With Kenyatta, Ruto and Odinga, three’s a crowd

By Ulysse Osmont
Posted on Monday, 2 July 2018 10:14, updated on Friday, 8 March 2019 20:13

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, left, shakes hands with opposition leader Raila Odinga, right, outside Harambee House in Nairobi, Kenya (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

On 9 March, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta shook hands with opposition leader Raila Odinga, half a year after the troubled Kenyan general elections.

Odinga had boycotted the second round after the Supreme Court threw out the results of the first round due to problems in the vote’s organisation. Odinga and his allies in the National Super Alliance launched a civil disobedience campaign that was quickly abandoned. The handshake has now redefined the political landscape, with Odinga trying to stymie the rise of deputy president William Ruto.

Odinga’s gambit is that he could back a series of constitutional reforms that would allow him to cut off Ruto at the pass. The reforms, based on a nine-point agenda agreed between Kenyatta and Odinga, includes a “three-tier system that retains the current counties, creates regional or provincial governments and retains the national government with a very clear formula for revenue sharing,” says Odinga. He says his major goal is greater devolution that would address the weaknesses of the constitutional reforms of 2010. The agenda for reform also includes reintroducing the role of prime minister so as to have a dual-executive system.

Not keen on reforms

Ruto is not at all keen on the reforms. “If there is going to be a suggestion on arranging or rearranging of devolution, it cannot be creating another layer of government”, he declared at the fifth annual devolution conference on 26 April. “Those supporting the change are only interested in positions at the expense of improving lives of Kenyans,” he argued, as Odinga tried to manoeuvre into the role of future prime minister. President Kenyatta is showing that the road to reform will be a rocky one. On 19 May, he said that Odinga’s proposals “won’t solve the problems we have”.

Ruto has his eyes firmly set on the next round of presidential elections in 2022 and is busy making new friends. Kilifi governor Amason Kingi, an ally of Odinga’s, is building bridges with Ruto. Kingi is finishing his second and last term as governor and does not see much room for promotion on Odinga’s side. In May, Kingi was photographed distributing food with Ruto. Capitalising on the situation, Kingi is now trying to set up a party with members of parliament from the Coast. That could hurt Odinga’s electoral chances and shift the political chessboard in the years to come.


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