Interestingly, Coast leaders allied to Dr Ruto skipped the event.
The growing rapport between Mr Joho, President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga was evident as they cracked jokes with the governor referring to the Head of State as “our boss.”
Mr Joho, who was at loggerheads with President Kenyatta before the handshake over various issues leading to court cases, said he was now untouchable following his bond with the Jubilee leader.
He said he now prays for President Kenyatta and lauded the government’s development record.
“The government has done more than expected. I am pleading with humility for the hastening [of projects],” Mr Joho said, adding that focus should now shift to building a free-trade zone in Mombasa.