Wiper Democratic Movement leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who publicly mended fences with President Uhuru Kenyatta in Mwingi last week, is the new head of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) on peace in South Sudan, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.
While State House was by Tuesday evening yet to announce the appointment, Mr Musyoka was already basking in the glory of his new job as he returned from his first assignment in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
Government sources told the Nation that Mr Musyoka, a former Vice-President and one of the leading lights in the Opposition National Super Alliance, had accompanied Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma to Juba on Monday after formally being appointed to head JMEC.
The government has already forwarded his name to the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (Igad), to which JMES reports, for approval, the source added. Part of the mission was to deliver Mr Kenyatta's congratulatory message to President Salva Kiir for implementing the South Sudan peace agreement with rebel leader Riek Machar. The agreement is aimed at ending years of bloody conflict that have torn apart Africa’s youngest nation since it split from Sudan.
The assignment came only five days after President Kenyatta hinted at the possibility of securing a government job for Mr Musyoka as part of the Building Bridges Initiative which, among others, seeks to promote ethnic and political inclusivity in State appointments.
Mr Musyoka’s new diplomatic role could extend beyond mediating the South Sudan crisis to cover other such conflicts on the continent, the source, a retired diplomat who requested anonymity as State House was yet to make a formal announcement on the specific roles of Mr Musyoka, said.
“The diplomatic role is not limited to mediating peace in Juba,” said the Nation sorce. “It will cover broader issues and will be announced once it is properly defined.” Mr Musyoka replaces former Botswana President Festus Mogae, who stepped down from the helm of JMEC two months ago.
Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua declined to confirm or deny knowledge of his party leader’s appointment, only saying Mr Musyoka’s record in mediating peace in the region was well known.
“If the President has decided to actualise what he said in Tseikuru, that’s a welcome move, but Mr Musyoka is joining like-minded individuals in Africa to conclude what he began many years ago,” the Senator said in reference to Mr Musyoka’s work as Foreign Affairs minister.
The JMEC commission, part of the Igad framework, has been overseeing the peace process in South Sudan since 2013, and specifically monitors the implementation of the 2015 peace deal between Mr Kiir and Mr Machar. The peace agreement was preceded by several others, all of which collapsed, leading to widespread violence often blamed on soldiers from both the government and the opposition.
Mr Musyoka, however, is not new to the South Sudan effort. While serving as Foreign Affairs minister under both retired presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki, Mr Musyoka was involved in mediation efforts in Somalia and South Sudan.
His highest diplomatic score was in South Sudan when, together with General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, he helped to end the long-running conflict between 2001 and 2005, when Khartoum eventually agreed to allow Juba to break away.
In the case of Somalia, the former VP worked with various warlords to reach a peace accord that was signed in Nairobi in 2004, ending decades of war.
Last week, President Kenyatta suggested that Mr Musyoka would be best suited as a peace envoy in resolving regional conflicts. Mr Kenyatta, who spoke during the funeral of Mr Musyoka’s father at Tseikuru Baraza Park in Kitui County, said he believed the former VP had something useful to offer the country.
He said Mr Musyoka’s partner in Nasa, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, had secured a high-profile job at the African Union, and that he will work towards mobilising development resources for the country.
“Ndugu yetu Kalonzo hata yeye pia atusaidie kwingine kuleta amani nchi zingine na kufungua biashara za Wakenya nchi za nje. (Even our brother Kalonzo should help to bring the country together and resolve conflicts in other countries, thus opening more trade opportunities for Kenyans),” the President said in Kiswahili.
Mr Musyoka’s enthusiasm for the new role triggered a storm within his Wiper party, especially after he declared last Friday that he was ready to be President Kenyatta's "errand boy", and that he should not be questioned over that decision.
"I want to announce today that I am forever grateful to President Kenyatta for what he has done to my family, and that I'll never be able to repay the respect he has shown. From today, let no one separate me from my brother Uhuru. I accept to run his errands" Mr Musyoka, who in recent months has metamorphosed from a harsh government critic to a key supporter of President Kenyatta and the Jubilee administration, said.
The president said that failing to utilise the best brains in government affairs just because they are in the Opposition ranks is pointless, adding that Mr Musyoka should contribute in building a stable and prosperous country.
Mr Kenyatta said every leader has something to contribute towards building the nation and that Kenyans need to embrace unity of purpose for the country to overcome social and economic challenges.
"All that is needed is for leaders to respect one another and give each other space to serve" he said, adding that all leaders must focus on building political stability and shedding the negative perception that our elections drive the country towards violence every five years.
"Kenya will not prosper economically unless we deal with negative ethnicity, which drives us apart and on the brink of violence every five years. We must work together in building a united, cohesive country," said Mr Kenyatta.