Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka is increasingly taking a prominent role in Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya and is emerging as the clearest successor to opposition chief Raila Odinga.
From hosting a series of top-brass meetings at his Karen office to reading the coalition’s joint statements, Kalonzo’s apparent propping up has seemed a badly kept secret.
The former VP will lead Azimio’s team to talks with the Kenya Kwanza Alliance side. On Thursday, he took charge of affairs, inviting their Kenya Kwanza counterparts to a meeting on Monday.
“In light of the urgency of the issues, the anxiety of our people and in the interest of a speedy resolution to the issues afflicting our nation, we today extend an invitation to the Kenya Kwanza National Dialogue Team, the Leader of the Majority Party in the National Assembly, and the designated leader of the Kenya Kwanza delegation for the initial joint meeting of both parties at the Serena Hotel, Nairobi, on Monday, August 7, 2023, at 11 am,” Kalonzo wrote to Kenya Kwanza.
Azimio had chosen Kalonzo to lead talks with foreign envoys before his selection to head the 10-member committee that will handle the issues that sparked conflicts between Raila and President William Ruto.
Credible reports suggest that Kalonzo will take up the role of the leader of the opposition, listed as one of the issues that Kenya Kwanza wants discussed in the talks.
Such an appointment would catapult him to the pinnacle of opposition politics, ushering in a new era of leadership.
Sources within Azimio have revealed that the coalition has unanimously settled for a Kalonzo candidature in 2027. Raila’s role in the matrix, a highly-placed source who sought anonymity told the Saturday Standard, would be to galvanise support for Kalonzo as he did for former President Mwai Kibaki.
The former PM remains the leading opposition figure. That only he met the president in a discussion facilitated by former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo shows that he is still at the top of the food chain.
Signs that Raila could be keen on passing the baton have been apparent in recent months. During last week’s vigil to honour those killed in the opposition’s protests and a subsequent requiem mass, Raila did not speak, with Kalonzo reading the joint statements. That followed his decision to keep off the previous week’s protests, emerging later to reveal he had a cold.
Kalonzo has supported Raila in his last three unsuccessful presidential bids, twice as a running mate and once, last year, as a hopeful for the Chief Minister position. His decision to support Raila last year came after a lot of reluctance, the result of Raila’s selection of Narc Kenya Leader Martha Karua as his running mate. Karua, like Raila, continues to play a leading part in Azimio’s affairs, alongside other co-principals of the coalition.
National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi yesterday said the question of whether Kalonzo’s increasing prominence was a deliberate move to establish him as Raila’s heir apparent was “premature”. “We are very focused on what we want to do as Azimio,” he said.
Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo said that such a move (Kalonzo’s crowning as the opposition chief) “can’t happen now”.
“Azimio can’t release its strategy this early. But Raila remains key in Azimio and our nation,” he said.
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Maanzo is of the view that Kalonzo should not chair the talks owing to his seniority.
“Ichung’wa should be handled by Babu Owino (Embakasi East) and not Kalonzo,” Maanzo added.
University lecturer Gitile Naituli believes Kalonzo has what it takes to lead Azimio and oust Ruto in 2027.
“Kalonzo is very mature. After experiencing the roughness of Ruto and Uhuru (Kenyatta), Kenyans will want someone who is calm. Kalonzo is another Kibaki,” said Prof Naituli.
“Raila should stay around and tutor Kalonzo since he still holds heavy gravitas. He has done a lot for this country and he can do so much for Kalonzo,” he added.