Raila’s order on dredging muddies political waters
Antony Mwangi and Eric Wainaina
An order by Opposition leader Raila Odinga to stop dredging in the Indian Ocean to facilitate the recovery of the bodies of a mother and her daughter has escalated the rift between his supporters and those of Deputy President William Ruto.
While Ruto’s backers accuse the African Union High Representative on Infrastructure of abusing his closeness to President Uhuru Kenyatta to make government pronouncements, his supporters say he is within his rights.
On Saturday, Raila said the dredging was interfering with the efforts of divers to locate the bodies of Mariam Kighenda and her four-year-old daughter, Amanda, who drowned when their car rolled off the ferry in the Likoni Channel on September 29. He directed that the dredging stopped.
But Jubilee politicians said the ODM leader did not have the powers to give any orders and told concerned officials to ignore them.
“We are asking civil servants to ignore such orders. That fellow (Raila) has no capacity to issue any orders to anybody in government and if you follow them, that is your problem. He is in the opposition and he should limit himself to the privileges that have been given to him,” Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua said.
But according to ODM chairman John Mbadi, the former premier did nothing wrong, considering he was accompanied by a government delegation.
Raila’s involvement in State matters, he said, has the blessings of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“Those complaining should go back to the Handshake and look for the fundamental issues and also follow what the President has been saying. Uhuru has been saying he is working closely with Raila and is consulting him regularly,” Mbadi told People Daily in a phone interview.
The Leader of Minority in the National Assembly said it was only the Tanga Tanga wing of Jubilee that was uncomfortable with Raila for political reasons.
He said Raila’s critics should be alive to the “harsh reality” that he is now part of the government.
Minority Whip Junet Mohammed was more emphatic about his boss’s role in government, saying by issuing the directive, he was within his rights since he is now “part of the Executive”.
“Raila was within his rights to issue the directive. He is part of the Executive,” said the Suna East MP said.
Another key Raila ally, Senate Minority Leader James Orengo, recently said the Handshake had created two centres of power — one at State House and another at Capitol Hill Square, Raila’s office.
This, he said, could be confirmed by visits of top State officials and the President’s allies who have been trooping to Capitol Hill for official matters.
The former Prime Minister has been getting regular briefings from Cabinet secretaries and is normally accompanied by State officers when he tours government projects.
Last month, Raila met Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia at his private offices where she briefed him on the arrangements for the International Youth Day which was observed on August 12.
On March 4, he held a consultative meeting with Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and other stakeholders on the challenges facing the sugar sector.
Ruto’s allies have been demanding that the President come clean on Raila’s role in government.