Raila Odinga’s party ODM is causing disquiet in Nasa, the coalition that forms the minority side in Parliament, as it moves to “discipline” rebel members of the constituent parties.
Some partners, especially Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula, have been rattled by the re-organisation of House committees to remove members whose loyalty has been questioned.
Mr Wetang’ula is categorical that the latest Nasa move to de-whip members of affiliate parties without consultations could lead to the collapse of the once vibrant coalition.
“ODM is doing everything possible to try and force the collapse of Nasa. But there is the issue of assets and liabilities before we can pronounce Nasa as dissolved,” he said.
He told Mr Odinga to rein in his troops and accord other affiliate parties in the coalition respect. “The votes Mr Odinga got did not come from his ODM supporters alone. Our supporters in ANC, Ford Kenya and Wiper voted for him and it is unfortunate we are now being bullied and as if our support did not matter,” Mr Wetang’ula said.
The purge in the House is likely to widen the gap among Nasa affiliates, in addition to the pact in the offing between other parties, such as Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) with Jubilee.
CCM will today hold a National Delegates Conference to ratify the deal with the President’s party.
In the changes made on Thursday, Ford Kenya’s Chris Wamalwa was kicked out as deputy minority whip and replaced by Eseli Simuyu.
Mr Tindi Mwale was also de-whipped from all committees for a period of six months, with Bungoma Woman Rep Catherine Wambilianga suffering the same fate.
Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula say the ODM lawmakers leading this purge are acting contrary to the Nasa coalition pact.
But National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed has dismissed them, sensationally saying that Nasa is dead.
“It is no secret that every party is positioning itself for 2022 in a manner that best advances its interests,” said Mr Mohamed, the Suna East MP.
His remarks will potentially open up a new chapter of unease in the coalition, which has taken a cue from the ruling Jubilee Party, which started de-whipping its rebel legislators.
Mr Mohamed, a close confidant of Mr Odinga, told the Saturday Nation that the coalition exists only on paper.
“The coalition is all but dead because it only exists on paper. The only thing that is holding it is that it exists in the structure of Parliament,” Mr Mohamed said.
Coming after the reorganisation of the National Assembly committees on Thursday, Mr Mohamed’s comments are likely to stoke the embers of intra-Nasa political strife, where it is argued that ODM is taking advantage of its numerical strength to bully other partners.
Mr Mudavadi accuses his colleagues in the coalition of going against the principles that established the coalition and pushing for the formation of a government of national unity.
“Going by the recent events, they are now backpedalling,” he said, citing the recent changes in Parliament on Thursday.
“I have always told them there must be a majority and minority in Parliament. You can’t overlook this for a government of national unity,” he said as he insisted that his relationship with his co-principals is very cordial. “We talk, though there have been concerns about the level of trust.”
Mr Mudavadi insists that he is focused on winning the 2022 presidential election and succeeding President Uhuru Kenyatta, the man with whom he contested the presidency as a pair in 2002 and lost.
“I am consolidating my ANC party so that I can reach out to like-minded people. I do not want to become a Luhya kingpin because it will not be of any value to my ambition to become the President of this country,” he said.
He added: “When you are looking for the top seat, you gather all while ensuring that you scatter none. I am reaching out to everyone. I do not want to suffocate my ambitions by focusing too much in Western Kenya.”
But as he sought to make new allies, leaders from the Western region, including three governors and 39 legislators, met at the home of Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli in Kajiado County on Friday and picked Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya and Mr Atwoli as the region’s political spokesmen in a move that is meant to isolate Mr Mudavadi, who has tagged himself “the last man standing”.
The three leaders were chosen to lead negotiations for Western Kenya’s interests in the government and ensure the community is part of the government after the 2022 General Election.
Others who attended the meeting were Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka and former Cabinet minister Cyrus Jirongo.
“This time around we are going where the government is,” Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala said when he briefed journalists after the meeting. Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula did not attend the meeting.
Last week, Mr Mudavadi met with three Ruto allies - Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, Sirisia MP John Waluke and Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago.
On Friday, the leaders resolved that the community will henceforth speak in one voice while engaging President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga in supporting the Handshake and the Building Bridges Initiative, as well as unifying the country.
The Nasa summit, which brings together Mr Odinga, Mr Wetang’ula, Mr Mudavadi and Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, has not met for more than two years after the surprise meeting between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga that gave birth to the Handshake.
Mr Mudavadi said ANC is in Nasa but refused to commit himself on whether the coalition will hold until 2022.
“The coalition agreement we have binds us for the life of the current Parliament unless three partners file for divorce,” he said.
“The Jubilee Party is dangling the carrot and my colleagues want a piece, whether served on a plate or leaves,” he said about the decision by Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka to go into post-election cooperation with Jubilee.
But Mr Mohamed says the pre-election pact that gave birth to Nasa was meant to capture state power in 2017 and after the effort fell short, there is nothing to hold onto, especially outside Parliament.
“Since we didn’t capture power in 2017, the whole purpose of Nasa fell. There is no political party called Nasa. Nasa is a coalition where the first loyalty of every member is their political party,” he said.
He added: “ Our primary duty is to our respective political parties, loyalty to Nasa comes second. We have seen Mudavadi holding meetings with leaders across the spectrum right in ANC-branded offices. If the coalition exists why can’t he host meetings in offices branded Nasa?”
Mr Mudavadi, speaking to Milele FM, said: “ODM has a right to make changes in their own party as they wish. Other parties can do the same. But we cannot say ODM can discipline an ANC member and vice versa. It has come to a point when a barometer and thermometer are trying to find out which of them is more hollow than the other.”
Minority Leader John Mbadi has, however, questioned his loyalty to Nasa. “Is Mudavadi with Nasa or DP Ruto?” Mr Mbadi asked. “If we have to entertain indiscipline and misbehaviour from members for Nasa to survive, then we don’t need Nasa.”