By Peter Kagwanja

Saturday, May 31, 2014 is the day “Baba” — as Kenya’s former Prime Minister Raila Odinga is fondly known to his supporters — returned home from America after nearly three months of a study tour coordinated by the African Presidential Centre at the Boston University in Massachusetts.

The twists and turns of politics in the next three years might either confirm the day as a turning point in the history of Kenya or it will just fizzle out like an uproarious day in Nairobi’s Marikiti(Wakulima) market.

In one sense, the day of Raila’s return might be like April 16, 1917 when Vladimir Lenin, leader of the
revolutionary Bolshevik Party, returned to Saint Petersburg from exile to lead the Russian Revolution.

It may also turn out to be as tragic as the return of Frank Miller, the leader of a gang of killers in the
1952 American western movie, High Noon, whose revenge mission ends when he and his gang are out-gunned by the audacious town marshal, Will Kane.

Be that as it may, Raila’s strategists seem to have taken to heart Law 16 in Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power on the use of absence to increase respect and honour.

The Boston hideaway has given Raila a new lease of life and re-energised his party, which a few weeks ago was nearly comatose.


Upon his return, Raila has unveiled Cord’s “wedge strategy” reminiscent of the hard-nosed wedge politics of the 2005-2007 period.

In returning to wedge politics, Raila seems to have rejected the idea of building Cord into a “royal opposition” as a government-in-waiting and offer alternative policies and visions of power within Parliament.

Instead, it has embraced the idea of a “rogue opposition” challenging Jubilee power on the streets through mass protests as the surest pathway to power before or by 2017.

Cord’s new wedge politics is preying on existing tensions, divisive issues and social grievances such
as national security, crime, ethnicity, poverty, corruption and the war against al-Shabaab in Somalia to galvanise support.

By returning to wedge politics, ODM hopes to reassert Raila’s intellectual and political leadership of the opposition.

It also expects to split Jubilee
apart, leading to a “revolution” or ensuring that Uhuru Kenyatta becomes a one-term President and
winning the 2017 election.

At 72, Raila is not leaving anything to chance.

In the US, he was reportedly under the tutelage of a strong team of political strategists.

All senior academics who handled his programme in Boston are said to have political mobilisation, military and intelligence backgrounds.

This is giving legs to the view that in Boston, Raila was on a regime change strategy by world class experts who have helped bring down governments in other parts of the world.


As such, Cord has embarked on a frenetic action plan to pursue four goals of its “wedge strategy”.

The first is a push for a debate, largely vitriolic, intended to create a public perception that the ruling party is in disarray, has lost control of the country and is unable to govern.

The train has already left the station.

Raila has called for a national dialogue with the Jubilee
leadership ahead of Saba Saba day (July 7) “to seek solutions to problems facing the country”.

“We want a national dialogue to solve this case on July 7, but if they do not accept, they will go
home,” said Raila’s co-principal Kalonzo Musyoka.

If a mammoth rally planned for the historic Kamukunji grounds fails, Cord may mass up its supporters in a march to State House to demand

The second step in the action plan is to popularise politically incorrect sentiments, stereotypes and
perceptions against the “enemy party”.

Already, Jubilee is now profiled as hopelessly corrupt, hell-bent on returning the country to despotism, as ethnically exclusive and unable to
protect its citizens.

Cord is surfing the tidal wave of
anti-corruption provided by the government’s recent decision to pay Sh1.4 billion to Anglo-Leasing companies.

Cord’s campaign targets wedge counties like Nairobi (poverty and war on al-Shabaab), Mombasa
(Christian-Muslim divide); North Eastern (Somali minorities); larger Meru (miraa and Jubilee-APK

Thirdly, Cord hopes to benefit from defections of Jubilee supporters and other disaffected voters.

Cord’s primary focus is the Kalenjin community, signified by the whispering campaign: “Kalenjin
rudi nyumbani” (Kalenjin return home) to ODM/Cord.

The point is to weaken William Ruto’s stranglehold in Rift Valley by depicting him as a sell-out in order
to shift the Kalenjin vote from Jubilee to Cord and isolate Kenyatta’s core ethnic support base in Central Kenya.

Fourth, the end-game is to fracture Jubilee and take off with its members.

ODM hopes to benefit from schisms within Jubilee over tenders, government jobs and devolution

As one scenario, Cord plans to use the post-Saba Saba paralysis to push Uhuru and Ruto out of power before 2017 through a “people’s peaceful
popular revolt.”

But as a wild-card scenario, if Evans Kidero loses out in the Supreme Court as Nairobi Governor, Raila may reportedly go for the seat to lock Jubilee out of the capital city.

Cord’s campaign is likely to put the Jubilee government on its toes, ensuring that it does not deliver on its electoral promises.

Jubilee’s soft power options are limited.

A pragmatic approach to hold dialogue with Cord is unlikely to gain traction within Jubilee.

The more likely option is to try to address the grievances of its partners while assaulting Cord
strongholds of Nyanza and Western.

However, Cord is fighting claims by Jubilee pundits that its leadership is a hired hand for the West in its ploy to cut short Jubilee’s rule as a self-fulfilling prophesy that “choices have consequences”.

Prof Peter Kagwanja is the Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute and former Government

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