President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga during the launch of the initial BBI report on November 27, 2019.
BUDDIES? President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga during the launch of the initial BBI report on November 27, 2019.

By Reporter

There is growing unease in President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga’s camps that could seriously threaten the Building Bridges Initiative.

Is the handshake slipping?

While the disquiet has been linked to heightening mutual suspicions, there are also concerns the President’s failure to overhaul the Cabinet could be fuelling the discontent.

The future of the final BBI report also remains unknown as it has not been officially handed to the President, one month after the task force’s mandate expired. The report has been completed.

Former Mukurweini MP Kabando Wa Kabando on Thursday termed Uhuru’s reign “shaky” and warned that the “ship will sink” if the President doesn’t act decisively to address growing disillusionment among Kenyans.

Kabando said Uhuru should dissolve his Cabinet, a view shared by some of Raila’s allies who are questioning the benefits of the handshake to their team.

“President Uhuru’s reign shaky. We’ve said it before, only now ‘whispers’ all over.  The ship is fast sinking. Mr. President, act boldly: dissolve the entire Cabinet, focus on Covid-19 economic cushion remedies ref: joblessness, food, rent. Cabinet stink filthy rotten. Masses in stress,” Kabando tweeted.

Kabando is a key ally of the President and a staunch supporter of the handshake. He has visited Raila numerous times at his Capitol Hill offices in Nairobi.

But Kabando now says Uhuru should shift his focus from the BBI and address the pressing challenges facing Kenyans.

He says Uhuru’s close confidants, including in ODM and in Wiper, are dishonest and only interested in accumulating wealth.

“Elections, 9th Aug 2022. 2yrs 1wk to go. Most in President Uhuru’s circle greed taps. They’re dishonest to him. Including ODM and Wiper Democratic Movement. They’ll deny, but it’s material survival at core. Looting, aggrandizement,” Kabando said.

His statements did not come as a surprise.

Last weekend, Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata, a key Uhuru ally, claimed they would pull out of the BBI if the contentious counties’ revenue sharing formula fails in the Senate.

Senate Majority Chief Whip Irungu Kang'ata during the special sitting to impeach Deputy Speaker Kithuri Kindike on May 22, 2020.
Senate Majority Chief Whip Irungu Kang’ata during the special sitting to impeach Deputy Speaker Kithuri Kindike on May 22, 2020.

“It’s true we shall not support BBI if this formula doesn’t pass. My Nasa brothers should learn the art of humility and waiting patiently for the larger cause instead of focusing on small gains,” Kang’ata was quoted on Monday as saying.

Kang’ata’s move to even go further to insinuate that Raila – not Uhuru – is the ‘owner’ of BBI, exposed the growing mutual suspicions that have rocked the two camps.

“They always come very near the prize, then a small  thing torpedoes everything. BBI is their baby, let them choose BBI or the formula,” the Murang’a senator added.

Exposing increasing fears in the Raila brigade, Siaya Senator James Orengo on Tuesday declared President Kenyatta was the cause of the Senate revenue formula standoff.

“I am advising the current President to be more accessible for him to enable us to solve these problems,” Orengo told senators.

 He went on, “We would not have been here if he was more accessible. I’m telling you without being afraid. I’m not saying it for me, I’m saying it for the country.”

On Thursday, it emerged President Kenyatta’s failure to make changes to his Cabinet could be part of the bigger issue that has triggered disquiet even in his own camp.

Earlier this year, the President is said to have asked for names from key opposition leaders of those they wanted included in his Cabinet as he plotted an expanded Executive to unite the country.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Kanu chairman Gideon Moi and Raila reportedly handed over the names of allies for the slots. 

For months, the President who fell out with his Deputy William Ruto, hasn’t appeared keen to overhaul the Cabinet, triggering a groundswell of suspicion that he could have abandoned the idea.

“Political support should be rewarded. We have been anticipating a radical overhaul of government but that seems not to be happening. We don’t know what is happening,” a close Raila ally told the Star on condition of anonymity.

However, Igembe North MP Maoka Maore said the handshake and BBI remain the priority but hit out at people around the President.

“The people around the President are a major hindrance to the success of the President,” he said.

“We will stand against threats to the handshake. The underlying issues are still relevant. The war on corruption is being curtailed by the culprits who have infiltrated the Judiciary and the investigative agencies,” Maore added.

On Thursday, USIU professor of history and diplomacy Macharia Munene  confirmed to the Star the obvious – there is growing unhappiness in the Uhuru-Raila camps.

“For a long time, Raila has been calling the shots but there has been suspicion about who is planning to play the other. It appears that [Raila’s power] has boomeranged and Raila has now been put in his rightful place,” he said.

The professor said there is increasing rebellion even against the President that could hurt the future of BBI and impede any possible Cabinet changes.

“The President can’t handle the rebellion. The revenue formula has been used as a political tool to bring out those concerns,” he said.

However, University of Nairobi lecturer and political analyst Herman Manyora said actions and events can threaten the BBI but insisted the President and Raila are firmly in charge.

“Whatever Uhuru and Raila want will come to pass. Uhuru and Raila are in control,” he said.

Njoroge Baiya, the immediate former chairman of the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee, warned that time has run out for any meaningful engagements on BBI.

The former Githunguri MP said President Kenyatta and Raila made a mistake when they rolled out the BBI as a process driven by two individuals.

“The two leaders have interests and ambitions. They also have opponents. I see a lot of challenges for BBI,” Baiya said.

He added, “There is no time that would be favourable for consensus building. There are inherent challenges that would affect the implementation of BBI.”

Chuka Igamba Ng’ombe MP Patrick Munene said Mt Kenya is not interested in the BBI.

“If you want to be irrelevant in Mt Kenya, bring on BBI. People want us to discuss jobs and the economy, not BBI,” he said.

However, ODM chairman John Mbadi denied there is any unease in Raila’s camp, saying the revenue impasse should not be used to gauge the relationship of the two leaders.

“The revenue impasse should be divorced from BBI. Nothing has gone wrong,” the National Assembly Minority leader said.

He added, “Uhuru has been accessible to Raila. ODM has not made an attempt to reach out to Uhuru. I think Orengo was speaking [about Uhuru’s inaccessibility] from the point of view of the Senate leadership.”

The handshake of March 9, 2018, will not be threatened, ODM secretary of political affairs and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi said, expressing confidence.

“The upheaval around the revenue impasse is passing. President Kenyatta’s support for us (ODM) is very steady. Kenyans will always talk. We are in the BBI for the long haul,” he said.