I’m no one’s project, says DPM as he quits Cabinet position
- Sabatia MP resigns as Orange Party deputy leader and Local Government minister but hangs on to deputy premier post and his seat in Parliament
Mvita MP Najib Balala on Wednesday teamed up with Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi in the newly-formed United Democratic Forum Party (UDFP) on whose ticket they will seek political office in the next elections.
They formally quit the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), citing differences with Prime Minister Raila Odinga triggered by what they described as a lack of internal democracy.
Last week, Mr Balala had promised a big announcement was to be made by MPs who were unhappy in ODM.
Coast MPs Kazungu Kambi (Kaloleni), Fahim Twaha (Lamu West) and Abu Chiaba (Lamu East) were among 28 legislators who attended the event at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi.
In addition to ditching the ODM, Mr Mudavadi resigned as Local Government minister but held on to the deputy PM’s post stating that it was part of the National Accord and he could only be removed by Parliament.
“When we created the coalition government, four positions were written into the National Accord whose holders could only be removed by resignation, ill-health, Parliament, a court of law or the collapse of the coalition government. These positions include the office of the Deputy Prime Minister,” Mr Mudavadi said.
Deputy PM Uhuru Kenyatta was the first to hold on to the post when he resigned as Finance minister in January after the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed charges of crimes against humanity he faces at The Hague.
The move by Mr Mudavadi and Mr Balala reduced further ODM’s strength in Parliament. Mr Odinga’s party has already lost the support of Eldoret North MP William Ruto and his allies who shifted to the United Republican Party.
ODM MPs George Khaniri, Yusuf Chanzu, Chris Okemo and Justus Kizito accompanied Mr Mudavadi at the KICC on Wednesday.
The Sabatia MP promised to tour the country to popularise his presidential bid. It begins with a rally in Nakuru this weekend.
Significantly, key leaders of the G7 Alliance – DPM Kenyatta, Mr Ruto and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka - were all represented at the functions by some of their allies.
The presence of these MPs was significant with speculation rife that Mr Mudavadi was warming up to the G7 Alliance.
The function was hosted by UDFP allied MPs Abdikadir Mohamed, George Nyamweya, Maison Leshomo, Jeremiah Kioni, Nderitu Muriithi, Njoroge Baiya, Katoo ole Metito and Chachu Ganya.
These MPs are also perceived to be allied to Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto as they have been attending G7 rallies.
Other non-UDFP MPs present and are associated with the Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto included Mr William Cheptumo, Mr David Koech, Mr Nelson Gaichuhie, and Mr Kareke Mbiuki.
Mr Musyoka’s Wiper Democratic Movement was represented by Mr Charles Kilonzo, Mr Mahamud Sirat and Mr Victor Munyaka. Cabinet minister Soita Shitanda, who is the New Ford Kenya Party leader, as well as his party colleagues Boni Khalwale and Bifwoli Wakoli were also present.
Others at the occasion were Kanu secretary-general Nick Salat, a close ally of former President Moi and his son Gideon, who is also Kanu interim chairman, former minister Mukhisa Kituyi and former Vihiga MP Andrew Ligale.
Earlier at a meeting with journalists at a Nairobi hotel, Mr Mudavadi said he left ODM due to failure to amend the nomination and election rules which make the party leader the automatic flag bearer in a general election. He claimed that the clause was sneaked into the party constitution without his knowledge.
No one’s political project
“In politics, one has to be prepared to take challenges, risks and move on. The level of patience and tolerance I have displayed in the belief that changes in the party constitution [would be made] is important and should be acknowledged,” he said.
Mr Mudavadi said he was no one’s political project and that his candidature was not meant to block Mr Odinga from being the country’s fourth president.
“My decision is that I could not reconcile my conscience with a party reluctant to embrace internal democracy and the principles of devolution which it had professed to stand.”
He dismissed reports by his critics that he has been holding meetings with retired President Daniel arap Moi over his candidature.
“I am not anyone’s project. I have had ambitions of being the president like anyone else and had them prior to joining ODM. It is absolutely strange that people keep going back to the issue of involving the former president in their politics. All this is propaganda by my political opponents aimed at dealing a blow to my ambition,” he said.
He said he would work with like-minded politicians, including Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto.
“It would be naive to say that I want to be president and when Uhuru or Ruto come to greet me I refuse. If Uhuru and Ruto want to support me, that is their choice and I cannot demand it,” Mr Mudavadi said.
At KICC, Mr Mudavadi said that in settling for UDFP he had sought to identify with a party and individuals committed to the rule of law and one that was visionary enough to bring real change.
“The new dawn under UDF anchor signals a change in the way we have managed our public affairs. UDF is and will remain a national party and institution. UDF is not a party of particular individuals, community, ethnic group or class of people.”
The DPM said that should he be voted in as the next president, he would prioritise job creation for the youth, improving the country’s security and health among other issues.
On Tuesday evening, he hosted Luhya MPs and his new-found colleagues in UDF to dinner at his Kileleshwa residence in Nairobi. At the same time, a lobby group for Mr Odinga— The Friends of Raila— challenged Mr Mudavadi to resign as DPM and Sabatia MP to seek re-election on the UDF ticket.
“FORA challenges Mr Mudavadi to go ahead and also quit his position as Deputy Prime Minister and member of Parliament for Sabatia constituency since he holds both positions courtesy of ODM party. He should subsequently seek a fresh mandate from the people of Sabatia constituency on a UDF ticket,” said the lobby’s Eliud Owalo.
Mr Odinga is expected to respond to the developments when he returns from a visit to the US and London on Thursday morning.
His media team indicated that the PM’s briefing would cover “his trip to the US and address political developments in the country and the region. We invite everyone to the briefing.” (READ: Mudavadi in secret talks with Balala and Kenneth)