Development spurs unopposed after the handshake

Commissioning of Kisumu (Mamboleo) – Kakamega Road (A1) and Launch of Ahero Interchange on 13th December 2018

The history of the handshake as a means of communication dates back to the 5th century B.C. in Greece. It was a symbol of peace, showing that neither person was carrying a weapon. During the Roman era, the handshake was actually more of an arm grab. It involved grabbing each other’s forearms to check that neither man had a knife hidden up his sleeve. Some say that the shaking gesture of the handshake started in Medieval Europe. Knights would shake the hand of others in an attempt to shake lose any hidden weapons. So when the President and Former Premier had a handshake last year, it was an indication that two bitter rivals had abandoned their weapons and come together for the benefit of the country.

When Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga made a call for Kenyans to register for the National Integrated Information Management System (NIIMS), it seems to have sealed he final blow against opposition to the Huduma Number as Kenyans came in droves to register for the Huduma Number. This has caused a serious brick wall to be lifted against the President’s development projects thereafter in light of the alliance between the two leaders after the historic handshake in March last year.

The handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM Leader Raila Odinga has seen the Nyanza region get an estimated Ksh.10billion for development projects in just one year. The projects that had stalled have now gained a new lease of life. On March 9 last year, on the steps of Harambee House, the nation was taken aback by an announcement of a handshake deal that caught allies from across the political divide flat footed.

Over a year after the deal, the region that was perceived as having been sidelined the State is bubbling with activity. So far, more than five Cabinet Secretaries have visited Kisumu, all this in a bid to evaluate progress and restart government projects as directed. During the maiden visit to Kisumu and Siaya, President Kenyatta delivered a bag of goodies to the region starting with the launch of the Ksh.655.9million-Ahero-interchange. It will link Kisumu to Homa Bay, Kericho and Kisii counties. The rehabilitation of the Kisumu-Kakamega road that had stalled is also ongoing with the Kenya National Highways Authority injecting Ksh.4.5billion into the project. Residents of Siaya will also be beneficiaries of this handshake, with the government through partnerships with the African Development Bank, sinking Ksh.2.1billion to provide water even in Bondo.

Uhuru launch Ksh.655.9m Ahero Interchange linking Kisumu to Kericho and Kisii

The project is expected to benefit over 190,000 households. A similar project to be undertaken in Phase Two will include Ugunja Sub County as well as Sega and Ukwala in Ugenya at a cost of Ksh.1.6 billion. The State has also prioritised eradicating the water hyacinth menace on Lake Victoria. The President’s symbolic visit to Nyanza, also saw him visit the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Mausoleum at Kang’oka Jaramogi seeking to have the site get a face-lift.

However, this has caused anxiety to grow in Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s camp that his endorsement of Jubilee’s controversial projects could ruin his enduring brand and wreck his political clout. The moves seen as cementing his truce with President Uhuru Kenyatta have exposed Raila for perceived ‘double-speak’ amid concerns the former Prime Minister has drifted from his long-held pro-people politics.

The details emerged as Raila announced his inclusion in President Uhuru’s high-powered delegation to Beijing, China. The ODM leader was the chief proponent of the controversial HudumaNamba registration and supported the government’s push for a higher fuel levy meant increased taxation. In the wake of the government’s new 1.5 per cent housing levy and fresh plans for billions in Eurobond loans, the opposition leader has maintained studious silence. A court has suspended the housing levy.

A trip down memory lane shows that the ODM leader has previously blasted Uhuru’s government for “overborrowing, overspending and over stealing”. Raila claimed the SGR project was the brainchild of the Grand Coalition Government but Jubilee turned it into a cash cow, inflating the cost from Sh227 billion to Sh380 billion. “We in the Opposition have warned that we are on the road to nowhere. We warned that Jubilee is overborrowing, overspending and over stealing,” Raila said in one of his stinging rebukes of Jubilee ahead of the 2017 polls. “Please get up and report to duty,” Raila told Uhuru, saying the country was on auto-pilot.

Former Nasa communications official John Onyando said more than ever before, there are so many people who are anxious about Raila’s political future. “The handshake changed Raila’s role from a critic of the establishment to its enabler, without any concessions so far to the huge movement he led in 2017. Sooner than later, Kenyans will begin to reckon with the fact that this fight should never have been personified in one person,” said Onyando, author of The Failed Quest for Electoral Justice, a book on the 2017 elections and the Nasa resistance.

Economist David Ndii, who was Raila’s lead think tank member in 2017, called the use of Raila’s image in the billboards for huduma number as a “climb down”. “This is such a climb down. I hope he knows what he is doing,” said Ndii who is among the strongest opponents of the Sh6 billion HudumaNamba project. Former Cabinet Minister Franklin Bett said Raila risked ruining his reform credentials by backing some projects he previously questioned.

Even with this negative whiplash the Former Premier seems to be getting more influence in the government. A few weeks ago, Uhuru revealed that Raila advises him on a number of issues in government. “When it comes to health, this is what we need to do. What is this issue of digitising our records and what is it about? We sit, we discuss, we agree. He also gives me ideas that enhance something and make it even better. Now, what’s wrong with that?” an agitated Uhuru hit out at his critics.


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