Kenya opposition leader Raila Odinga (PHOTO/Courtesy)
Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga to organize a protest march to State House in Nairobi to “take” power from Dr. William Samoei Arap Ruto on Monday, March 20, 2023. Dr. Ruto warns, Raila and his Azimio team to be held responsible for everything that happens thereafter. “Enough is Enough”. He adds.
Monday, March 20, 2023, is the much-publicized day for a mass action in Kenya to be led by Azimio La Umoja’s Raila Odinga with an intention to ‘liberate’ Kenyans from what they call a bad regime. According to Raila, Ruto’s regime is stealing and exploiting Kenyans and is unable to control the high cost of living. Raila’s team has organized a mass action through the streets of Nairobi to replace Ruto’s regime.
This effort Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga and his Azimio team are currently going through to make Kenya “forget” the past will essentially cost them individually and their motherland collectively. It is just 16 years after the 2007 turmoil in which Odinga and Ruto were on one side against Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta. Another blood is a blink away from shedding in Kenya and this time at the account of political egoism rooted in the sense of entitlement and belief that one has an automatic right to become the President of Kenya.
As a son to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga-the first post-independence Kenya’s Vice President, Raila believes that he has an automatic right to become the President of Kenya. This sense of entitlement has been reflected in his contesting for the Presidency during elections in which he is not looking for a majority vote, but to be simply endorsed as a matter of course. Like the father, he has been bypassed by people he does not believe possess a better political history than his. The latest and most shocking one was Dr. Ruto’s succession in 2022.
It is at a political junction of this sense of entitlement and perceived historical injustice where Raila meets a curse in elections in which he has always participated as the ‘Best Man’ while the main actors assume the Presidency and serve. This has further created a traumatic experience on Raila which is worsened by a number of other factors outside his own control but which fundamentally affect his perceived historical injustice and personal entitlement to Presidency:
Old age. Raila, having attempted to become President of Kenya five times, with none of his attempts being successful, each time alleging electoral fraud, is in the evening of his career as an active political participant in Kenyan politics. It is only by nature that he is becoming very old which may soon affect his energy to galvanize national appeal and support among the youth and his strongholds.
Failure to create or identify a political successor. Raila Odinga has been the political Kingmaker in the western counties around Lake Victoria. From his first time as a presidential candidate, his fellow Luo ethnic voters have been stuck with this man they affectionately refer to as “Baba”-meaning father. But this loyalty came into question after he successfully lost to Dr. Ruto in his fifth bid to become President. There is no question that this is a signal of diminishing political influence. Unfortunately, he does not have a successor to uphold his political interests both at a national level and in his former strongholds. This is a big threat to Raila’s political legacy as he finds nobody to trust his political future with. Reciprocally, the reverse is seemingly true that even his possible political successors like Kalonzo Musyoka have in the recent past declared Raila unreliable and undependable. Therefore, to save his face among his support base, amidst the difficulty of admitting that he has continued to lose elections, he has to continue to fan his support base to keep the hope alive.
The William Ruto factor/nightmare. There is an evident failure to accept reality that he, the entitled son of the former Vice President was defeated by William Ruto, a hitherto unknown son of a Peasant. As usual, Raila was not convinced that he failed to make it into Presidency. He rejected the electoral results as null and void. He filed a case with the Supreme Court of Kenya which later declared that the results were not null and void. This Supreme Court ruling was against Raila Odinga’s wish and it was Ruto’s second triumph against the former Prime Minister of Kenya. Moreover, in his inaugural speech as President, Dr. Ruto declared that his presidency was not ready to entertain the ‘handshake’ political relations which had been ushered into Kenyan politics by a Raila-Uhuru coalition in the last term of Kenyatta as President of Kenya. This coalition had given birth to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) which was regarded as an agreement to allow sharing of power that was blocked by the Supreme Court in March 2022. Dr. Ruto was seen as the main winner in the Supreme Court decision to block the BBI because he was strongly against it while Raila strongly championed it.
Hope to stir an apprising in Kenya. Raila, after the hope to access Presidency legally appears to be disappearing, he resorts to another but rather bitter hope. Hope that he can replicate the Arab Spring mob action in Kenya. Mr. Odinga, with examples of Tunisia, Egypt and Sudan, decides to jump onto a gamble-headed hope to oust the President and capture Presidency. It will definitely be one of his hardest if not last active political journeys. It will be a treasonous act to attempt to “take” power through mass demonstrations from a president who is constitutionally recognized.
The above are some of the drivers for Odinga to attempt desperate measures of trying to capture power with mass political action. Whether he will make a head through is yet to be seen on Monday. I am not convinced that this is the Kenya either of them would love to lead or any sensible Kenyan would love to identify with.
There is a failure to appreciate the lessons from history and this is reflected in this sense of superiority and arrogance pushing leaders to behave as if they are above the law. If there was anything to achieve from these chaotic mobilizations, then it is good enough to encourage them to exercise the perceptive judgment to reach the pinnacle of success instead of expressing this inability to swallow pride of populism and adopting gambles that are setting Kenya to unnecessary senses of insecurity and vulnerability.
Anyway, if this section of partisan politicians who failed to get majority vote successfully marches through Nairobi up to State House on Monday, there will be a bigger challenge and Kenya will definitely close at all costs. But am very sure, even if successful, Raila and his team will not fix Kenya’s problems in a year, two or even five!