The remains of Fidel Odinga, son to CORD Leader and former prime minister Raila Odinga who passed on last week under confounding circumstances, was airlifted to the lakeside city of Kisumu from Nairobi in Kenya Defence Forces military chopper.
When the Kenya Airforce plane 212 landed in Kisumu, beyond the generosity of the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, a civilian, it pointed out to a more subtle development within the Kenya military circles. It appears there is a thaw in relations between Mr. Odinga and the Kenya military fraternity – an outfit which has stood accused as one of the many anti-Odinga organizations in his quest to state power.
In both 2007 and 2013, the role (interference) of the military in the two elections is too well ‘known’ in opposition circles. The tribal-military complex, which has ensured the elevation of members of the kikuyu (Mt. Kenya) community above other ethnicities, and which often entail, if need be, early retirement of senior military officers from other communities, or delayed promotions, to allow effective retention strategy, has increasingly been blamed for security lapses in the country.
Part of the reason for the thawing of relations can be attributable to the persons of the President and Mr. Odinga themselves. As the Commander-in-Chief, President Kenyatta has socialized himself in the military culture more than any kenyan president in current history.
The president has gone so far as to don military fatigues, and has been conspicuous in military events. This, pundits observe, has made it easy for the President to push through his orders.
For Mr. Odinga, he has reduced his anti-military rhetoric, cutting a figure of a leader mindful of the difficult situation of the Kenya Defence Forces amidst a war with a sly enemy – the Alshabaab. However, Mr. Odinga remains a critic – albeit not a fierce one – of the military conduct especially in Westage Mall massacre and the continuing inability of the force to secure the motherland even is it weeds Alshabaab in Somalia.
When President Uhuru ordered the use of military choppers, surprisingly, jubilee alliance politicians murmured with well connected ones making contacts with the military to reject the offer. However, military officials are said to have readily accepted the use of the choppers, with the Air-force Commander visiting Mr. Odinga to personally convey their acceptance.
Both men seem to have ‘won’ over the military. President Uhuru seems to be having his way, while Mr Odinga can look forward to a new cordial relationship with the institution.
Apart from the military chopper which carried the remains of Fidel Odinga, four other military choppers were released to carry important leaders and family members of Mr. Odinga.
President Uhuru also offered the official head of state Presidential Jet to ferry Mr Odinga, his wife Ida and immediate family members.
As Kenyans continue to wonder about this new political maneuver by the two senior politicians, many were even more mesmerized with revelations that such treatment has not been accorded to any other politician in the country, including the Deputy President.
Throughout the funeral, Mr. Odinga and President Kenyatta remained in constant consultation, with the president offering the full weight of government machinery to Mr. Odinga. A source close to the Odinga family revealed to this author how the acting police inspector general Samuel Arachi was directed by the president to take over all security arrangements from Nairobi, to Kisumu to Bondo.
Arachi, who arrived at PM Odinga’s Karen home some minutes past 3am on the day before the body was ferried to Kisumu stayed until 5 am to patch up the arrangements with Mr Odinga who had retired to bed by the time he arrived. In Nairobi, senior police officers led by Nairobi Police boss Benson Kibue also moved in to effect the President’s order.
Chief of Defence Forces Michael Karangi and senior political advisor of President Uhuru Nancy Gitau (who is said to have arranged a private meeting between Odinga and the President) were some of the behind the scenes players in showing the President’s generosity towards the Odingas.
It is with these deeds by the president, the military and senior officials of the Jubilee government which made Raila so incensed by rowdy luo youths who heckled ambassador Raychelle Omamo while delivering President Uhuru’s speech.
Mr Odinga is said to have immediately called President Kenyatta and the two gentlemen laughed over it, with President Uhuru saying he understands a lot still needs to be done to ‘win of your [Mr. Odinga’s] core supporters’.
At party level, both ODM chairman and Secretary General John Mbadi and Ababu Namwamba have all apologized to the president.