Raila pulled a quick one on his opponents
By Prof. Maurice Amutabi, Ph.D
The vote on the draft constitution in parliament was the major test for the PDM and it was clear that the alliance could not hold. The failure to rally their troops to get the required 145 votes to push through some of the amendments clearly indicated that PDM is dead. It was not lost to observers that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were the only visible leaders pushing for the amendments. Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka is a cunning politician and even though he seems to have given his tacit support for the amendments, he played behind the scenes and did not stand to be embarrassed by whatever outcome. If the amendments went through, he would have got some credit, and if they failed like they did, his image would still remain intact. Internal Security Minister Prof George Saitoti was also very careful not to put all his eggs in the amendments. Like all politicians who were created by Daniel Moi, he was careful and sat on the fence, like Kalonzo, waiting to see where the wind was blowing.
To many observers, it was unlikely that Kalonzo Musyoka and George Saitoti were going to oppose the draft by supporting the ‘No’ side in the referendum. However, it was not surprising for William Ruto to go ahead to oppose the draft as approved by parliament. Some observers thought that Uhuru Kenyatta would stand with William Ruto. By supporting the ‘Yes’ vote, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga will be on the same side of the equation since 2002. The two are obviously using their political leverage, seen with the recent reshuffling in the cabinet which saw William Ruto the Minister of Agriculture switch ministries with Sally Kosgey of Ministry of Higher Educaiton. This is different from the 2005 referendum when Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga were at opposite ends. Thus, the 2010 referendum will have significant political implications for alliances leading to the 2012 elections.
The political summersaults and movement back and forth indicates that there has been a lot of political calculation, which started in Naivasha and came to the fore during the negotiations at the Kenya Institute of Administration. Nobody believed that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto would agree on the process of devolution given the tensions that have been played out among their constituents. Regions are seen by some in the Rift Valley and at the coast as majimbo, which has terrible implications for it implies indigenous and outsiders. What is even more intriguing was the stand that Mwai Kibaki and former president Daniel Moi took in opposing the idea of devolution (regions) on lines proposed by the Uhuru/Ruto/Balala/Kalonzo axis. The opposition to devolution at the third level or tier by majority of MPs was an indication of suspicion under which majimbo is still regarded, whatever name it is called.
One wonders what regional governments would have meant to some people at the coast and the Rift Valley, but it was clear that its rejection was a major blow to Uhuru and Ruto, who share the same constituency with Mwai Kibaki and Daniel Moi. The acceptance of the draft in parliament was a major success forRaila Odinga, which goes to explain how many opponents have taken for granted his political scheming.
Right now, Uhuru Kenyatta and William need to make some changes to their political plans, and quickly in order to regroup. Their plans appear to be in disarray. If majority of Kenyans vote yes at the referendum, it will be a resounding victory for Raila’s political genius. Already over half of the Uhuru/Ruto/Balala/Kalonzo axis has made a quick about turn and joined the yes side before the referendum, leaving William Ruto to appear as a lone ranger. Although Ruto’s stand might be embarrassing in the short term, it might be a testimony in courage in the long run. He will tell all and sundry that he stood against Kibaki and Raila. Kenyans are tired of waiting for a new constitution and whoever proposes or supports a no vote will easily to be seen as the enemy of the people, and already Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga are already making this claim, with their eyes cast on William Ruto. The political pride of those for and against the constitution is on the line.
The failed constitutional negotiations at the KIA before tabling the draft constitution in parliament did not give William Ruto or Uhuru Kenyatta any political capital. If anything they appear to have lost some political and social capital. They seem to have miscalculated their support among MPs and opinion leaders from their regions. Uhuru Kenyatta was isolated by leaders who thought that the proposed regions would isolate the Gema people in diaspora, especially in the Rift Valley, and agreed with the views of former president Daniel Moi who said that regions would recreate notions of majimbo.
Daniel Moi is still widely respected in many parts of the Rift Valley and his opposition to the 25 regions that were proposed by the Uhuru/Ruto/Balala/Kalonzo axis premium was a major indictment for the two. When Mwai Kibaki joined the fold, supporting the draft constitution in parliament without amendments, the momentum swung to Raila’s side. It is former President Daniel Moi’s stand that caught many by surprise especially given the fact that he has appeared to be on the same side with Mwai Kibaki. Although Moi did not say so, many believe that it is the section covering land in the new constitution that worried him.
Moi and those others supporting the No side have been helped by the church in their cause, but they support different issues. The church is against the clause on abortion and kadhi courts, while Moi’s opposition is on land. We will have to wait and see how this plays out in the few weeks ahead although it looks like the Yes side has the votes and support of majority.
Raila Odinga is a ferocious fighter and knows it when he has the upper hand. He appears like a guy who likes to see some bloody noses in order to drive the message home to his would be opponents. Raila has not minced words in ridiculing his opponents and has been actively involved in meet the people tours throughout the country, which has made some of his rivals unhappy, especially Kalonzo Musyoka. Raila has been uncompromising and determined to drive the victory home, by taking the fight to the backyards of his rivals in Eastern, North Rift and Coast, among others. He has pulled a quick one, on his opponents.