Former Cabinet minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere is poised to replace Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana as the chairman of the Wiper Democratic Movement in party leadership changes to be unveiled this week.
A party National Executive Council (NEC) meeting slated for Wednesday, July 10, is expected to ratify and announce the decision to pick Mr Mwakere as the national chairman.
Multiple sources within the party told the Nation that Mr Mwakwere who joined the party after ditching Jubilee in 2017, has already been acting in that position, as the NEC, the party’s top organ quietly deliberated how to handle Prof Kibwana, their chairman who has turned a harsh critic of both Mr Musyoka and the party.
Wiper party officials want the next chairman to be an experienced face in Kenyan politics who can help galvanise support across the country, not just within Ukambani region.
According to Wiper Party Chief Whip Robert Mbui, the party has unanimously agreed to replace Prof Kibwana as the national chairman but the governor is free to continue being an ordinary member.
He said Prof Kibwana was running a campaign against Mr Musyoka and the party and wrongly fashioning it as a rebellion yet no other Wiper elected leader supports him.
Mr Mbui, who is also the MP for Kathiani Constituency in Machakos County, confirmed that a decision appointing the next party chairman will be announced in a week’s time but declined to divulge further details.
“The new party chair will be unveiled before the end of next week. The person picked will only serve in an acting capacity until the party conducts national elections” Mr Mbui said.
The MP said even though several party insiders were in contention for the post, the next chair was unlikely to come from Ukambani region.
That rules out senior party leaders like former Machakos County senator Johnson Muthama from the race.
Another source within the party said Mr Mwakwere has held numerous meetings with Mr Musyoka at the party’s Karen offices and according to them, he has taken up the job already.
“We’ve been instructed to hand over to Amb Mwakwere all the files which belonged to Prof Kibwana at the party offices but there’s no formal announcement about his appointment,” said the source.
Other than Mr Mwakwere, businessman Victor Ogeto from Nyamira County and lawyer Martin ole Kamwaro from Narok county – both members of party NEC — are among other party officials said to be interested in the job.
Mr Ogeto and Mr Kamwaro have been the political point men for the Wiper party in Kisii and Maasai communities respectively.
The diplomat who resigned as Kenya's ambassador to Tanzania in the run up to the August 2017 General Election was Wiper party’s governor candidate for Kwale County. He lost to Governor Salim Mvurya of Jubilee party.
During the party’s previous NEC meetings, Mr Mwakwere, a former MP for Matuga Constituency in Kwale County, was given the responsibility of announcing the days’ resolutions to the media.
This has been happening despite senior party officials, including the party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Secretary General Judith Sijeny and national vice-chairman Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior being in attendance.
Mr Mwakwere, who served as Transport and Foreign Affairs minister in former president Mwai Kibaki’s administration, has been a close ally of Mr Musyoka.
During a recent television interview, Mr Musyoka downplayed Prof Kibwana’s complaints against the party saying the governor was only looking for flimsy excuses to justify his intentions to ditch outfit.
The Wiper leader insisted he didn’t want to wash his “dirty linen” in public but said the governor will not be forced to quit, neither will he begged to stay in the party.
Mr Musyoka has repeatedly said that his decision to embrace Prof Kibwana ahead of the 2017 election where he was given a direct ticket to defend his gubernatorial seat is what cost him key allies who had stuck with him for many years.
He says long-time confidants, including former Kitui senator and long-serving party chairman David Musila, felt legitimately aggrieved when they were subjected to party primaries when newcomers like Prof Kibwana were favoured with free party tickets.
The party is correcting the 2017 blunders that split the platform in the middle, prompting Mr Musila to run as an independent candidate against the Wiper candidate in Kitui, former governor Julius Malombe who lost to Governor Charity Ngilu.
Soon after the elections, Prof Kibwana not only fell out with Mr Musyoka but teamed up with his colleague Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua to openly call for his retirement from politics.
The turn of events left Mr Musyoka largely exposed because in his Ukambani backyard where he draws most political support, the three counties were in the hands of governors openly opposed to his leadership.
Wiper MPs Mbui, Mr Charles Nguna (Mwingi West), Mr Patrick Makau (Mavoko), Mr Enoch Wambua (Kitui senator) and other have on several occasions demanded that Prof Kibwana resigns from the party and seeks fresh mandate on another outfit.
The differences between Mr Musyoka and the governor arose in December 2018, during his father’s burial when he said he’ll be President Uhuru Kenyatta’s errand boy and that no one should question his decision.
The party NEC meeting is also expected to discuss its stake in the Sh4 billion windfall awarded to their coalition partners Orange Democratic Movement from the Political Parties Fund, Mr Musyoka’s new appointment as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s special envoy to South Sudan.
Mr Musyoka’s efforts to forge coalitions with other political parties in preparations for his bid for the presidency in 2022 will also be discussed at the NEC meeting.