Prime Minister Raila Odinga is making fresh attempts to reconcile with the Kalenjin community through elders and professionals from the Rift Valley region and Nyanza. Secret talks have been taking place between elders from the Kalenjin and Luo communities.
Sources indicated the elders from Nyanza have proposed to meet Eldoret North MP William Ruto as part of an initiative to rebuild ODM ahead of the 2012 polls.
Raila is scheduled to meet some of the Kalenjin elders at a private meeting in the Nandi County in two weeks when the Rift Valley group will present their grievances to the PM.
Chairman of the Luo Council of Elders Willis Otondi and Seid Keittany from the Kalenjin community are spearheading a series of talks to woo the Kalenjin community to back Raila for President in 2012.
The elders are making attempts to reconcile Raila with Ruto or alternatively establish fresh networks for Raila in Rift Valley ahead of the 2012 polls.
Three Nandi elders â€” Paul Kipmeli, Daniel Sawe and Kiprugut Tanui â€” confirmed that they are to meet the PM to discuss a number of issues. “We have been talking with our counterparts from Nyanza and even those from Western. Soon we are to meet the PM so that we move the plans a step higher,” said Tanui.
Members of Parliament from the Rift Valley region who support the PM are involved in the fresh efforts to revive Raila’s dwindling support in the region.
Assistant Minister Magerer Langat is among the legislators who have been meeting with elders and professionals to discuss Raila’s 2012 plan in Rift Valley.
Yesterday he confirmed the plan but said it was premature to disclose the details. Three month ago Otondi led the entire Luo Council of Elders to a meeting in Eldoret with elders from the Kalenjin community and since then a series of meetings have been held during which they have agreed on tentative plans for 2012. “It’s true we have been talking as elders plus other people who know very well that there is no clear reason for differences between our two communities. If there are issues they can be ironed out and we move forward,” said Keittany.
Ruto has not met with the elders or the PM but speaking on the vernacular radio station Kass FM on Monday morning he said he is busy building political links in all parts of the country including Nyanza which is Raila’s home turf. Two month ago Ruto addressed an impromptu rally at Kondele in Kisumu where in a rare gesture he was welcomed by the locals.
Last Sunday during a church meeting in Eldoret one of Ruto’s allies made disparaging remarks about the Luo community but Ruto stood up to correct the remarks telling the congregation that he has no problem with the Luo community.
Some Kalenjin elders two weeks ago met with Raila and asked him to reinstate former Director of the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital Prof Harun Mengech because, they said, his removal will further undermine Raila’s political standing in the Nandi County.
They also complained about the sacking of nine other professionals who had been hired by former minister for Industrialisation Henry Kosgey. A major grievance for the Kalenjin elders is the ODM letter to the ICC reinforcing the case against the Ocampo Six and stating they should be tried at The Hague and not locally.
Asked if the Rift Valley disgruntled MPs have made up their minds to quit ODM, Keiyo South MP Jackson Kiptanui who is allied to Ruto said they are still ODM members technically even though they have indicated that they will join UDM. “At the moment we are still in ODM. But we think it’s better to have our own house then we will know who to work with in future,” said Kiptanui.
Other MPs who back Ruto including Boaz Kaino (Marakwet West) and David Koech (Mosop) dismissed talk of reconciliation, saying the Kalenjin community has no problem with the Luo community. “We have no issues to warrant reconciliation. In terms of politics everyone has a right and freedom to scheme for 2012. We have our own plans and it’s still early to tell what will happen,” said Koech, adding the PM is free to do politics in Rift Valley.
Political analysts are already predicting a run-off in next year’s presidential race in which Raila is likely to be one of the top two candidates. The PM’s strategists are thus working on a plan where he will get the backing of the Western block to top up votes from other parts of the country.
The emerging cracks in the alliance between Ruto and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta may be a blessing for Raila because there is a growing feeling within the Rift Valley region that the community might just have to do with Raila in 2012 because they will not be comfortable backing another presidential aspirant from Central Kenya. “Majority of our people are yet to clearly decide how they will vote in 2012. But with Kibaki as outgoing President it will be difficult to sell another Central Kenya candidate in this region. If Raila will be in a run-off against someone from Central then the PM stands a good chance to attract the Rift Valley votes,” said Engineer Tom Murgor.
On three occasions Raila has sent assistant minister Ayiecho Olweny to Eldoret to meet with Kalenjin elders and some of the professionals in a move to thaw frosty relations between Nyanza and Rift Valley politicians.
Olweny confirms he has attended several meetings in Rift Valley on behalf of the PM as part of the process to explain to the people of Rift Valley the real issues in politics. “I have been to Nandi, Uasin Gishu specifically in Eldoret North, Marakwet and even Keiyo where the people seem to have no issue with the PM. I explain to them why the PM is not to blame for all the accusations levelled against him and why we still need each other as founders of ODM,” said Olweny. Olweny said they would intensify the meetings and bring the PM on board so that he gets to know what the people in the region think.
The PM has separately met with elders from Marakwet, Nandi, Kipsigis, Keiyo and Tugen to understand their views. “We are not ruling out a possible reconciliation between Ruto and Raila because we think the two can still work together,” said Moses Koech from Belgut. Raila is tentatively scheduled to meet with the Kalenjin elders in Nandi on July 14 when details of the 2012 plan will be discussed.