‘Handshake’ politics takes new dimension, sets tongues wagging

President Uhuru Kenyatta helps ODM leader Raila Odinga cut his bday cake

The consolidation of the “handshake” politics between the ruling Jubilee Party and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) assumed a new dimension when the former used its numerical strength to see ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya take Council of Governors (CoG) chair.

Mr Oparanya’s victory and appointment of governors Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) as lead co-chairs of the CoG’s Constitutional Amendments Committee mandated to draft the CoG’s position for the first time established a focal point for the anticipated amendments of the supreme law.

The closing of ranks between the former bitter rivals essentially made Mr Oparanya and the CoG the face of the anticipated referendum, which has had no organisational structure.

It creates the first institutional pro-referendum front, given the ambivalence and prevarication of the top Jubilee leadership in the National Assembly and the Senate on the matter.

The Jubilee party won 25 gubernatorial seats in the 2017 General Election, with an additional two Jubilee-affiliated — Laikipia and Isiolo — independent candidates getting elected. This gives the party a numerical strength of 29, against ODM’s 18 at the powerful CoG lobby, without whose support Oparanya would not have won.

By backing Mr Oparanya over Kwale’s Salim Mvurya (former Jubilee favourite), the ruling party sent the strongest message that its new-found relations with fierce rival-turned-bosom-friend, ODM, was headed for bigger things.

The recent statement by Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju that the party will not field candidates in the forthcoming Embakasi and Ugenya by-elections “in the spirit of furthering constructive engagement and keeping an eye on the bigger picture” was the icing on the cake.


This is a strange move for a well oiled-party that enjoys a relatively strong presence, especially in Nairobi.

The two moves are the most explicit political moves signalling that President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga’s hitherto rival political…

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