The much-publicised handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga has been skillfully presented as merely a pact aimed at fostering peace in the country after the hotly contested 2017 presidential election.
However, the growing political undertones, especially from Raila’s side of the divide, are telling a different story.
The ODM brigade led by Siaya Senator and a close ally of Mr Odinga, James Orengo, seem keen to use every opportunity to push a neatly-crafted narrative aimed at creating an illusion that the handshake involved a deal that will see Uhuru support Raila’s presidential bid in 2022.
His statement during the official launch of the Universal Health Coverage by President Kenyatta in Kisumu, attended by Raila, Deputy President William Ruto and a host of other leaders, raises speculations over whether there is a hidden agenda behind the Uhuru-Raila handshake.
“Mambo ya 2022 ni mambo ya Mungu. Lakini tunaona dalili nyengine hapo, we (Uhuru) unajua. Namimi sitaki niulizwe. Na mheshimiwa Ruto anasema yuko hapo katikati lakini 2022 we (Uhuru) unajua. (only God knows what will happen in 2022, but I have seen signs (that show) you (Uhuru) also know. I wouldn’t’ want to be asked questions and I have heard Deputy President Ruto say he is in between (Uhuru and Raila), but you (Uhuru) are the one who knows about 2022),” he said.
His statement was a build-up on President Kenyatta’s statement during his tour of the Central region, that his choice of a presidential candidate in 2022 will shock many.
According to political analysts, a pact exists between Uhuru and Ruto that should automatically see the President throw his weight behind his deputy in the 2022 elections, thus allowing Ruto to inherit Uhuru’s Central region support base.
However, the March 9 handshake between Uhuru and Raila that has brought relative calm in the country seems to have changed tides, with Raila’s allies pushing for a coalition between his and Uhuru’s bases.
ODM leaders have sustained pressure on Uhuru to support Raila as a way of righting the perceived wrongs allegedly committed by his father Jomo Kenyatta who perceivably fell out with Raila’s father Oginga Odinga after the latter reportedly ‘handed’ the presidency to Jomo Kenyatta, a narrative that was reinforced by Raila in his speech at the Kisumu function.
It is such utterances and actions, both direct and indirect, that are making Kenyans question the actual motive behind the handshake whose content (other than the Building Bridges Initiative) has never been made public.
So was the handshake aimed at fostering peace or forming a force that will stop Ruto from becoming president? Only time will tell.