Opposition leader Raila Odinga was Monday pressed to explain his dalliance with President Uhuru Kenyatta during a tense meeting with leaders of the National Super Alliance coalition on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Even though details of the meeting remained scanty, sources privy to the discussions told the Daily Nation that Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula, and Amani National Congress’ Musalia Mudavadi pressed Mr Odinga, who is also leader of the Orange Democratic Movement, to explain why he kept them in the dark over his meeting with the President.
They said they only learnt of it via the media and demanded a blow-by-blow account of what transpired at Harambee House on Friday last week.
But Mr Odinga defended his move, saying it was the best option given the challenges facing the Opposition in recent days.
The former Prime Minister, it is understood, also apologised to his colleagues over the manner in which he had handled the issue.
However, he expressed concern that, with diminishing chances that they could force a new round of free, fair and credible elections, joining hands with Jubilee Party was the only viable way to safeguard their political legitimacy.
Intimating that he may not be running again for the Presidency, he said working together with President Kenyatta would give him the chance to forge electoral reforms between now and 2022, which would be to the advantage of his three colleagues who harbour State House ambitions.
“He felt that talking directly to the President was the most practical thing to do, given the circumstances,” said a source, who described the meeting as initially “tense” and devoid of the pleasantries that have characterised previous Nasa get-togethers.
The co-principals were asked to surrender their mobile phones to their aides before the meeting started, which could be a sign of the growing mistrust within the coalition since Friday’s events.
Mr Odinga assured his co-principals that President Kenyatta has demonstrated willingness to work with the Opposition and will not renege on his promise.
Working with Jubilee, he added, would in fact be beneficial to Nasa.
Mr Mudavadi, in a short brief to the media, described as “weighty” the decision by Mr Odinga to work with President Kenyatta, but welcomed the move as it could heal the nation.
“We have listened to Mr Odinga. We have asked him questions over his discussions with Mr Kenyatta and he has answered them,” he said.
“As you know, Nasa is a coalition and every member party will have to discuss this matter before a comprehensive statement is issued.”
The leaders refused to field questions from reporters, but reiterated that they were never opposed to national dialogue.
Mr Odinga, it is also understood, has been uneasy with the opposition’s isolation by the West, which has denied him and his colleagues leverage to push their much-touted electoral and judicial reforms.
Earlier in February, 11 Western envoys led by US ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec asked the opposition to acknowledge President Kenyatta’s legitimacy before they could engage him in the dialogue demanded by Mr Odinga after last year’s contested elections.
ACCEPT UHURU'S WIN
The envoys urged Mr Odinga to “accept the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are the legitimate President and Deputy of Kenya” after the Supreme Court upheld their election on October 26 last year.
“The Opposition needs to accept this as the basis for the dialogue that it, and many Kenyans, want. Stoking and threatening violence are not acceptable, nor are extra-Constitutional measures to seize power,” they said, apparently referring to Mr Odinga’s ‘People’s President’ push.
The ODM leader, who in January took oath as ‘the People’s President’, had sworn to never recognise the presidency of Mr Kenyatta, and asked the diplomats to keep off Kenyan politics, insisting that Kenyans are capable of solving their problems internally.
However, during yesterday’s meeting, Mr Odinga expressed concerns that the growing isolation of the Nasa leadership would not in any way have served its interests.
Reporting by Dave Opiyo, Justus Wanga and Ibrahim Oruko