By Dorcas S
Let me say this, if Statehouse had wanted to be honest about Uhuru trip to China that was focused on SGR while Raila was on his official duty as AU high representative for infrastructure attending the conference on Belt & Road Initiative, they would have done just that but they opted to mix the two capitalizing on Baba’s buoyant resurgency.
The truth is that Uhuru/Raila China trip were two separate and distinct missions WITH two separate and distinct objectives.
Raila’s omena communication team failed to tell Kenyans the truth that Baba was NOT traveling to Beijing as a member of Uhuru’s ministerial entourage BUT in his capacity as African Union’s (AU) African High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa.
This clarity of messaging would have then served to dispel the belief that the objective of the two missions was one and the same.
Finally, given Kenya’s failure to secure the desired KSh380B needed to complete the SGR to Raila’s base Kisumu, most rational folks would have seen the failure as distinct from RAO’s rapprochement with Uhuru and the latter’s betrayal, yet again, of the former!
Instead, the two sides – Raila and Uhuru – allowed the narrative that “completion of the SGR will make a big impact at the lakeside city and open up the port which has been underutilised for years, despite its immense potential to boost the county’s economy” – to percolate, then persist and finally take hold among a majority of Kenyans.
The messaging for the two supposedly separate missions to China – one to seek funds for Kenya’s SGR as undertaken by Uhuru Kenyatta and his ministers AND the other to represent African Union’s infrastructure needs as undertaken by the body’s representative Raila – thus became merged into one convoluted message replete with news headlines
This mixed messaging by Jubilee was NOT by accident – given reports that China was hedging on extending additional loan facilities to the over-indebted Kenyatta regime.
The muddy messaging of the trip’s objective was a deliberate and strategic conflation of the by the government of Kenya to allay fears most investors have of unstable investment climates.
Taken together, Kenya’s massive public debt and its history of unstable and unpredictable socio-political clime combined to compel the ruling party to avoid separating the two missions – as evidenced by the headlines on most dailies:
That Raila’s accompaniment of Kenyatta to China was part of the “Handshake” dividend i.e. payout that Kenyans and China want and deserve, the latter to make sure that they get returns on their massive investments in the country.
I understand all that.
What I don’t understand is why the mixed messaging and the conflation by Jubilee re: the Raila/Odinga junket to China “to extend the SGR to Kisumu” that was inevitably going to rise the hopes of a people/region long-marginalized by Kenya’s central government was allowed to stand and take hold – by either side?
My suspicion is as offered in this AM’s banner:
That alone, the Kenyatta wing of Jubilee knew that the Chinese, who are hard-nosed negotiators and are now pushing back on the popular narrative that their loans and overall designs in Africa are predatory, one-sided and demonstrably risky, were NOT going to give them any more money.
Given that reality, TNA was only too willing to trade the suddenly-hapless and now-dispensable Ruto‘s URP wing of the coalition for the widely-acknowledged international gravitas and reputation of Raila Odinga for additional sheen to the party’s public misuse and abuse of the country’s resources.
The narrative that some of us who see through the smoke-and-mirrors that’s (been) generated by Jubilee are supposedly “cheering on the failure of the mission to get the announced KSh.380B for the Nairobi-to-Kisumu leg of the SGR” is just silly if not idiotic.
Speaking for myself, I am not happy that Kisumu may have to wait another decade before her inhabitants enjoy the yet-to-be-realized benefits of an operationalized SGR.
I also understand the factors that came together to inform China’s decision and Jubilee’s messaging that re-opened the wound of a region.
The obvious let-down was wrought on by a government only too willing to sacrifice clarity of message for more money – even if the muddled messaging caused a major disappointment to a people of a region that is used to being let down by a government that now claims to be ready to right historical wrongs.
This is NOT how to embark on the long-overdue undertaking as promised by the “Handshake”.
It is certainly NOT an optimal way to message a supposed dividend accruing from the “Handshake”.