Mt Kenya owes me a political debt, says Raila
Eric Wainaina @EWainaina
Opposition chief Raila Odinga yesterday made a strong pitch to the Mt Kenya electorate, saying they owe his family a political debt for supporting key leaders from the region to ascend to the country’s leadership.
The former Prime Minister, who was addressing Central Kenya residents on Kameme TV, reminded his audience that he had thrown his weight behind President Mwai Kibaki through his famous “Kibaki Tosha” declaration that rallied forces for the then opposition leader to trounce Kanu in the historic 2002 elections.
Raila, who also rallied Mt Kenya residents behind the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), sounded keen to assuage the nervousness that his presidential candidature arouses in the populous region by tracing the historical bond between the Kikuyu and Luo communities.
“When I said Kibaki Tosha, I was told the Luo community cannot support a Kikuyu and that Moi had said so.
I was told that Luos cannot vote for a Kikuyu because of what they did to (Tom) Mboya and Jaramogi.
I told Luos that there has never been war between the two communities, the differences were on policy,” he said.
ODM party leader was alluding to the political rivalry between the two communities arising from the 1969 assassination of Mboya, the charismatic independence hero and Jomo Kenyatta Cabinet minister and the 1966 resignation of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (Raila’s father) as Vice-President.
President Daniel arap Moi was in power when Kibaki contested and won the presidency in 2002.
Explaining his relationship with Kibaki yesterday, Raila said people around the President were behind his fallout with the Head of State.
“The problem started when Kibaki was unwell, his people betrayed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which we had signed. They rejected the issue of a new Constitution.
Personally, I did nothing wrong. I am the one who was betrayed. Not anyone else. It is them who owe me.
When we went to Bomas, I was betrayed for the second time and we said No (in the referendum). So I am the one who should be claiming a debt,” said Raila.
The ODM chief was making reference to his 2002 support for Kibaki and their subsequent fallout, which saw him successfully campaign against the government-sponsored draft Constitution in the 2005 referendum.
“After the Kibaki election I was escorting him to Othaya and we crossed River Chania with the presidential flag.
It was a big moment. We went to Kenol, Murang’a, Sagana, Karatina, Mukurweini then Othaya and everywhere I was being referred to as Mutongoria Njamba,” Raila recalled.
A section of powerful politicians had previously vowed that the presidency would never cross River Chania, which separates Kiambu and other parts of Mount Kenya.
The suggestion was that leadership was the preserve of Kiambu, a myth Kibaki’s victory demystified with Raila’s backing.
Raila also cited a decision by Jaramogi, to decline an offer by the colonial authorities to take up the position of Prime Minister in favour of founding President Jomo Kenyatta, who had been jailed in Lodwar alongside other freedom fighters.
“There has been friendship between the Luo and Kikuyu communities that was started by Jaramogi and Mzee Kenyatta.
Only yesterday I showed someone a letter by Mbiyu Koinange and (Joseph) Murumbi to Jaramogi in 1958 commending him for standing firm in support of Kenyatta who was in custody and was being fought politically by his colleagues, some of them from his Kikuyu community,” he narrated.
“Kenyatta’s detractors were arguing that leaders in the colonial government wanted Jaramogi to be the Prime Minister on grounds that Kenyatta was senile but Jaramogi said, No!
That would be betrayal. He demanded that Kenyatta who was in jail in Lodwar must be freed so that he can lead and this created a bond between the Luo and Kikuyu communities,” Raila said, adding that such friendship should extend to all communities in the country.
The politics of reciprocation have characterised the 2022 succession with both Raila and Deputy President William Ruto’s allies asking the Mt Kenya electorate to throw their weight between the two rivals for helping Kibaki and Uhuru, respectively, to occupy State House.
Uhuru’s exit from power in 2022 has made the region a major attraction for both Raila and Ruto with each exploiting every trick in the book to seduce the President’s backyard.
Ruto supported Uhuru for the past two elections but their relationship has hit rock bottom, with the DP resorting to court the region single-handedly.
Jubilee Vice-chairman David Murathe and Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, both strong Uhuru allies, have declared that Mt Kenya doesn’t owe Ruto any debt and have thrown their weight behind Raila who is cooperating with the President under the Handshake.
Yesterday, Raila echoed Uhuru’s Monday calls for Central Kenya to support the BBI, saying it would be beneficial to them, warning that rejecting the constitutional amendments proposed under project will be a missed opportunity.
“I would like to appeal to the people of Central Kenya and Mount Kenya at large, please view BBI as it is. It will bring great benefits and it is said that luck does not knock on the door twice.
If it knocks and you refuse to open the door it will go somewhere else. Opportunities have wings, if they are not taken, they fly away,” the ODM leader said, warning some individuals were spreading unfounded rumours about the campaign.
Uhuru and other key BBI supporters such as Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and Wiper Party boss Kalonzo Musyoka have ganged up against to fight opposition to the project being fuelled by Ruto in Mt Kenya region.
During the interview, Raila rubbished claims by Ruto that he had joined government and disrupted the Jubilee government agenda.
“I don’t have a State office and I am not paid by the government or given any other form of assistance. I do not attend Cabinet meetings. I do not know what agendas are discussed there,” he said.
He also blamed Ruto for failed Jubilee projects by fuelling divisions due to his 2022 presidential ambitions.
“Ruto has been frustrating the war against graft by defending those accused of corruption and continued sloganeering over the so-called dynasty and hustler nations,” he said.
Further, he reiterated his support for Uhuru’s call for a rotational presidency for national stability citing the case of Switzerland and Nigeria.
“Nigeria is a big nation divided on religions and tribal lines. Leaders from the North, which has a huge Muslim population, ruled for 34 years because candidates from the South would never win. But it was decided that it was time the South got a chance,” he said.