While Prime Minister Raila Odinga is currently on a high profile working tour of the United Kingdom at the invitation of his British counterpart Gordon Brown, questions are now being raised as to why President Kibaki opted to snub an official invitation of a foreign government to attend an exclusive investment conference in which leading European investors will be present to network with Kenyan businessmen and listen to the Kenyan delegation present the country' s case as 'open for business' and as the region's investment hub. Even more importantly, the Kenyans are expected to outline opportunities under the recently unveiled and ambitious Vision 2030 aimed at driving Kenya into the middle economy.
Despite belated explanations by government spokesman that that the President Kibaki had ‘mandated’ Raila to lead the delegation of seven cabinet ministers, it is emerging that the president was advised to opt out of the trip due to failure by the British government to recognize his government earlier this year and noting that to date no official recognition has been forthcoming.
Secondly, Kibaki’s advisors are of the opinion that the overzealous British press was waiting to ‘pounce on Kibaki like vultures’ given their government had announced they do not recognize him. Additionally, Kibaki’s handlers feared constant harassment from the media (in a similar manner Mugabe has been relentlessly pursued each time he travels out of Zimbabwe) may have ended up in a confrontation with his guards and consequently embarrassed the head of state.
Thirdly, the highly publicized visa bans on politicians whom were linked to post-election violence and also to individuals whom were accused of subverting democracy have also never been officially withdrawn. Precedents exist where even some Heads of State have been barred from entering the some Western countries. Sources reveal that foreign governments have so far not rescinded their decisions on visas because they are monitoring the GCG while awaiting the successful completion and implementation of the all important agenda 4 of the Koffi Anan peace talks.
Fourthly, the PM’s trip to Europe included a scheduled address the House of Commons, a privilege normally reserved to Heads of State and respected statesmen. It will be recalled that in February this year, two senior British ministers had given ministerial statements in the same House of Commons where they reiterated that the British Government have not recognised the Kenyan Government. Kibaki’s advisors feared that some House of Commons MPs may boycott his address to protest the way in which the disputed elections were conducted.
Although names have never been revealed, senior personalities in both PNU and ODM have been expressly barred from entering Europe and the US since 2006. With the passage of time, those who have been barred from leaving Kenya have slowly but surely been sieved from the rest. For instance Uhuru Kenyatta was recently in the US and is currently in London as part the PM’s entourage. Musalia Mudavadi is in Geneva leading Kenya’s delegation to the Universal Postal Union Congress whereby he is expected to preside over the official opening of conference. William Ruto was in Rome about two months ago to represent Kibaki at an UN-FAO food conference. Interestingly, all ODM pentagon members have been to Europe on official and personal visits in the last few months, while a good number of the 40-strong grand coalition cabinet and members of their families have never dared to set foot out of the country inspite of the relevance of their individual ministerial portfolios or business interests overseas.
When one takes a casual glance at Raila’s official itinerary, then considers the size of his entourage and that the main purpose of the trip was to attend a significant investment conference organized by the British government; all these seem to suggest that this was a far too important trip for the president to skip. Indeed, going by past experience where the first lady Lucy Kibaki has always been by the side of the president during all his international trips, this time she is prominently missing in action and curiously, the government took it upon itself to announce that Raila would be accompanied by his wife Ida Odinga.
The high profile visit coupled with Raila’s elaborate motorcade and British bodyguards, have already resulted into some major international news channels erroneously referring to Raila as the President of Kenya.