NASA co-principal and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka urgently wants to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta and his co-principal Raila Odinga on face-to-face talks to resolve the political crisis in the aftermath of the 2017 election.
In his first candid interview since he jetted back to the country from Germany two weeks ago, Kalonzo said he cannot sit pretty and watch the country spiral into an abyss when he knows he can play a decisive role on the impasse.
Reflective but unflinching and with Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua by his side on the lush lawns of his Karen home, Kalonzo laid out the terms for what he described as “structured dialogue” to the Sunday Standard team.
He said his long day and night sojourns in grumpy Europe weather had afforded him a sober reflective advantage over his colleagues in the coalition and rivals in Jubilee. He was categorical that the much-fancied swearing-in of himself and his co-principal Raila Odinga must be the last resort.
“My brother President Uhuru Kenyatta, and I am calling him ‘president’ in quotes because he has the instruments of power at the moment, and my brother Raila Odinga, time has come for us to sit and talk this one out,” he said.
Below our interview setting was the famed gazebo where Uhuru snookered him on his bid to succeed retired President Mwai Kibaki after serving him loyally as the Vice President for five years. Occasionally, he flashed his eyes across the gazebo and dug in further.
“If they – Uhuru and Raila – cannot come together, I hope they will allow me to bring them together so that they can look at each other in the face. These are people who have worked together in the past,” Kalonzo said, describing himself as the “glue” that can bind them.
The talks, he said, should entail constitutional reforms to restructure governance institutions, strengthen devolution, guarantees to a more cohesive country and the thorny subject of electoral justice. They should neither involve diplomats nor the church.
“The diplomats must have the presence of mind to appreciate that Kenyans need home-grown solutions to political challenges we face today. They cannot begin to posture as the champions of dialogue to resolve a crisis they participated in brewing. Western envoys must in particular first apologise to Kenyans for according the elections credibility long before the electoral body itself did,” Senator Wambua interjected.
Hurting from inside
Kalonzo said the two “stolen elections” had weighed on him, his supporters and the country. He said although he presents a bold face, he has been hurting from inside and carrying the weight of “political injustice.”
“That ought to be the priority, electoral justice! There is no point of participating in an election with a pre-determined outcome. Everything that I have said can be discussed if we meet,” he said while describing his offer as “one without prejudice”.
The Wiper leader revealed that his NASA brethren are equally receptive of his proposed set of rules of engagement with Jubilee leadership but he was the most ideal person to make the proposal for a particular reason.
“We are in a first-among-equals kind of situation in NASA. Our unity is paramount. The only positive credential I have is that I was away and they were not,” he said.
He refused to be drawn into discussions on the half-Cabinet appointments and what this means to his proposal for talks. He described them as a purely Jubilee affair which cannot draw any meaningful inferences relating to NASA grievances.
“We have made it absolutely clear that this is not about a nusu mkate kind of a thing. It’s much more serious than this. It’s unfortunate that when I made the offer they did not respond. They were busy chewing,” he said.
Striking an insightful pose as breezes from palms on the sides pounded on him, he punched further: “If I do not get a word in the next few days, I may walk to the President myself and I hope this time round the media will come along.”
“And then do what?” I posed. And he retorted, with a flair of finality, “And then demand answers… because this is not about me. It has never been!”
He engaged us on a long-winded lecture of the Birmingham disturbances of the 1960’s, drawing their relevance to the present Kenyan situation. Waxing philosophical, he unfurled four ingredients to the fight for basic political rights and declared them ripe in Kenya.
“The first is the acknowledgment of an intolerable situation in Kenya. That is not in doubt. The second is the need for negotiations, we say we are ready. If that does not work, we move to self-purification stage where non-violent approaches will pick. The last is direct action but I do not wish we get there,” he said.
Kalonzo said the talks can take the form of the 2008 ones and dropped the name of former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, crediting him with setting the right tempo then.
We pointed out to him the curious case of the closed Kenyan political system where bitter rivals in public are friends in private and referring to the 2013 gazebo experience, asked him why he couldn’t ring up the President himself.
“Oh you have read my book, if only that gazebo could speak!” he sighed, then added: “I have no enmity whatsoever or with anybody. I can ring him up today or tomorrow, but no… tomorrow we are in Kakamega,” he said.
Clad in brown leather jacket, checked shirt and khaki trousers, he seemed to enjoy the weather he had missed for three months when he was tending to his ailing wife in Germany.
“It’s painful to be away. The weather was oppressive... snowy and in a place where nobody knows you. It was however nice as I was able to run around in the streets when I could without anybody stopping me. I missed my country, I missed my people but we thank God we are back and she’s doing well,” he said.
Before our interview started, he found us chatting in the gazebo with his aides and briefly stole away Senator Wambua. It turned out they left for an errand to a chemist shop to the benefit of his wife.
“She’s getting better, and thanks to prayers and support of everyone,” he said.