Whispers of Raila endorsement in Uhuru's meeting with Azimio MPs
President Uhuru Kenyatta is this afternoon set to host lawmakers allied to Mr Raila Odinga, who is perceived to be his preferred candidate in the 2022 presidential contest, with close allies saying this may mark the beginning of his public involvement in the race.
The meeting at State House in Nairobi comes at a time when the President’s loyalists have been pushing him to be more involved in the race and in the Jubilee Party affairs.
It also comes amid concerns that proposed talks of a coalition between Mr Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Jubilee have stalled, even as the former prime minister works on his Azimio la Umoja Movement to mirror the iconic pro-reform, anti-establishment wave that swept President Mwai Kibaki into power in 2002.
At least 12 parties, including the ruling Jubilee, have expressed interest in joining Mr Odinga’s Azimio train, which has adopted royal blue as its official colour. Mr Odinga will begin his nationwide campaign rallies in Thika, Kiambu County, on Saturday.
On Wednesday, MPs allied to the President, Mr Odinga, and those backing the One Kenya Alliance — who all last week ganged up to outfox Deputy President William Ruto in the contentious amendments to political party laws — received messages inviting them to the meeting that could have a huge political significance.
“Good morning mheshimiwa. I would like to invite you to a luncheon at State House, Nairobi [today]. Please be punctual. We should be done by 1pm,” reads the text message sent out by Majority Leader Amos Kimunya and Minority Whip Junet Mohamed.
Reached for comment, Mr Kimunya said lawmakers allied to DP Ruto were left out because they have been opposing the government’s agenda in Parliament.
The Kipipiri MP said the main agenda of the meeting will be to appraise leaders on what the Jubilee administration has achieved over the past nine years and on the country’s unity.
OKA leaders invited
ODM chairman John Mbadi, who is also Minority Leader in the National Assembly, confirmed the invitation but refused to confirm whether or not Mr Odinga will attend.
Sources, however, said the ODM boss has been invited for the meeting, as have OKA bosses Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang’ula, Kalonzo Musyoka, and Gideon Moi. Amani National Congress (ANC) deputy party leader Ayub Savula confirmed attendance, as did Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat .
Sources within Jubilee said the President could use the opportunity to allay disquiet in the party.
“The President might also [seek to assuage] members who are impatient with his delay in giving direction [regarding his succession plan],” said a source within the Jubilee Party leadership.
Another senior Jubilee official said the meeting will also give the President a chance to unveil the Azimio la Umoja team at the National Assembly.
Eldas MP Adan Keynan, who is also the Secretary of the Jubilee Coalition Joint Parliamentary Group, said:
“This will be [the ultimate unveiling of the] Azimio group [in Parliament].”
Kieni MP Kanini Kega said that, since the meeting involved other parties who have already announced their presidential flag-bearers, Jubilee and ODM affairs are unlikely to feature.
Decisions on succession
“It would be selfish to talk about our parties’ affairs when others are also there,” Mr Kega said, adding, a Jubilee and ODM meeting will be convened later.
The meeting comes amid uncertainty over Jubilee’s National Delegates Conference (NDC), which was slated for end of last November but was put off at the last minute.
Earlier, the convener of the Mt Kenya Focus Group, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, told the Nation that the President’s allies are looking forward to the NDC to enable them to make several decisions on succession.
“The NDC is when we essentially hit the road as a party. It will be where we determine the direction to take in this year’s elections, including what formations we will be part of,” he added.
Allies of deputy President William Ruto yesterday said they had not been invited and would not have gone, had they been.
“I’m a founder member of United Democratic Alliance (UDA). I can’t have lunch when thousands of citizens in northern Kenya are facing severe drought, and have lost their animals and livelihoods. This is even as government functionaries have stolen the Sh2 billion allocated by Parliament,” Garissa Township MP Aden Duale said.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, another Ruto ally, said: “I respect the President but I’ve not been invited. I don’t plan to defend or seek any seat with a Jubilee ticket. It is good that the President has found it fit to invite others and skip my name.”
“The President is busy in his designs and this is good and commendable. As UDA, we are busy with our agenda.”