Nasa principals retreat for crucial talks this week to discuss the coalition’s fate following the expected return of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka to the country on Tuesday.
The meeting of the four principals led by Mr Raila Odinga, Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Mr Moses Wetang’ula and Mr Musyoka is scheduled for Wednesday with matters made even more urgent by growing despondency among Nasa supporters following the last-minute cancellation of Mr Odinga’s swearing-in as president on December 12.
The meeting, initially planned for Sunday in Mombasa, had to be rescheduled after Mr Musyoka failed to jet in on Saturday as news trickled in that his ailing wife, Pauline, was being transferred to another health facility in Germany for more specialised treatment, an exercise he wanted to oversee.
Dr Jared Maaka Siso, Wiper’s Executive Director, explained the change of plans. “The party leader has deferred coming home to Tuesday. He was supposed to return today but doctors decided to transfer his wife to another hospital.”
Mr Odinga was already in the coastal town on Saturday but attending to personal matters. He was pictured alongside Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho and his Kisumu counterpart Anyang’ Nyong’o, who has been attending the Council of Governors’ conference at the Diani Reef Hotel in Kwale County.
The communication that Mr Musyoka would not jet into the country on Saturday came late as some of the principals had set out to receive him at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Mr Musyoka has been in Germany for several weeks now attending to his indisposed wife and his absence was given as one of the reasons for last week’s cancellation of Mr Odinga’s swearing-in.
Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, the Wiper chairman, has been representing him in all meetings with the principals.
On Saturday, Mr Mudavadi told the Nation that a new venue for the meeting may have to be agreed on as the just-ended Council of Governors meeting in Mombasa had meant that some of those to attend the meeting were held up there.
“We are awaiting word from the organisers. We realise that the Council of Governors meeting may have affected our schedule; we will have a clear picture later in the day,” said the Amani National Congress (ANC) leader.
Mr Mudavadi was speaking on the assumption that Mr Musyoka would return on Saturday or Sunday, in which case, their meeting would have coincided with that of governors which ended on Saturday.
Top on the agenda going by a paper drafted by coalition strategists is Mr Odinga’s swearing-in ceremony. The principals will deliberate on whether to proceed with the fete or to drop it altogether.
The matter has caused a big dilemma in the Nasa boardrooms and even threatened to divide the coalition last Sunday when Mr Mudavadi and Senator Wetang’ula announced its postponement, saying they needed more room to lay the ground.
Mr Musyoka is expected at the burial of former Minority Leader in the National Assembly Francis Nyenze on Tuesday.
“We are already making plans to travel with him to Kitui,” Wiper Party organising Secretary Robert Mbui said on Saturday.
In the Wednesday meeting, party strategists led by renowned economist David Ndii are expected to present options available for Nasa in the face of dwindling chances that they can force a fresh presidential election to dislodge the Jubilee administration from power.
Those familiar with the organisation said that after the meeting, Nasa is expected to announce to its supporters a plan of action and clear timelines in what will likely rekindle the swearing-in debate, although most of the members, according to insiders, favour the people’s assembly route.
After being identified as the next frontier for agitation and with about 15 counties having ratified the Bill establishing it, the principals will brainstorm on how to strengthen the idea of people’s assemblies and also settle on a date when the national forum would be officially launched.
Also expected to feature prominently in the Wednesday talks will be the future of the coalition.
With a buoyant administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta determined to scuttle it by poaching some of its key members like Turkana Governor Josephat Nanok and his Trans Nzoia counterpart Patrick Khaemba, the Nasa principals will be looking at ways of strengthening Nasa and keeping the troops intact.
There is much anxiety over the future of the alliance with reports that some of the parties may be toying with the idea of charting their own paths now that the presidency looks elusive yet the basis of coming together was power-sharing.
“Our principals will be seeking to arrest the growing disquiet which has dogged Nasa in the last few weeks,” Wiper vice- chairman and Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said.
Nasa is walking a tight rope since the pact establishing it was anchored on the prospects of a win in the August General Election. This having not materialised, they will have to reinvent themselves and find more reason to stay together.
And with the spate of police killings during demonstrations after the disputed poll, a sense of fatigue is fast setting in among the supporters who not only need a new psyche but also assurances that power and attendant benefits will come their way soon.
Some members feel that it is high time the coalition underwent some renaissance or, better still, members allowed to realign themselves as they wish.
Another group holds the view that with a change in leadership and admission of more members, there are better things to come. A resolution to this effect will likely come at the end of the forum.
Vicious wrangling by the Nasa affiliated parties over positions and committee membership in Parliament will also be discussed. Infighting over the seats has threatened to tear the coalition apart with the three parties – ANC, Wiper and Ford Kenya – accusing ODM of awarding itself all the plum House positions, minority leader and minority whip, which went to the Orange party MPs John Mbadi and Junet Mohamed respectively.
Other than Wiper and ANC lawmakers who voiced their displeasure, a handful of Coast MPs from ODM also protested the move, saying they were being marginalised. The minority whip in the 11th Parliament, former Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu (ODM) hailed from the Coast.
“They must move with speed and arrest the interparty fissures or sit by and hand Jubilee a chance they are badly looking for to dismember us for good,” another member warned.
Following the election of Mr Odinga’s brother Dr Oburu Oginga to the East African legislative Assembly (EALA) and that of Mr Musyoka’s son Kennedy, there is also growing discontent among other contenders who feel that their leaders were inward looking at the expense of more deserving members.
With growing calls for dialogue and President Kenyatta hinting at such a possibility in his Jamhuri Day address, the coalition’s top organ will equally “explore the form and structure” such talks would assume and if agreed, offer suggestions on who would spearhead the process.
They will also take a position on whether they should take heed of Mr Kenyatta’s call for dialogue that is also being pushed by Western envoys led by US Ambassador Robert Godec and the religious leaders or snub it all together.
Mr Mudavadi holds that any form of dialogue must be about how to bring about electoral reforms, justice and not power-sharing with Jubilee.
Observers have warned that succumbing to pressure from supporters to swear in Mr Odinga without carefully thinking through its implications could spell doom for the country, which is still smarting from the post-election unrest which has adversely affected the economy.
At the same time, the Nation is in possession of a legal opinion written by top Nasa lawyers which played a key role in dissuading Mr Odinga from taking the oath.
The team strongly held that it was their responsibility to “secure Raila the person, his reputation and his legacy” something that they write would have been compromised had he been sworn in.
“Raila is currently under the sway of the radical elements of Nasa who are leading him along a political direction that could compromise his legacy of fighting for democracy. People are angry, and Raila must fight for them. However we must be fair to Raila and not spill everything he has achieved in terms of legacy by providing him with only the most radical of options in this fight for electoral justice,” reads the opinion.