In Summary
  • Observers reckon that in the March 9, 2018 handshake, President Kenyatta found an unwavering resolve in the fight against corruption.

  • Previously, part of that energy would be expended in dealing with the Opposition, which has now mellowed into more or less an appendage of the ruling party.

  • But DP Ruto has also come under intense pressure in the new order, at times forced to go ballistic to protect his fort.

Today marks one year since President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga agreed on a truce, a watershed moment that has redrawn the country’s political architecture.

Subsequent events have not only seen marked changes in how the two leaders conduct their politics but also confused some of their staunch allies, who have either gone silent or have been forced to reinvent themselves to survive in the new circumstances.

CONFOUNDED MANY

Observers reckon that in the March 9, 2018 handshake, President Kenyatta found an unwavering resolve in the fight against corruption. Previously, part of that energy would be expended in dealing with the Opposition, which has now mellowed into more or less an appendage of the ruling party.

“In the past, it is the Opposition that used to be on the receiving end. Now, it is the corrupt elements in his government. Unlike before, Uhuru can now talk tough about corruption without worrying about those in his government who are beneficiaries of the same. He does not need their services to deal with the Opposition that is now reading from the same script with him,” observed Dr Godwin Siundu of the University of Nairobi.

Since the handshake, both President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have changed their conduct in public. Mr Odinga, a man defined by his abrasive brand of politics, no longer criticises the government. On the contrary, he has turned out to be the government’s foremost defender on a number of issues, especially the war on corruption and the Big Four agenda.

SUPPORT BASE

At the risk of losing his support base last year, he rallied his troops in Parliament to support the VAT Bill, which increased the prices of petroleum products.

Mr Odinga does not comment liberally on topical issues he feels would jeopardise his relationship with the President.

“Let that pass, I think I can get direct audience with the President to raise the issue than execute it in the media,” he once told this writer. It may be termed as the metamorphosis of Mr Odinga.

But it is the frequent visits by Cabinet secretaries to his Capitol Hill private offices that have confounded many.

Before the armistice, no Cabinet minister would appear in public with him.

Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri is the latest to pay him a courtesy call this week. Some like Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa and his Tourism counterpart Najib Balala have also visited.

On Thursday, Mr Odinga explained that he invites them to share experiences on how to achieve efficiency in the running of their dockets.

“I do this as part of the effort to involve the public in government affairs. I am a member of the public. Remember, I have been in government for many years and could help them with a thing or two,” he said in a televised interview.

OPENLY GRUMBLED

With much gusto, the former premier has also become one of the leading advocates of the Big Four agenda, President Kenyatta’s flagship projects on health, food security, housing and manufacturing that he hopes to be remembered for once he exits the stage.

In the past, Mr Odinga would be giving Jubilee administration a hard time, perhaps revealing one scandal after another and attracting an equally punitive response from the Head of State and his generals.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time Mr Odinga is going to bed with the government after a bitterly contested election.

Save for 2008, when he ended up as prime minister in the grand coalition government with Mwai Kibaki, Mr Odinga also co-operated with President Daniel Moi in the late 90s before the two parted ways when the retired Head of State anointed Mr Kenyatta as his choice of successor.

President Kenyatta is also a transformed man, thanks to the handshake.

Top Jubilee figures have openly grumbled that the handshake has drawn a wedge between him and Deputy President William Ruto and the Jubilee leadership in Parliament.

CONSULTATION

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