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Kibra by-election exposes Kalonzo's soft political underbelly

Thursday November 7 2019

Alfred Mutua and Kalonzo

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua chats with Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka during Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana's son's wedding in Karen, Nairobi., on August 4, 2018 PHOTO | COURTESY 

KITAVI MUTUA
By KITAVI MUTUA
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As voters in Kibra, Nairobi, elect a new member of Parliament, curious is how the by-election has shaped politics in the faraway Ukambani region.

The mini poll has revealed shifting political alliances in the region and exposed Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka as a general without ground troops.

Having announced in January that they would ally the Kamba community towards a different political direction, it wasn’t a surprise when three governors from Mr Musyoka’s backyard endorsed Bernard Imran Okoth, the Orange Democratic Movement's candidate.

INDECISIVENESS

Mr Musyoka’s own indecisiveness and failure to take a firm stand in the constituency left his supporters scattered in different fronts, giving his rivals a chance to shine and offer alternative leadership.

Mr Musyoka unveiled musician Jackson Makini alias Prezzo as the Wiper candidate for Kibra during the party's National Executive Council meeting that all allied MPs and senators attended.

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He rescinded the move a day later and announced that Wiper would not field a candidate and would instead support Ford Kenya’s Khamisi Butichi in return for the support party leader and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula gave their candidate in the Embakasi South by-election..

Interestingly, however, Mr Musyoka and Wiper MPs never set foot in Kibra to campaign for Mr Butichi, leaving a void that Governors Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Charity Ngilu (Kitui) filled.

Some Wiper loyalists, including Embakasi south MP Julius Mawathe and former Kathiani MP Wavinya Ndeti openly campaigned for Jubilee Party's candidate McDonald Mariga, while invoking Mr Musyoka’s name.

MUTUA'S ROLE

When ODM leader Raila Odinga asked Governor Mutua to rally the Kamba community in Kibra to vote for his candidate, he laid bare the isolation Mr Musyoka is facing both at home and within the National Super Alliance (Nasa).

The Machakos county boss mobilised grassroots leaders of the Kamba community to meet Mr Odinga at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation's offices last Saturday, ahead of their joint campaign rally the next day to drum up support for Mr Okoth.

Mr Odinga tasked Dr Mutua withe ensuring the significant Kamba vote goes to the ODM candidate, a role that Mr Musyoka would have played had the two been on good terms.

The Kamba community in the cosmopolitan constituency, the third largest after the Luo and Luhya, is considered a crucial swing vote that may decide the outcome of the by-election.

MPs LUKEWARM

The confusion in the Wiper house was further evidenced when former Nairobi deputy Governor Jonathan Mueke campaigned for Mr Okoth, apparent defiance to Mr Musyoka’s decision to back the Ford Kenya candidate.

In a series of Tweets, Mr Mueke endorsed the position Dr Mutua took, saying leaders must act in the public's best interest.

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, political nor popular because his conscience tells him it is right,” he wrote, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.

Without the support of the three governors and more than half the 22 MPs in his home region, Mr Musyoka faces an uphill task as the clock ticks to the 2022 general election; he is planning to take a second shot at the presidency.

Worse still, Wiper enjoys s slim majority in the Kitui, Machakos and Makueni county assemblies, with party MPs adopting a wait-and-see, lukewarm attitude towards campaigning for their boss.

2022 VOTE

The closing of political ranks between Mr Odinga and Dr Mutua, who heads Maendeleo Chap Chap party, have heightened the supremacy battle between Dr Mutua and Mr Musyoka for control of the region and will shape Ukambani politics ahead of the 2022 vote.

Coming only two weeks after Dr Mutua’s party defeated Wiper in the hotly contested Mutonguni ward by-election in Mr Musyoka’s Kitui home county, this new found partnership diminishes the latter's political standing in a significant way.

Mr Musyoka, who was Vice President under retired President Mwai Kibaki's regime, was Mr Odinga’s running mate in the last two presidential elections but the two have been drifting apart since 2018.

"Going forward, we'll be speaking with one voice to unify the community and negotiate directly with the national government in addressing issues affecting our region" Dr Mutua said, adding the Kamba community was crying for a more vibrant leadership.

He said every idea has a timeline and expiry period and that the governors should be understood when we say it's time for Mr Musyoka to retire from politics and allow fresh faces to take over.

NASA'S FUTURE

Where Nasa is concerned, several leaders have told the four principals - Mr Odinga, Mr Musyoka, Mr Wetang'ula and Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi - that it is time to move on.

However, Mwingi west MP Charles Nguna defended Mr Musyoka saying all parties are competing for political power and that the disagreements in Nasa are normal.

“Wiper doesn’t have a candidate in Kibra but it’s obvious that ODM and other parties will use all the tricks in the book, including maligning their partners in Nasa, in pursuit of a win for their candidate. That’s the nature of politics” he said.