NAIROBI – Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga has opened up about his rollercoaster year that started with his ‘swearing-in’ ceremony and culminated in the historic handshake with his then bitter rival President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In an interview with Citizen TV, Odinga revealed little on how the handshake was achieved, but credited two ‘mediators’ from both sides of the political divide on the truce that saw him shake hands with President Kenyatta on March 9, ending the political suspense and uncertainty that cast a dark cloud on Kenya’s future.
Following his ‘swearing-in’ at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on January 30, Odinga said the opposition coalition mulled forming a parallel government with its own taxation system imposed in their political strongholds.
“We basically decided that if these people are not ready to talk then we were going to set up a parallel administration. There were also those who said that, after the ‘swearing-in’ they were going to remove all the portraits of the President and also we would start collecting taxes in our strongholds,” said Odinga.
Odinga revealed the heated behind-the-scenes debates that informed his ‘swearing-in’ ceremony.
“There were two schools of thought. There were those who thought it was too risky and that we should look for other ways to achieve what we wanted. Then there were others who were saying that there would be no talks unless we put pressure on these people,” said Odinga.
The ODM leader said the party members had agreed to accept the consequences of the ‘swearing-in’ ceremony should they be locked up. In fact, Odinga said, they had recorded their rehearsals video and would have published them had they been arrested before the ‘swearing-in’ ceremony.
During their peace talks, Odinga said the mediators wanted to push for President Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda but he insisted on discussing the contentious 2017 General Election in which several people lost their lives and others injured in the post-poll skirmishes with the police.
Despite the talk about succession politics, Odinga said he was not going to plunge the country into a campaign mood so soon after last year’s elections even though his rivals accuse him of using the handshake as a springboard for the 2022 State House race to succeed Kenyatta.
“If I was to run for president I would say it but I have not said it. If I start campaigning now then this country will be in a campaigning mood straight away…tomorrow…and nobody will be talking about the Big Four agenda,” said Odinga.
On his daughter Rosemary’s illness that left her partially blind, Odinga said it hit him like “thunder” on the campaign trail.
“After the operation in Nairobi, she was comatose for eight days… so we had to send her by air ambulance to South Africa where she stayed for three months, Ida (Odinga’s wife) had to take up an apartment in Johannesburg,” said an emotional Odinga.
“When they stayed there she was on a wheelchair, and then she came back and we went to Israel briefly… then it was a Chinese physical therapist who discovered that something was not adding up. So he took a scan and discovered that an aneurysm, which had burst, was recurring and there was another one next to it and a tumor.”
Asked about his new role as the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development, Odinga said his duty entails ensuring the interconnection of energy, roads, railways, ICT, as well as air transport throughout the continent. – The Daily Nation