Politics is the art of the possible and anything is possible in Kenyan politics. Add into the equation that desperate politicians do desperate things and it may well be the case that at the next election we will witness what until recently would have been unthinkable: an alliance between Raila Odinga and William Ruto. But what would such a marriage of convenience say about our politics and politicians?
Kenya’s weekend newspapers have been full of speculation about a supposed meeting between Prime Minister Raila Odinga and United Republican Party (URP) leader William Ruto last Tuesday. For a meeting that some have denied ever took place and which everyone else has described as “secret”, an awful lot of people seem to know about it, who was there and what was said between the two politicians and presidential aspirants that evening.
DID ODINGA MEET RUTO?
So did they meet?
Despite some denials from aides and associates, Raila Odinga was quoted in the Weekend Star as saying that, “There is nothing wrong if I talked to any of the other leading political leaders”.
In the same issue of The Star, Roads Minister Franklin Bett was reported as expressing the view that he ‘welcomed talks between’ between Odinga and Ruto. “The move is wise and commendable”, he was quoted as saying and continued, “They should seal a deal that will see them in State House come next year”.
The meeting was apparently brokered by businessman and former Moi stalwart Joshua Kulei and took place at his home in Nairobi. Sources referred to by the Saturday Nation even named who drove Odinga and Ruto to the meeting.
These utterances and several others from people who were directly quoted as to what was said at the meeting makes it all but certain that it took place and that a deal between the two was discussed.
‘WHAT RAILA OFFERED RUTO’ – SATURDAY NATION
So what was the ‘deal’ discussed.
The Saturday Nation ran a front page headline, ‘What Raila offered Ruto’ and in the ensuing page of coverage (‘Secrets of Raila meeting with ex-ODM ally’) claimed that the Orange Democratic Movement leader had offered Ruto to be his running mate at the next election and half of the government posts in the coalition to the URP.
That’s not all. Raila Odinga was also said to have told Ruto he would serve only one term as president and support the latter’s run at the presidency in 2017.
If further confirmation was needed as to the holding of some sort of meeting along these lines, Ruto went on to the Kalenjin vernacular radio station, Chamgei FM and declared that he ‘could consider working with Mr Odinga’ if his party were rewarded with 60 per cent of seats in the government.
‘WHY EVERYONE WANTS AN ALLIANCE WITH RUTO’ – SUNDAY NATION
William Ruto is suddenly a very popular man, at least with other politicians seeking Kenya’s presidency. Other meetings have allegedly taken place between Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta and other ‘arrangements’ have been mooted with Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi.
So why does everyone seem to want an alliance with Ruto as the Sunday Nation claimed this weekend?
As the Kenya Forum pointed out in our posting on 3 October (‘Kenya, Latest Opinion Poll: Kenyatta or Mudavadi Would Beat Odinga in Second Round of Presidential Election’), opinion polls suggest that Raila Odinga looks set to win the first round of a presidential election in Kenya but not the run-off in the second round. Meanwhile, William Ruto’s URP appears to have the support of some 19 per cent of the three million voters in the Rift Valley (with ODM on 26 per cent and The National Alliance on 25 per cent).
Raila Odinga is short of votes. There are not that many ‘undecided’ voters to play for. So Odinga needs a deal, an alliance, to get him over the 50 per cent plus one hurdle come the election’s second round. Ruto and the URP might just fit the bill.
AN ODINGA-RUTO ALLIANCE: WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT KENYAN POLITICS?
William Ruto, as everyone knows, is due up before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to face allegations that he was complicit in the post-election violence of 2007-08 that followed Kenya’s last election. For some time ‘friends of Raila Odinga’ have expended a great deal of effort in portraying Ruto as guilty until proven innocent.
During the referendum into Kenya’s new constitution, Odinga led the ‘Yes’ campaign, Ruto the ‘No’ campaign. Since then the ‘friends’ have depicted Ruto as an ‘anti-reformist’ and one of the leading members of the ‘forces of impunity’.
At the time of the last election Ruto was, of course, in alliance with Raila Odinga but split from ODM, nearly joined forces with the United Democratic Movement (UDM) before earlier this year heading up the URP and his own challenge for the presidency.
Meanwhile Raila Odinga looked to split the Kalenjin vote by appealing for support to the Kipsigis against Ruto’s Nandi sub-tribe.
POLITICS AND POWER
So Odinga and Ruto will make strange bedfellows but that’s politics, Kenya-style.
The Kenya Forum says “A plague on all their houses”, Odinga’s, Ruto’s, Kenyatta’s, the lot of them. This election is not about policies. It is not about ideals. It is not about principals. It is nor really about reform. The election coming up in Kenya is about what elections have always been about here – power and the pursuit of gain.