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Baba to eat omena in Addis? But what exactly is secret deal with Ruto?

Lion Place broke the biggest political exclusive so far this year. “Ruto backs Raila over Kenyatta for AU top job,” The Star reported on January 9.

Ruto did what? It’s the sort of headline that makes you stop and stare because of what Kenya’s politics has been in the past year. After Azimio candidate Raila Odinga lost his fifth presidential election in 2022, the veteran opposition leader declared Ruto an “illegitimate President”.

Raila and his Azimio team rallied their troops to March 20, 2023 as the “Date With Destiny”, the start of nationwide maandamano to push Ruto out of power. The opposition even threatened to storm State House to reclaim Raila’s “stolen victory”. People died and others were injured in clashes with police and plenty of property was destroyed.

The protests only stopped when the two sides agreed to form a bipartisan committee to resolve the opposition’s grievances. The National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) co-chaired by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah published its report that has been adopted by Parliament but is yet to be implemented.

And then you read in the news that the two fierce antagonists, Ruto and Raila, are working together to make Raila chairman of the African Union Commission? The Star broke a huge story.

Was this one of the Nadco recommendations? No. How, then, was the deal struck outside the bipartisan dialogue mechanism? The Star did not say, only reporting that:

“Sources said a deal to have Raila replace [current AU Commission chairman Moussa] Faki could have been hammered in July last year and might have paved the way for the bipartisan talks”. Interesting choice of words there, “could have been”, “might have”.

More than a month after The Star exclusive, other media houses confirmed the news. Raila publicly announced his candidature on February 15. The government is backing him.

So, what exactly was the deal Raila cut with Ruto? Were the issues that took the opposition to the streets on the table: independent audit of 2022 elections, fungua servers, high cost of living, reform IEBC, and so on? What does this turn of events mean for the Nadco proposals?

Once Raila made his position known, Nairobi’s political journalists immediately treated Baba’s accession to the chairmanship of the AU Commission as a fait accompli and promptly swung into writing his political obituary in mournful tones.

“With the impending leadership vacancy at the giant Azimio la Umoja coalition following Raila Odinga’s exit from local politics, the former Vice President [Kalonzo] is painstakingly trying to convince the coalition not to look anywhere for a new captain (The Star, February 20, p.6).

“Raila’s departure will undoubtedly create a significant void in Kenyan politics. His leadership and influence have been an integral part of the country’s political landscape and many will feel his absence.” (The Star editorial, February 20, p.16).

“How Raila’s exit from politics will impact the Luhya nation” (Standard, February 19, p.6). “The former Prime Minister is a towering figure on Kenya’s political landscape and many cannot fathom politics without him.”

The Standard editorial cartoonist Gammz depicted Azimio marching to the 2027 election headless. The Star’s Ozone caricatured “the race to fill Raila’s shoes.”

When some Azimio MPs were seen with President Ruto last year, a chorus went up that Ruto was killing multiparty democracy by co-opting the opposition. Now, Raila is the ‘government project’ in the AU election and everyone pretends not to see.

In a lead story titled, “Raila AU job splits Azimio principals” (Standard, February 20), the paper reported “murmurs in the opposition coalition over their leader’s engagement with Ruto on the African Union Commission chairmanship job without bringing co-principals on board.”

“Asked whether he was aware of Raila’s secret negotiations with the government for the AUC chair job, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka said he would not want to go into that as it would create bad blood for nothing. ‘Let’s focus on endorsing his bid for the AU,’ he said.”

You can’t miss Kalonzo’s sense of disappointment and resignation. What happened?

It appears the Nadco was a distraction as Ruto and Raila hammered a secret pact. Even media, the supposedly unblinking watchdog, was sidetracked.

KTN reported on February 19 that: “A source within Kenya Kwanza who sought anonymity said there was a secret handshake deal that happened almost four months ago when former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo met the two in Mombasa last year.”

Ruto and Kenya Kwanza administration have repeatedly rejected a ‘handshake’ with Raila. Yet the government is backing his African Union bid. How is this not a ‘handshake’? And what other goodies were exchanged in the secret détente? The grapevine has it that some of Raila’s men will soon be appointed to government.

This is the story the media is yet to tell Kenyans and the world.

See you next week!

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