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Raila takes on Uhuru strategists for 2022 battle


Opposition chief Raila Odinga will tap President Uhuru Kenyatta’s think tank as he builds his campaign machine for the general election. 

The Star has established President Kenyatta's close advisers and financiers in 2017 are crafting a presidential campaign strategy for Raila. Wealthy and influential businessmen are at the center.  

The tycoons who previously aligned themselves to state-backed presidential candidates are expected to work closely with some of Jubilee’s 2013 and 2017 strategists. 

The Uhuru team is famed for mounting high-octane and well-lubricated campaigns.

Lifting the lid on massive resources likely to be at Raila’s disposal, the ODM boss on Tuesday will hold talks with tycoons from the President’s Mt Kenya region. 

Under the Mt Kenya Foundation, an exclusive club of the business magnates, the tycoons previously were accused of deploying resources to block a Raila presidency. 

The Safari Park meeting on Tuesday is expected to be the culmination of behind-the-scenes talks said to have settled on Raila as Uhuru’s preferred successor.

Former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru, a member of the close-knit billionaires' club, said they expect Raila to explain himself to the Foundation and also hear from members.

“We want to hear Raila's plans for Mt Kenya. You know we were very instrumental in Kibaki and Uhuru’s presidencies. We want him to tell us his agenda for our coffee, tea.

"It is more of an interactive session for the region to engage the former premier,” Waweru said. 

Members of the foundation are known to pull strings in government. 

In the 2017 polls, the tycoons raised at least Sh1 billion in less than two hours at an exclusive dinner attended by Uhuru and Ruto. 

The invite-only fundraiser to augment Uhuru's campaign war chest brought together business titans and top government officials at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi. 

The tycoons are now said to have agreed to back Raila’s 2022 presidential bid, 304 days to what is shaping up as a  two-horse race between Raila and Ruto.

Big names in the Mt Kenya Foundation include Equity Bank chairman Peter Munga, former Kenya Revenue Authority commissioner-general Michael Waweru, and former Kenya Airports Authority chairman George Muhoho, who is Uhuru's uncle.

Last month, Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi and Lapsset board chairman Titus Ibui, who is also Foundation vice chairman, led politicians, magnates, and professionals to declare support for Raila at the same venue.

The meetings are part of the plan to market Raila in Mt Kenya, a region that for decades locked him out.

The luncheon is one of the major moves by Mt Kenya tycoons to support Raila against DP Ruto.

It will also be the first time Raila comes face to face with wealthy businessmen to explain his agenda for the region. 

Elected leaders, including governors, senators, and MPs, have been invited to the all-important meeting to craft the region's 2022 plans. 

The Mt Kenya Foundation was formed at the height of the 2007 post-election violence and is comprised mainly of wealthy businessmen from Central Kenya.

On January 19, President Kenyatta met the group at Thika Greens Golf Resort in Murang’a county where he reportedly sought their backing for Raila. 

As part of the strategy to help Raila scale the Mountain, three governors on Monday declared support for the ODM boss. They held roadside rallies to market him.. 

After nightlong talks in Nanyuki, Governors Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Nderitu Murithi (Laikipia) and Kiambu’s James Nyoro took Raila on a symbolic lap along the Nairobi-Nanyuki highway. 

The governors pledged to rally the region to back Raila.

In a joint statement in Nanyuki, they said they would "plan and coordinate a structured engagement with the region". The focus will be on elected leaders, community leaders, business leaders, farmers’ organizations, faith organizations, and key opinion leaders and shapers.

Kimemia was an insider in the last days of the Mwai Kibaki administration. His inclusion gives insight into how the presidential campaign intends to defeat Ruto.

Kimemia served as the head of Public Service and secretary to the Cabinet under President Kibaki. He has admitted the so-called 'deep state' exists and always influenced election outcomes, especially presidential polls. 

The Star could not readily establish the high-profile technocrats expected to cross over to join Raila’s team, however, ODM sources said a deal had been reached.

On Monday, as he called on Mt Kenya to back him, Raila cited his past political sacrifices, including rallying the country to support Kibaki in 2002.

He also cited his fight for multi-party democracy alongside Charles Rubia and Kenneth Matiba.

Raila said that during Independence, his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga insisted that Jomo Kenyatta be set free so he could assume the presidency. 

“This is now time for us to work together. Are you ready? I want us to work together in this third liberation, which is economic liberation so that we can fight poverty,” Raila told gatherings in Chaka town, Nyeri county. 

Uhuru’s men plan to bring together a team of technocrats who worked with Raila and those who drove Jubilees two State House victories.

On Monday, ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna confirmed plans for a joint Jubilee and ODM presidential campaign to face Ruto and his hustler movement. 

The two parties, which are on the verge of establishing a pre-poll coalition, would share each other’s strengths, including campaign teams to guarantee victory.

“If you have a joint presidential candidate, how do you not have a joint presidential campaign team?” Sifuna asked.

He went on, “When you do a coalition, you lean on each other’s strengths and synergize the team so you are able to succeed because it will become a joint effort.” 

ODM secretary for political affairs Opiyo Wandayi said the conclusion of ongoing coalition talks with Uhuru’s Jubilee Party will give a clear picture of who will be steering Raila's bid.

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