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Why Moses Wetang'ula can rest easy in the Kenya Kwanza power line-up

THE STANDARD
May 16th 2022
Ford Kenya Party Leader Moses Wetangula addressing the Kenya Kwanza Alliance delegates. [David Gichuru, Standard]

Even as political rivals hurl barbs at a power-sharing deal hammered out by Kenya Kwanza coalition leaders, Ford-Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula stands out above the rest as one with the safest bait.

Born on September 13 1956, Mr Wetang’ula — who kicked of his political career in 1992 as Nominated MP of Independence party Kanu — is the most politically experienced partner in coalition deal-making within the Ruto-led coalition that includes Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress (ANC) and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi’s Democratic Party among others.  

 

Mr Wetang’ula, in the recent times, has teamed up with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka in the Coalition for Restoration of Democracy (Cord) in 2013 and National Super Alliance (Nasa) in 2017, has this time switched camp to the William Ruto-led outfit.   

In all the two poll instances, Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka were left in political cold after failing to secure victory as their partner, Mr Wetang’ula, secured an elective seat and served as Minority Leader in the Senate. In 2017, Mudavadi stayed in the wings as Wetang’ula comfortably landed his seat in the Senate – thanks to his Plan B.

And this time around, the wily Wetang’ula has even more seats within his orbit – three. The Ford-Kenya leader is eyeing the Speaker’s seat in the National Assembly, which – if it comes through – will constitutionally place him as the third most senior government official after the President and Deputy President. This is a move that will technically catapult him to a position higher than Musalia’s in the pecking order.  

Mr Wetang’ula has two additional seats within his reach as fallback position – a Senate seat and a ministerial position, in the event Dr Ruto clinches the presidency but with minority seats in the National Assembly.

Yesterday, the former Foreign Affairs minister conceded to having “done a good job” at the deal table, but was reluctant to take full credit. He maintained that the deal was fair to deal for all – Ruto, Mudavadi, himself and the Kenya Kwanza fraternity.         

The Kenya Kwanza coalition agreement deposited with the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) proposes Mr Mudavadi as Prime Cabinet Secretary, with Wetang’ula destined to take up the slot of Speaker of the National Assembly.

Of the two, Wetang’ula is the political junior partner of Mr Mudavadi, a former Vice President who also served as Deputy Prime Minister in the Grand Coalition Government. In the event of a Ruto presidency, the deal envisages a 50-50 share out of Cabinet slots and other positions in government between the ANC and Ford-Kenya leaders.

With regard to Mr Mudavadi, the deal says in part, that “the ministries responsible for interior and coordination of national government, shall be placed under the office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary”.

Poll win

Unlike Mr Wetang’ula, Mr Mudavadi’s position is strictly hinged on Kenya Kwanza forming government.  

Therefore, unlike his ‘brother’ Mr Mudavadi, whose deal is solely dependent on Ruto’s poll win, Mr Wetang’ula has several cards at play whether or not  Kenya Kwanza forms the next government. Even if Dr Ruto is piped by his main rival, Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya’s nominee Raila Odinga, Wetang’ula can still secure what he bargained for as Speaker of the National Assembly. 

His maneuvers to maintain his elective seat in Bungoma County and stay politically relevant notwithstanding, opponents have alleged that Mr Wetang’ula’s acrobatic moves are a pointer to the fact that his side of the coalition had sensed defeat in the August poll.

Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, particularly unleashed a loaded statement to this effect via Twitter on Friday evening: “My brother Wetang’ula, congratulations on your sweetheart deal! But as the Prince of Morocco was told in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, not all that glitters is gold. If you are confident of your win and deal, why are you still vying for the senator’s seat in Bungoma?”

Yesterday, Wetang’ula hit back at the CS by daring him to make public what was entailed in his deal with Raila. Terming Wamalwa – his Azimio political challenger in the western Kenya region – as an “empty-handed conformist”, Wetang’ula argued that he and Mudavadi had struck the best deal for members of the Luhya community. 

Indeed, a closer scrutiny reveals that even in light of parliamentary elections, the deal with Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) has benefitted Wetang’ula more than it has Mudavadi.

Courtesy of teaming up, the politician’s Ford-Kenya party has inherited the neighbouring political constituencies of Mt Elgon in Bungoma County and Trans Nzoia County, which have traditionally been Ruto-leaning. 

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