The Odinga family home in Bondo was Saturday the venue of a historic meeting of Kikuyu and Luo community leaders, interpreted as a public endorsement of ODM leader Raila Odinga for a top seat in the country.

Since their handshake on March 9, 2018, Mr. Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta have been working together for the sake of national peace, reconciliation, and development.

It is apparent that they are making plans for the 2022 General Election but Mr. Odinga has not declared interest in any post.

The visit to the family’s Kango Ka Jaramogi home in Siaya County was by a team of at least 700 people, including members of the Kikuyu Council of Elders and other notable figures from the Mt Kenya region.

Mr. Odinga and Mama Ida hosted the delegation led by Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, and Nyeri Deputy Governor Caroline Karugu, who presented the Odingas with gifts from the elders.

The delegation publicly declared its intention to work with the ODM party leader and his community.

The elders insisted the meeting was solely for building peace and unity between the two communities, not a public endorsement of any kind, but political undertones betrayed that assertion.

In his remarks, however, a bold MP Kamanda urged Mr. Odinga to vie for the presidency in 2022, promising that the community will back him.

He told the orange party leader that he will be disappointed if his name will not be on the ballot.

“We are here because we want to ensure this collaboration between the two communities works. We fought alongside you to get rid of Kanu. We will be with you,” he said.

ODM leader Raila Odinga during a meeting with a delegation from Mt Kenya at his family’s home in Bondo, Siaya County, on October 10, 2020.

Elders’ resolve

In his address, Kikuyu Council of Elders chair Wachira Kiago said elders from the two communities entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which will see them work together, with the support of elected leaders from Mt Kenya who want to end political divisions that have strained the community’s relations for years.

Mzee Kiago said the gathering was the culmination of a series of meetings of the two communities, which he said are seeking to cement ties and strengthen the handshake.

The elders warned members of the two communities and their leaders against going against the MoU, saying they risk facing unspecified consequences.

“We are not merely writing our MoU on a piece of paper. We have performed a cultural ceremony that’s binding to illustrate how serious it is to us,” said Mzee Kiago.

“We are inviting Raila to Central and will introduce him officially to our people to cement this unity.”

While asking the public to maintain the peace it has been enjoying, Mr. Kenneth said, “We want to walk together. That’s the reason for this delegation. We have started retracing the steps of the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi. This meeting of over 700 elders from Central is historic.”

Members of the Kikuyu and Luo communities attend a meeting with ODM leader Raila Odinga at his family’s home in Bondo, Siaya County, on October 10, 2020.

Ruto factor

In his address, Mr. Odinga told Deputy President William Ruto to quit the government instead of rocking it from within, accusing him of “only being keen on derailing the government’s agenda”.

He said the DP should resign if he feels dissatisfied with the government he helped to form.

“Take a walk if you feel dissatisfied with your boss. Do not derail the government from within,” he told Dr Ruto.

He further criticized the DP for an approach of Harambee and benevolence, reiterating that a country’s economy cannot grow through tokenism.

Mr. Odinga further noted that for the country to achieve its development ambitions, it must change the way it conducts its politics.

He regretted that countries with smaller economies than Kenya at the time of independence have since overtaken it.

The climax of the ceremony saw the elders stand, face Mt Kenya and raise their hands in a prayer of unity between President Kenyatta and Mr. Odinga as well as the two communities.

Also present at the function were the Kikuyu council’s vice chair David Muthoga and Organising Secretary Mr. James Nene, who chairs the Nakuru branch, the Luo Council of Elders, and a host of local and regional political leaders.

BBI push

In his remarks about the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), Mr. Kenneth said recommendations must be passed before the next election.

He further asked Mr. Odinga to talk to the President about making the BBI report public.

“We passed the 2010 Constitution with the agreement that it will be improved. The time to do so is now. The journey to rebuild the country has our support,” he said.

Mr. Kamanda warned Nairobi MPs allied to Kieleweke, a faction of the ruling Jubilee Party, against working with DP Ruto.

“As we wait for the next polls, we will be identifying those who will help us fight against Tangatanga MPs in the capital city,” he said, adding that nobody will be allowed to divide the country along ethnic lines.

He added, “We are putting together a BBI team that will drive the campaigns for the referendum in Nairobi.”

Mr. Kioni said they joined hands with elders from the region to search for peace and unity, which will be extended to all the tribes.

“Every time we have come together the country calms down. We have had enough bad experiences since 1992. We have a unique solution for our past political problems,” he said.

He described the BBI as the country’s best bet for peace and said the whole country should embrace it.

“Politicians must understand why we have been bickering. It has been purely on ideological differences. We are committed to making sure we move together. We should use ideologies to ascend to power, not to cause bloodshed,” he said.

Mr. Kioni further noted that the peace and democratic gains Kenyans are enjoying are the results of the 2010 Constitution and agreements negotiated by PNU and ODM.

“We thank Raila for his selflessness. Those thinking they will cause trouble are lost because Luos and Kikuyu are working together,” he said.

Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o read resolutions to cement the day’s intentions, in which Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya noted the handshake brought about peace, unity, and political stability.

“What I have witnessed here will help this country. Many were uncomfortable with the handshake but the President was firm that it was necessary to hold the country together,” said Mr. Oparanya, who is also Council of Governors (CoG) chair and ODM’s deputy leader.

“With peace, we are enjoying now, this country can move forward.”

Though Raila has not announced that his name will be on the presidential ballot in 2022, all indications point to a fifth stab at the Presidency

A source familiar with the endorsement said the Kikuyu elders were offended by insults to former First Lady Mama Ngina by known Ruto allies, pushing them closer to backing Raila.

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