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Uhuru's secret night date with Raila

THE STAR 04/2/2021

Raila's ODM party immediately called off the process of identifying its 2022 presidential candidate.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, inspecting government projects in Nairobi CBD on April 1 View pictures in App save up to 80% data.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, inspecting government projects in Nairobi CBD on April 1

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM boss Raila Odinga on Thursday put on a show of unity in attempts to end weeks of anxiety and claims of mischief and suspicions over the fate of BBI.

The duo defied swirling speculation over a fractious relationship and staged a united front of common purpose in Nairobi streets to prove naysayers of their handshake wrong.

The President led the former prime minister on a tour of the new Green Park bus terminus and inspected a couple of projects around the city to calm fears in Raila's camp over possible betrayal.

It was interesting for Raila to join the President in inspecting development projects given that he holds no formal Executive position in government to warrant such roles.

However, the significance of major developments that have taken the country by storm in the last few weeks and the turbulence roiling BBI exposed the loaded political symbolism in the tour.

There has also been speculation that Raila's allies were considering forming an alliance with Deputy President William Ruto to counter Uhuru’s perceived betrayal ahead of the 2022 polls.

Raila's camp has been jittery over suspicions that Uhuru's allies were propping up the One Kenya Alliance of Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetang’ula and Gideon Moi.

The ODM leaders' camp has furiously protested unfairness in the distribution of the 70 constituencies proposed in the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which they argue favours Uhuru's Central Kenya backyard.

This was the first time Raila was stepping out in public following his battle with Covid-19 that bogged him down three weeks ago, throwing a cloud of uncertainty over the BBI process.

"Thank you Uhuru for inviting me to get out, so that Kenyans can see my face. I am happy to see the progress at the Green Park terminus,” Raila said at the new facility.

The ex-PM had on Wednesday tested negative for coronavirus before hosting a high-ranking organ of his party - the Central Management Committee - for a BBI scorecard.

The Star reported that Uhuru placed a call to Raila on Tuesday night to reassure him of his commitment to the handshake following negative BBI outbursts by ODM top officials.

It has emerged that the President could have decided to go flat out to solidify the handshake despite claims power-wielding men in the presidency are scheming to shortchange Raila ahead of 2022.

Thursday's skin-deep show of rapprochement followed a political roller-coaster of intrigues that on Wednesday night saw Uhuru and Raila share dinner at the ODM boss' Karen residence.

The Star has established that the President visited Raila accompanied by at least three people, including former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo to affirm the spirit of harmony and friendship.

State House spokesperson Kanze Dena however did not confirm or deny the Wednesday night meeting.

“No comment,” was all Kanze said when asked whether the President visited Raila’s home.

The President is said to have made a phone call to the ODM boss around 5.30pm communicating his surprise dinner, even a security team lined up along Ngong' Road to enhance his movement.

At that time, Raila had just arrived from Chungwa House where he had held a consultative meeting with a section of party officials and was in the company of Siaya Senator James Orengo.

Sources told the Star that Raila immediately phoned Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, one of his closest allies, to join them at his Kerarapon home in Karen.

The President's motorcade escorted in four cars and four motorcycles pulled up at Raila's residence at around 6.30pm and left a few minutes to 9pm.

At Raila's home, the head of state was ushered to gazebo where Raila, Orengo and Junet were seated.

A family source said Raila had planned to leave the city for the Coast to spend his Easter holidays there but cancelled for a flurry of engagements with the President.

Details of the meeting were not available, but the events that followed lifted the lid on what was seen as the President's deliberate move to calm jitters in Raila's camp that he had abandoned him.

Uhuru and Raila had lengthy deliberations at the gazebo and even had their supper served there accompanied by at least five of their allies.

At one point, Uhuru is said to have engaged Raila in a private chat as he (Raila) saw off the President a few minutes to 9pm.

It is believed that, at this point, Uhuru invited Raila to the Thursday tour of development projects in Nairobi county.

ODM national chairman John Mbadi though admitting not to be aware of Uhuru’s visit to Raila's home, said it could be possible after the opposition supremo tested negative.

“I have no idea. Maybe he went. You know after he (Raila) tested negative, now I think the President could visit. He couldn’t go because Raila was in isolation. I just assume that could happen but I have no idea,” Mbadi told the Star on the phone.

Tellingly, Raila's ODM party immediately suspended the nomination process for its 2022 presidential flag-bearer as a 'good gesture' following the President visit.

“After consultations with the party leadership and NEB, the party has resolved to postpone the remaining NEB processes on this matter to focus on the BBI process,” read a statement by secretary general Edwin Sifuna.

He went: “The NEB will, therefore suspend the vetting and/or further processing of the applications until after conclusion of the BBI process.”

Raila and governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa) and Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) had submitted their nomination papers by Wednesday evening, setting the stage for a gruelling battle for the ODM ticket.

The nomination process, were it to proceed, would have strained ties between Uhuru and Raila's allies amid squabbles over the BBI referendum process.

However, the ODM party has moved to whip its members to line in support of the BBI referendum and maintained that they will not tolerate any more push to amend the Bill in Parliament.

Last week, ODM sent a strong signal that it is in the process of cobbling up a political machine that would not only shake the country but will also shape the events of 2022.

However, Uhuru's moves are now seen as meant to salvage the BBI referendum after Raila had developed cold feet on the drive amid claims of mischief from the President’s men.

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