Monday, April 21, 2008

Is a "cold war" brewing between Raila & M7?

When Prime Minister Raila Odinga spoke after the swearing in of the grand coalition Cabinet at State House on Thursday, he referred to the chief guest, Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni, as ‘‘President of the Republic of Tanzania’’.

He quickly corrected himself and continued.

But 20 minutes later, when it was President Museveni’s turn to speak, he ‘‘forgot’’ the name of Raila’s party — ODM.

Were these cases of a slip of the tongue and momentary forgetfulness or were the two leaders passing some subtle messages to each other? The ODM leader is not a man given to slip-ups during such important occasions. In fact, Raila had a written speech from which he made the salutations to the high level guests. Was he reliving the moment when President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania charmed his Kenyan counterpart into signing the national accord?

Could it also be an indication of his relations with the Ugandan president?

Power sharing
Whereas Kikwete, as African Union chairman, was instrumental in the power-sharing deal, Museveni’s efforts as chairman of the East African Community did not have much impact. Museveni was viewed with suspicion by the ODM during the crisis. This was, in some way, brought about by Museveni’s reaction when the election results were announced. He was among the few world leaders who congratulated bandit President Kibaki for his re-election as ODM disputed the results.

Rumours of Ugandan soldiers having been deployed in Kenya to help crush protests called by ODM did not help matters. At the height of the rumours, dismissed by Uganda, Mr Odinga said he had talked to Mr Museveni, who had assured him that he had not sent any soldiers to Kenya.

Eyebrows were raised when President Museveni asked those in attendance at State House to remind him the name of Raila’s party. However, the Ugandan Head of state remembered PNU very well. “When you have PNU and ... What is the name of Odinga’s party? (He is reminded by those close). You change parties a lot and I can only remember Kanu and Kadu because I followed it closely. Now that PNU and ODM are together, you are back in 1965, when Kadu joined Kanu,” he said.

A few questions can be posed here. Why was it possible for President Museveni, a man who is abreast with the political developments in Kenya since he is a neighbour, fail to remember ODM but had the name of President Kibaki’s party - PNU - well engraved in his mind?

It is significant to remember that President Museveni was one of the region’s Heads of State who came to the country to attempt to broker a ceasefire between President Kibaki and Raila. The two parties involved in the conflict were PNU and ODM.

Was he indirectly referring to the frosty relations between him and ODM?

Those with some level of inference remembered when President Museveni complained that Uganda was unable to transport its export products to Mombasa because the railway line had been destroyed by people claiming to be ODM supporters. The railway line was uprooted in Kibera, Raila’s constituency and in Kisumu, another ODM stronghold. In addition, Ugandans lost property worth millions of shillings when their trucks to and from Mombasa were attacked by ODM rioters who blockaded roads.

Caution ministers
Museveni, probably aware that most of the ministers who were sworn in were ODM members, went ahead to caution them against breaking the oath. “The oath has tied you. I have been keenly listening as you swear your allegiance to the Constitution, the President and the Republic of Kenya. In Uganda, we call it indahiro and kiapo in Kiswahili - when you take it, do not break it,” he said.

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