Raila’s India trip fuels speculation

Nasa leader’s meeting with Premier Modi raises questions about post-Handshake role in government

 Seth Onyango and Roy Lumbe

Opposition leader Raila Odinga on Monday met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in what pundits say could further stoke speculation regarding his “post-Handshake” role.   

Raila met Modi in New Delhi to explore joint initiatives in maritime transport on the Indian Ocean and Lake Victoria between Kenya and the Asian nation.

Questions are being asked about the capacity in which Raila met the Prime Minister since the meeting appeared to enjoy the full endorsement of the government.

Raila, who conveyed a message of goodwill from President  Uhuru Kenyatta to Modi, was accompanied by Kenya’s High Commissioner to India Florence Weche and her deputy Belinda Omino.

Weche had also received him at the airport when he landed in India on Saturday.

And a section of Jubilee and opposition politicians have also raised eyebrows about Raila’s growing stature since he made a unity deal with President Uhuru symbolised by a handshake on the steps of Harambee House on March 9. 

Following diplomatic forays in South Africa, South Sudan and now India,  speculation is rife that the former premier may have been given a role as an envoy of the executive in international affairs as part of  the  deal with Uhuru.

Raila,  who is accompanied in the trip by  his wife  Ida and Kisumu deputy governor Mathew Owili, also met Gamini Perera, a Cabinet minister in Sri Lanka and Senator Tan Sri Dato, the president of the Upper House of Malaysia.

Raila’s latest foreign engagements could further  ruffle feathers within the  ruling Jubilee party, where his reconciliation with Uhuru is viewed with suspicion by a section of politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto.

Critics have accused him of using his rapprochement with Uhuru to undermine the Deputy President’s 2022 presidential plans.

Modi is said to have lauded the working relationship between Uhuru and Raila, describing it as positive example for Africa and the world of a leadership that unites rather than divides a nation and promised to strengthen existing Kenya-India ties for the prosperity of the two nations.

Modi and Raila also agreed on the need for greater cooperation between Kenya and India in the field of Space Technology and Agriculture.

On agriculture, Raila appealed to Modi to facilitate  the importation of at least 100,000 metric tonnes of green grams from Kenya annually to save farmers who had invested in the crop with the Indian market in mind, according to a statement from Raila’s spokesperson Dennis Onyango.

The two leaders also  agreed that India will support Kenya’s bid to host the Blue Energy conference in Nairobi in September.

Other than  high level foreign visits and meetings, Raila is said to have represented the government at the funeral of anti-apartheid icon Winnie Mandela in April.

Council of elders

Meanwhile, the Rift valley Council of Elders has called on the President to reveal details of his deal with Raila, saying it has evolved into a succession issue.

Led by the council’s patron Gilbert Kabage, the leaders said the President should put straight the details of the agreement.

Kabage said many Kenyans  are in the dark about the progress in implementing the deal.   

“The fact that neither President Kenyatta nor Mr Odinga have spoken openly on tangible progress made since the handshake has only fuelled speculation that the deal is either a closely guarded secret or that it is headed nowhere”, said Kabage.

He warned that the continued secrecy on the matter will divide the country politically. “We want the president to openly declare what is in the offing, neither him nor Raila has disclosed the real details of the deal which has left the Rift Valley communities in limbo,” he added and likened the situation to politics of the 1980s when a section of leaders were against Vice-President Moi succeeding Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. 

The councils secretary, Peter Charagu said the  handshake which was meant to bring about peace has instead evoked bitter and heated divisive politics between politicians, creating anxiety especially in Jubilee party.

“We are aware of the 2022 line up and the Jubilee succession, the President should come clean and affirm the same since we know the presidential candidate for 2022 is Ruto,” said Charagu.

On lifestyle audit, the leaders called on the government to seek assistance of the US investigative body FBI for  the exercise, saying the current agencies can be compromised.

They say the move will ​restore public trust in the fight against graft since there will be no     conflict of interest.

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