, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 1 – In a sharp turnaround from statements he has made in the past on how he should be handled as a former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga returned home on Wednesday from the US and stated he deserves special treatment.
Previously Odinga has said there was no need to accord him unique status saying, “simply call me Raila.” He also made it clear it was not mandatory that he uses VIP lounges at airports. “I have no problem interacting with other Kenyans,” he said.
Last week, Government Spokesman Muthui Kariuki’s demand that he gives up six government cars in his possession, and this appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back:
“I am a Prime Minister, I’ve been a Prime Minister and a co-partner in a government in this country. I deserve certain privileges. As you know the government minister has disowned that statement and I believe the minister not the so-called spokesman,” he said.
Odinga’s change of tune comes at a time when the government is hard pressed to explain which privileges it is exactly, that he and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka should be allowed to retain.
In Odinga’s case particularly, opposition Members of Parliament have accused the government of applying a double standards between him and the immediate former President Mwai Kibaki with whom he was in a government of national unity.
“As far as we are concerned all that Raila has retained is what was left to him by the government but quite not comparable with what his co-principle in the coalition government was left with,” Siaya Senator James Orengo said on Friday.
In an effort to quiet the opposition’s growing unease, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku sought to temper Kariuki’s impassioned accusations saying; “The cars which were within his possession and outside government policy were returned. There is a VIP policy which outlines how many security officers he should have and no action has been taken to demean the former Prime Minister.”
Odinga, it seems, is comforted by Lenku’s assurances and even extended an olive branch to the President Uhuru Kenyatta-led government on his return from the United States of America, where he had accompanied opposition affiliated governors.
“We’ve said we’ll organise a similar visit in the future and that we are not going to restrict this to just CORD. We will also take some Jubilee governors with us when we organise a similar trip in the future,” Odinga said of the trip he described as an opportunity to secure foreign investment for counties.
The chasm between both sides of the House may not have been bridged just yet with questions on who funded the trip to America having already arisen from the government side.
The former Prime Minister’s spokesman Dennis Onyango told Capital FM News the trip was paid for out of pocket. “The Prime Minister pays his own way. So did the governors. But the hotel rooms were sponsored.”