Uhuru-Raila Handshake: Has Raila Been Outfoxed?

Published on 18th April 2019

There is no doubt that the Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga has created a conducive atmosphere for business to thrive in the country and thawed animosity between NASA and Jubilee supporters. Besides, it has taught us that political leaders who harbour critical differences can find a common ground to work towards the collective good.

But some fundamental questions, however, remain:  Are we better off today than we were before the Handshake? Will the Handshake bear fruit to spur the country’s social, political and economic future through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI)?

Quit Handshake?

When Raila’s brother Dr. Oburu urged him last week to withdraw from the Handshake, it provided the impetus to two sides of the political isle - Jubilee and NASA who have been ambivalent about the pact.

According to many African traditions, when one’s elder brother speaks, it is weighty! Oburu pointed out that corruption which has spiraled in the Jubilee government is the reason why his brother should quit to avoid soiling his political legacy.  

Many Kenyans are frustrated with the looting going on in the current government today. If the looting continues unabated, the country will be an empty shell by 2022.

Those who agree with Dr. Oburu contend that Raila’s legacy will be completely ruined if the war he supports against corruption flops.

A good number of Raila’s supporters think the Handshake has given the president leeway to make unilateral decisions with less criticism. In the recent announcement by President Kenyatta that the government has allocated land to Uganda in Naivasha to construct a dry port, nobody knows the actual cost of the land, who will construct the Port, and the original owner of the land, and whether due diligence was followed before striking the deal with President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

The critical role of an informed and empowered citizenry is to critique the decisions made by leaders because such decisions will affect the present and future generations. Many supporters of Raila in the country are doubting Thomases about the Handshake. As an ardent supporter of Raila for 15 years, I see the Handshake as a conduit for the Jubilee regime to perpetuate its blunders.


The degree of hopelessness by NASA supporters before the handshake was high. Many hoped the call by the Coalition to boycott products would paralyze operations and bring change. The establishment of the People’s Assemblies raised hopes higher. Others desperately discussed Secession.

Many Kenyans fear Raila might be betrayed again. They remember that Raila is one of the most betrayed politicians in the country. His MOUs have been trashed by past leaders he trusted. Will the president use the Handshake as a bait to soften the Opposition and give his deputy William Ruto a smooth landing in 2022?

Past electoral injustices had made Raila the biggest casualty, with three victories stolen. Raila’s supporters, therefore, have a legitimate right to question why the Independent Electoral and Boundaries (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati is still in office if indeed the Handshake was arrived at to address electoral malpractices.

Ironically, the electoral body is still intact. One wonders why the quest for a new IEBC team has decapitated.


Raila supporters wonder if the Handshake with President Kenyatta considered compensation for the NASA supporters who were maimed, tortured and killed in the pursuit of justice. Kenyans remember Musando, Master Mutua, Baby Pendo and many patriots who paid the ultimate price for a better Kenya. The families of the deceased deserve restitutive justice so that they can move on like other Kenyans. 

Failing to compensate the families of the victims just like what happened to some of the victims of the 2007/2008 post-election violence, will be tragic for Raila’s political legacy and the ultimate goal of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

The Handshake has created some confusion in Parliament and Senate. The role of the opposition in our legislative chambers is completely diluted, killing the spirit of multiparty democracy. We need a watchdog to check the excesses of the Executive. It’s sad that all NASA leaders- Honourables Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi, and Moses Wetangula act like they are part and parcel of the Jubilee government.


Finally, President Kenyatta who holds the steering wheel of the handshake should tell Kenyans why he has failed to nurture inclusivity in his government. This is a fundamental issue that is currently bedeviling the country. Kenyans thought that after the Handshake, they will see radical surgery in government.

Kenyans expected the President, in the spirit of the Handshake, to bring on board technocrats like Dr. David Ndii, John Githongo, Dr. Julius Kipngetich, etc. to fix the weak structures in government irrespective of their political persuasions. Adding insult to injury, some Cabinet Secretaries whose names have featured prominently in the corruption list are still in office when the major purpose of the Handshake was to tackle graft.

The buck stops with President Kenyatta as Kenya’s Chief Executive. To Raila, if the Handshake purpose is derailed, heed your brother’s call and pull out to safeguard your political legacy for Kenya and beyond.

By Joseph Lister Nyaringo

President of Kenya Patriotic Movement, a diaspora lobby group.

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