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Raila needs etiquette lessons to enjoy peace at Uhuru’s dining table

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It used to be that when Raila Odinga coughed, Kenya caught a cold.

A statement like the one the ODM party leader made last week rebuking Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i for mindlessly attacking the Judiciary would have shaken the government quite a bit and raised the political temperatures a notch.

The ruling Jubilee Party’s attack dogs would now be all over the place baying for Mr Odinga’s blood.

Mr William Ruto, the Deputy President, would have drawn the battle lines, challenging the opposition leader to lock horns with President Uhuru Kenyatta and him, instead of fighting “watu wetu wa mkono kama Matiang’i”.

The easy explanation for Jubilee politicians’ very uncharacteristic restraint is, of course, that they are observing the terms of a truce effectively declared by Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga with their symbolic March 9 handshake at Harambee House.

But it might very well be that they just don’t consider him threatening any more.

Mr Odinga’s role in the so-called “Building Bridges” deal has been the subject of speculation with all manner of positions suggested, including that of Mr Kenyatta’s errands boy at the African Union.

What is not in doubt is that the ODM party leader goes into any negotiations with the President for whatever role with a weak hand.

His Nasa coalition failed to win enough National Assembly and Senate seats in the last elections to checkmate the ruling party in Parliament.

With the other coalition partners Wiper, ANC and Ford Kenya sulking over Mr Odinga’s perceived act of betrayal in the handshake deal, the power balance in Parliament is set to tilt even further in favour of Mr Kenyatta’s Jubilee.

It is unimaginable that the intellectual wing in civil society, which has sharp ideological differences with the ruling elite, will follow Mr Odinga to Jubilee’s lap.

He could promise to keep the streets quiet.

But having turned himself in and conferred legitimacy on Mr Kenyatta’s presidency, what would the marginalised folks be coming out to protest anyway?

With such a weak bargaining power, Mr Odinga’s presence at the privileged dining table largely depends on the goodwill of the President.

That, inevitably, comes with its own issues for the ODM boss.

When we were growing up in the village, a lot of social stigma was attached to eating at the neighbour’s house.

The name given to the kid who loved to eat at the neighbour’s house was Jawanya.

While Jawanya had the privilege of eating to his fill, he never enjoyed a peace of mind home and away.

He was subjected to higher standards of table etiquette than everyone else and had to avoid anything that could upset his hosts.

For one, speaking with food in his mouth was unforgivable.

Out on the playground, Jawanya had to always remember to be nice to the kids from the neighbour’s house lest they tell on him.