ODM leader Raila Odinga agreed to work with President Uhuru Kenyatta under the famous March 9 ‘handshake’ as a result of pressure from Western nations and financial woes, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi has said.
Mr Mudavadi claims in a new book that Mr Odinga had been banned from visiting many countries, including a key Western nation, and was particularly worried about what the US’s next course of action would be.
Mr Mudavadi, who was Mr Odinga’s chief campaigner in the 2017 election, claims the pact was shrouded in secrecy and that days before it, he and the other Nasa principals – Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula – had met the ODM leader, who did not drop any hint about the negotiations with President Kenyatta.
It was in the meeting, however, that he spoke of the pressure from the foreign nations.
“Raila also mentioned to us at this meeting that he had received letters of cancellation of his visas by various foreign missions in Kenya. He showed us a copy of one such letter he had received from a leading western mission,” Mr Mudavadi writes in the autobiography, Soaring Above the Storms of Passion.
The book, authored with his long-time ally and ANC Secretary-General Barrack Muluka, and published by The Mudavadi Memorial Foundation Trust Fund in association with Midas Touch Media Limited, also details the intrigues in the heady days leading up to Mr Odinga’s controversial swearing-in on January 30, 2018.
On the visa blockades, Mr Mudavadi writes that Mr Odinga asked him to cross-check with other missions whether they were aware of this development and what their countries’ governments were thinking. “I cross-checked with Ambassador (Robert) Godec, who affirmed that he was aware of the developments …”
The former vice-president also writes of a heated meeting in Athi River a day after the ‘Handshake’ during which other Nasa principals took Mr Odinga to task over the secrecy around the development.
“In this conversation, we also learnt that the visa embargo seemed to have covered many other people,” Mr Mudavadi writes in the memoirs that delve into every epoch in his political career spanning 30 years.
Mr Mudavadi also details the financial woes Mr Odinga’s party was in, suggesting this might have been another reason for the latter’s abandonment of his hardline opposition cause.
The ANC leader also suggests that the numerous litigations against a number of Nasa supporters and “other allied pressures” – which he doesn’t name – might have been too much for Mr Odinga.
“We learnt that the financial capacity to handle these cases was not there. Basically the situation was becoming unbearable,” Mr Mudavadi writes.
He says he was on his way to Mombasa when Vihiga Senator George Khaniri called him frantically, alerting him about the ‘Handshake’ on the steps of Harambee House, the President’s office.
“A flurry of other phone calls flowed in. Kalonzo called me to ask if I was aware of what was going on. I told him I was unaware.”
He says pressure mounted on him from a wide range of callers, who wanted to know what was going on, “bearing in mind that I had been the chief campaigner.”
“They wanted to know whether we were now going into a coalition government with Jubilee.”
Mr Mudavadi says the swearing-in went against what the rest of the principals believed in and was also in defiance of the caution by world and regional leaders, advice that was given in telephone conversations and in meetings.
“The first one was Raila’s office at Capitol Hill, where we met with foreign diplomats accredited to Kenya, religious leaders and leaders from the business community. They pleaded with us not to carry on with the swearing-in plans,” Mudavadi writes.
He says the second meeting was held at the American Ambassador’s residence. “Also present at this meeting was the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Donald Yamamoto. There was also Howard from the Security Adviser’s Desk in the White House and Ambassador Robert Godec.”
In these meetings, the envoys warned them that should they carry on with their swearing-in plans, they would be “considered warlords, with attendant international consequences”.
The diplomats instead offered to create an avenue for dialogue with the government to resolve the issues that had been raised.
Among the opposition’s demands were that victims of police violence receive compensation and that President Kenyatta apologises for the extrajudicial killings.
Besides the swearing-in, Mr Mudavadi writes of other decisions Mr Odinga pushed through without consultation or concurrence from his colleagues. He paints the picture of a leader who always had a plan B or one who would change course on the spur of the moment.
He writes of the various postponements of the swearing-in and of difficult private meetings even as they publicly demonstrated solidarity, if only to give morale to their supporters.
He writes that just before one of the swearing-in postponements, Mr Odinga went out of circulation. “For some time he could not be reached on the phone. We put together our heads with the technical team and agreed that in this move (postponement) we were giving an opportunity to the diplomatic and business communities to attempt their proposed intervention.”
But just as they were about to leave for the Okoa Kenya offices to announce the suspension of the ceremony, he reached Raila who told them to go ahead with the announcement and link up with him later in the evening.
“I would learn a few days later that while I was preparing to call off the swearing-in, Raila was in fact at Jimmi Wanjigi’s residence in Muthaiga with a number of family members and friends. The object of the meeting, I would learn, was for him to record a private swearing-in, which would be circulated to the media houses and on the Internet.”
He writes that people at Muthaiga would later tell him that just when the swearing-in was to take place, they saw the Okoa Kenya postponement meeting on TV.
“I learnt from the people present that Raila seemed to have been very shocked to watch us on TV calling off the swearing-in. He is reported to have said, “Oh, so they are calling it off? At this point the swearing-in at Muthaiga was called off. Before we left for Okoa Kenya from my office, he had called me to ask why we were taking long to make the announcement.”
He writes that throughout the Christmas season, the Nasa team “had completely drifted apart on the issue of swearing in”, a time when Mudavadi believes the pro-swearing thinking must have prevailed. “At a public gathering in Kakamega just before the end of the year, Raila announced he would be sworn in on January 30. Once again, there had been no consultation, leave alone an agreement. The rest of us remained calm and restrained in the spirit of our agreement not to show our differences in public.”
He writes that as the clock ticked towards January 30, 2018, the D-Day of the swearing in, a last-ditch effort was made to forestall it at a dinner meeting at Mr Odinga’s Karen home. Present were all the four principals as well as Kisumu Governor Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o. “Also with us was former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, a close friend and confidante of Raila. He had specifically come to Kenya for this meeting.” Mudavadi recalls Mr Obasanjo advising Mr Odinga against the move, saying it would destroy his credentials. Mr Obasanjo also brought in Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s counsel as well as that of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
“All of us, including Raila, agreed that he would not take the oath. Beyond this, Raila also told us that on a different occasion and in the presence of James Orengo, President John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania – also a close friend of his – had held a lengthy telephone conversation with him.”
Up to the end, Mudavadi and the other three principals maintained they would have nothing to do with the ‘Handshake’.
“On Monday, January 29, we the principals, held our last meeting ahead of the critical moment in the swearing-in saga. At the end of the Homa Bay rally, Raila had intimated to us that he had information that the Jubilee side would reach out to him in good time to forestall the swearing-in and begin negotiations about reforms.
Mudavadi also writes of intrigues hours to the controversial swearing-in and how Mr Odinga hoodwinked them up to the last minute that he would not be sworn in. “It was agreed that we would all, nonetheless, go to Uhuru Park – the venue where the swearing-in was to take place – to face our supporters and call off the swearing-in once and for all. We agreed that we would meet at a venue to be agreed upon in the morning.”
Having failed to hear from Mr Odinga, Mudavadi writes, the other principals met at Wetang’ula’s place. “It was while we were here, at about 12pm that Raila eventually called me using his regular phone number. Our telephone conversation was disjointed, creating the impression that he was under siege.” Moments later, however, they learnt that he had proceeded to Uhuru Park and was taking the “Presidential Oath of Office”.