Raila in charm offensive on Mt Kenya leaders
Baraka Karama and Eric Juma
Kang’o ka Jaramogi, the home of the late doyen of multiparty politics Jaramogi Oginga Odinga at weekend played host to symbolic visits of influential politicians and professionals from Mt Kenya as well as the Kikuyu Council of Elders.
It was a hive of activity that saw elders perform what was dubbed a reconciliation ceremony between Kikuyu and Luo communities that have been bitter political rivals for the past three elections.
The presence of key allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta, notably Jubilee Vice-chairman David Murathe, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth and Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, stirred strong conversations that it was an endorsement of Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s presidential ambitions. There has not been such an assembly of Mt Kenya leaders at the home in the recent past.
Yesterday, Nairobi businessman Jimi Wanjigi led a team of his colleagues to a fundraiser for a church in Bondo where they were hosted by Raila.
Both Raila and his visitors were keen to tacitly project the visit as meant to support the Handshake between Uhuru and the Opposition leader, and a further isolation of Deputy President William Ruto.
“Our unity is very important and it is high time Kenyans see those who mean well for this country and support their agendas,” said Wanjigi who was accompanied by Kirinyaga senator Charles Kibiru, and Equity Bank chief operation officer Polycarp Igathe.
Senator Kibiru announced that more leaders will visit Bondo to cement the new-found unity between the two communities.
“We will still come here more and more so that people can see that we are united more than ever, “he said.
“If you see me here a day after our elders’ visit, do not take it for granted. I am a great friend of this family and we will always walk together,” noted Wanjigi.
For his part, Raila reiterated that the visits were geared to foster national cohesion and reconciliation.
He pointed out that Jaramogi had rallied members of the Luo community to push for the release of founding President Jomo Kenyatta from Kapenguria where he had been imprisoned by the colonial authorities.
“We are only cementing ties between the two communities but other people are speculating that I have been endorsed. We are more concerned about unity,” he said in Bondo.
Siaya senator James Orengo who also spoke at the function reiterated his earlier statement that Raila will make a fifth stab at the presidency
“What you are seeing here confirms that we are working closely with our friends from the mountain to reach Canaan”, he said of a weekend when “the mountain met the lake.”
Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni said the country will find permanent peace if Luo and Kikuyu communities work together.
Kioni stated that strategies had been put in place to ensure the relationship realised through the Handshake between Uhuru and Raila is sustained.
Speaking when he led the delegation of elders to Kang’o Ka Jaramogi, Kioni said ideological differences evident in the past would be no more.
“We are focussed on gathering all and scattering none, the differences which had been there between the two communities are going to be solved to ensure they work together for the sake of peace in this country,” said Kioni.
He warned that if there is any politician who thinks he or she would use the perceived differences between the Luo and Kikuyu communities to ascend to presidency, he or she should forget.
“No politician will capitalise on the past differences between Luo and Kikuyu to get a presidential seat in 2022,” warned the MP in what was interpreted as a dig at Ruto.
Though Raila has not publicly declared his intention to run for the presidency in 2022, a group of influential politicians allied to Uhuru have endorsed him for the seat.
On his part, nominated MP Maina Kamanda said Mt Kenya will back Raila in the next election.
“Raila is the best bet for 2022. That’s why we hover around him,” said Kamanda.
He said he will be the “most disappointed Kenyan” if Raila shelves his presidential ambitions.
Peter Kenneth said their visit to Bondo was just the beginning of a journey to retrace the steps of founding fathers Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi whose desire, he noted, was to see a united Kenya.
“We seek to ensure peace and unity in this country as demonstrated by the handshake, which will culminate to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and welcome any other like-minded communities to come on board,” he said.
The delegation of more than 700 people was led by the chairman of the Kikuyu Council of Elders Wachira Kiago.
Recent public endorsement of Raila by Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe and Cotu secretary Francis Atwoli, has elicited many reactions.
The Jubilee Vice Chairperson said President Kenyatta will prefer a Raila candidature as a way of settling a historical debt between the Head of State’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, and Raila’s father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.
“The Kenyattas owe the Odingas a debt because Raila’s father helped Mzee Kenyatta to ascend to the presidency despite sustained pressure from the colonialists,” said Murathe.
Murathe further stated that he and “other people” would persuade Central Kenya, which previously voted against Odinga in the race for presidency, to cast their ballot in support of the ODM leader in 2022 presidential race.
“Those thinking Central Kenya will not vote for Raila will be shocked,” said Murathe.
Murathe has been on the record — on several occasions — saying that Jubilee won’t support DP Ruto in the 2022 State House contest because the DP is “power-hungry, and graft-tolerant”.
His remarks came on the back of a previous (now aborted) pact, which suggested that President Kenyatta, upon the completion of his 10-year term, would support the DP’s presidential bid.