Raila Odinga-Political Suicide
Raila’s Ten Years of Miscalculated Political Moves (2007-2017)
Mention the name Raila and everything that has ever happened in Kenya would be attached to it. He is the son of the first Vice President of Kenya Oginga Odinga who just like Raila Odinga fought vehemently for the independence of this great nation. You cannot mention the name democracy in this country without Raila’s name cropping in. Similarly, you cannot mention other names like Constitutional reforms, electoral law reforms, rights and freedoms, coup, demonstrations, elections and tear gas without his name coming in. Others say Raila is not a person but an Institution. Whether the preceding view is true or false, that is up to you to figure out.
Raila is a man that has contested for presidency in Kenya more than any other candidate or rather, politician alive. Having tried in 1997, 2007, 2013 and most recently in 2017, Raila has always been pushing for reforms in each of the years mentioned the outcome notwithstanding. However he has been making mistakes and the worst of them is after the 2007 general elections during the Coalition government when he began messing with or poking his political kingmaker, William Ruto.
That was Raila’s first, biggest and worst mistake. Secondly, he made a mistake by blindly moving to evict the illegal settlers in Mau Forest. Thirdly, he supported the move to send the Ocampo six to The Hague when most of the Kenyan people wanted the case to be heard locally. Fourthly, he was unapologetic to those who had supported him in 2007 by strongly and publicly attacking their own at a moment when they needed some support to free three of their kinsmen. These are some of the mistakes every politician ought to avoid if at all, he or she wishes to get to the apex of their political career. In view of the foregoing, I will address each of the mistakes from the first to the fourth one.
First Mistake: Poking His Kingmaker
Of all the leaders that made the 2007 Orange Democratic Movement’s Pentagon, William Ruto was the most invaluable, politically to Raila’s political success. Rift Valley had the most number of registered voters all of whom followed William Ruto’s direction. Musalia Mudavadi, Charity Ngilu, Najib Balala and Joe Nyagah made dismal contributions to ODM victory. I was still in secondary school and I can vividly remember how things got out of hand at the KICC.
This was when the then Electoral Commission of Kenya Chairperson Mr. Samuel Kivuitu (R.I.P) was being pressurized to explain what was happening. At some point William Ruto who was not even picked as a vice president despite what he was bringing to the table, wished that Raila gave him a chance to ensure that their victory never got stolen from them in daylight.
Raila instead decided to put his ambition aside and agreed to share power with the incumbent Mr. Mwai Kibaki through the National Accord that he signed after mediation talks. To Ruto, that was not a problem because he would though reluctantly, accept any move his master made as long as it kept them too, in power. Raila then appointed William Ruto as a Minister for Agriculture. It was slightly after the appointment that Raila made his first worst mistake.
There was a scandal in the Ministry of Agriculture and instead of seeking clarification on the best way to handle his partners, Raila came out and fired Mr. Ruto alongside his Ministry of Education counterpart. This is something you don’t do to your friends, political friends. If at all you had no option but to do it, it shouldn’t have come from him directly as this would translate to betrayal. It is not morally wrong to do what Raila did but it is politically wrong to, bearing in mind the number of votes your political partner brought to your side. While Raila fired them, his coalition partner Mr. Kibaki reinstated them back to their ministries and there was nothing Raila learnt from that. That was a mistake too.
Second Mistake: Evicting Settlers from Mau Forest
Sometime before 2010, Raila who was then the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya under the direction of Mr. Mwai Kibaki, and without forethought, was at the forefront of the Mau Forest evictions. It was a right thing to keep our forests and water catchment areas free from human interference but as said earlier, it was a politically wrong thing to do. Remember, Raila had fired Ruto from the Ministry of Agriculture on suspicion of graft and here he was again evicting the settlers most of whom came from William Ruto’s tribe. These were the people who had overwhelmingly voted for Raila in 2007 and it was suicidal to un-procedurally evict them.
Ruto pushed for a compensation plan or rather an organized eviction so that people would be given opportunity to seek alternative housing but this fell on Raila’s deaf ears. As such, this second action was taken to be an attack against Ruto and the fact that it was extended to the people, an attack against the Kalenjins. It was an act that perfectly relates with that of adding salt to a fresh wound. Consequently, William Ruto had had enough and it was time to go his own way. Kibaki was not his favourite choice, neither was Raila. Coincidentally, this came at a time when Raila and Kibaki were pushing for a new Constitution and it was a good opportunity for Ruto to send a strong message to the President and specifically to the Prime Minister.
Raila and Kibaki supported the new constitution but William Ruto went alone together with the religious leaders to oppose the Constitution. Even though the referendum went in favour of the Prime Minister and the President, the number of votes the NO camp got was something any sane politician shouldn’t have ignored. William Ruto individually got more supporters to his side compared to what the YES camp got. Almost all the Kalenjins voted against the Constitution. After this, there came the moment that everyone was waiting for, the time for the opening of the Waki Envelop that had the names of the people who were linked to the 2007 post-election violence. The envelop had been handed to ICC prosecutor and unfortunately William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta, Henry Kosgey, Joshua Sang, Francis Muthaura and Mohamed Ibrahim Ali were named. This led to Raila’s third mistake.
The Third Mistake: The Ocampo Six Must Be Tried At The Hague
After the ICC prosecutor Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo read all the names of suspected perpetrators of the 2007 post-election violence, the names shocked many. None of the names shook everyone other than Uhuru Kenyatta’s and William Ruto’s. Uhuru Kenyatta was in government then and as it appeared, his president Mr. Mwai Kibaki wished to save him by trying to seek support from other countries to have the six tried either in Kenya or the East African Court of Justice. This move was greatly opposed by Raila Odinga who opined that African Courts were not independent enough to try their own people. Raila said that there would be no justice for the victims in African courts. At this point, Raila’s mistakes were beyond repair and he had exhausted all the chances he had at getting Ruto back. Consequently, Ruto and Uhuru saw it as an opportunity, even though they were from different political sides, to come together, bury their bitter past and go through the trying moment together. Up to that point, Raila was still chest thumbing and very unapologetic as he was perhaps sure that the two would end up getting locked at The Hague, Kenyan’s would not vote in criminals or rather, he was too big to be beaten by two political toddlers.
The Fourth Mistake: He Was Unapologetic
The prodigal son knew what he had done was not right and that’s why he decided to become humbled and sought forgiveness. For Raila he was too big to be humble. He was too proud to realize that the numbers wouldn’t have gone in his favour and so he decided to mock the duo. When the ICC dropped the criminal cases against the two “political toddlers” the two decided to hold a thanks giving rally and instead of Raila being part of the rally, he accused them of dancing on the graves of those killed in 2007-2008 post-election violence. This is something you don’t do in a country whose democracy has not developed beyond tribal inclinations. Kenya is not a country that can get anything done without tribalism (either positive or negative) playing a role. As such, it was a big mistake for Raila to ignore the power of tribal politics.
As earlier mentioned, Raila has contributed to the growth and development of almost every sector, institution and laws in Kenya. You cannot talk about democracy without mentioning his name. You cannot mention Electoral and Institutional Reforms without his name coming in. Actually, you cannot talk about leadership in Kenya without mentioning his name or a role he actively played unless if you are a biased writer. Inasmuch as he may have been right about many things that have helped our country grow socially, politically and economically, Raila has made huge mistakes that have cost him his ultimate political goal, the Presidency. Now that he has withdrawn from the repeat presidential elections set for 26th October 2017, I wonder how, legally, he would come back to convince the masses to vote for him bearing in mind this was his last bullet. That is a story for another day anyway.