Last week’s meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga clearly caught several people on the Jubilee Party and Nasa coalition sides by surprise.
Going by the fury on social media, it seems the folks on Raila’s side took the meeting much harder, seeing it as a “betrayal”.
That’s understandable, given the acrimony of the election last year in which the two men faced off, claws and everything out, and Raila’s decision to go ahead with his controversial “swearing-in” as the “people’s president” in January.
There are many theories about how the two political leaders came to meet but a source close to Raila says that, among other things, both sides were under pressure to “give (visiting) US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson something concrete to take home” following a period when the Americans didn’t emerge smelling of roses from their positions during the elections.
It seems Tillerson and allies actually needed something to save his job because, barely had he arrived back in the US than President Donald Trump sacked him.
Clearly, it required more than an Uhuru-Raila rapprochement in Nairobi to save his hide.
Yet, while some of that might be correct, it underestimates both Uhuru and Raila’s political gamesmanship.
The sense one gets listening carefully to fellows in the know is that the roots of that meeting were laid when the Kenya Supreme Court nullified the August presidential election, in which Uhuru had been declared winner. Raila had argued that he had been robbed of victory.
The historic victory placed Raila in a very sweet place, and he is too shrewd to have risked his political capital by going into a repeat election in October unless he was 100 per cent sure of winning it.
The failure by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to carry out the reforms to sufficiently assuage Raila and Nasa before the repeat poll was a gift to them. They boycotted the poll.
That made Raila’s swearing-in inevitable. But since it was only a symbolic event, why did he go ahead with it?
The foot soldiers needed a swearing-in for closure and as a logical last chapter of the narrative that their side had been mugged at the polls.
In practical terms, though, it seems in the Nasa coalition there were pro-Raila voices who were sure that his deputy Kalonzo Musyoka wouldn’t show up.
Nor would co-principals Musalia Mudavadi or Moses Wetang’ula.
This was an opportunity for, especially, people in Raila’s ODM part of the coalition, who were concerned that Nasa was becoming a political coalition yet it was meant to be an electoral coalition without life beyond the polls.
Raila’s swearing-in, and the fact that the rest of the co-principals failed to show up, effectively allowed the end of Nasa, and allowed him to pull away the more militant sections of the other principals’ bases.
But most importantly, it freed Raila to sup