, NAIROBI, Kenya Mar 9 – ODM leader Raila Odinga has dismissed claims that his handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta, is dividing the ruling Jubilee Party.
This follows outbursts by Deputy President William Ruto who feels shortchanged since March 9, 2018, when President Kenyatta reached out to Odinga and signed a peace agreement they said is aimed at uniting Kenyans after months of acrimony stemming from two contentious elections in which Odinga lost.
“Raila is not in jubilee, he does not join jubilee meetings and I am not in Cabinet,” Odinga said on Saturday at Serena Hotel, Nairobi where leaders gathered to mark the first anniversary of the handshake, “so there is no way I can be bringing divisions in Jubilee. I am in ODM and if anything, the only place I can bring interference is at the African Union (AU) where I got some responsibilities.”
During the handshake anniversary, Odinga was handed a joint award with President Kenyatta by the Women Building Bridges for Kenya Movement dubbed ‘Embrace’ in recognition of the national reconciliation efforts that started with the handshake of March 9, 2018.
Following the peace pact with Kenyatta, Odinga was named the High Representative for Infrastructure at AU—a position that elevated him to a continental statesman.
But Ruto is unhappy with the Odinga’s dalliance with the President which he sees as an impediment to his 2022 presidential ambitions when he hopes to succeed Kenyatta.
His close allies, like Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, have said as much, often demanding to be told what the deal entails, given the latest accelerated war on corruption, which many close to him claim is targeting him.
“When Ruto was supporting Raila for the presidency, he was not a thief, when he supported Uhuru for the presidency he was not a thief,” said Oscar Sudi, the Kapseret Member of Parliament, “but now that his time has come, he is a thief.”
Saturday’s handshake anniversary event was organized by women in politics under the umbrella “EMBRACE”.
It was attended by several leaders, among them Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Council of Governors Chairman who is also Kakamega Governor Wycliff Oparanya among others.
“When the President reached out to his big brother Raila Odinga and they shook hands I did not care what they had spoken about because to me, all that mattered to me is that they were able to bring this country to the right direction,” said Taveta MP Naomi Shabaan.
Baringo Senator Gideon Moi’s wife Zahra who also attended the meeting said Kenyans should be assured of their peace during and after every election
“I believe the reason we are here is to pray and give thanks. I hope that no matter what happen, Kenyans will always be guaranteed of their peace; not as a token but as a right that they deserve even after voting; so we thank you two for coming together and leading by example in showing everyone that indeed Kenya is a peaceful country,” she said.
Zahra’s attendance in particular, did not go unnoticed, coming days after her husband held meetings with Odinga, in what observers say is key in cementing 2022 succession plans which both are keeping close to their chests.
It is this dalliance between Kenyatta, Odinga and Moi’s son that has angered Ruto and his allies like the vocal Kapseret MP Sudi, who tore them last week, sparking an immediate rejoinder to Kenyatta who said anyone with evidence that he has stolen anything should report him to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
Ruto and his allies are particularly bitter that the accelerated war on corruption which they claim is targeting members of their community was fuelled by the handshake.
On Saturday, Ruto was in Mombasa where he repeated the same claim, saying the biggest threat to the war against corruption, is what he describes as ‘selective justice with premeditated outcome.’
This follows the ongoing investigation on the Sh63 billion scandal of two dams—Kimwarer and Arror—which were to be constructed in Elgeyo Marakwet, with Sh21 billion already paid out to an Italian company CMC di-Ravenna, two years before the project could even commence.
Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, his Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge as well as top officials of the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) have recorded statements with the DCI as well as directors of more than 100 companies said to have profiteered from the funds, after supplying goods and services that are not related to the project.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji on Friday issued a statement directing the DCI to also focus on identifying the property acquired using the illicit funds with the aim of seizing them.