Supremacy battles create divisions in Kenya Kwanza

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wah consults with Bungoma Woman Rep Catherine Wabilianga and EALA MP Hassan Omar at Bomas of Kenya on August, 21, 2023. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Just a year into his presidency, President William Ruto finds himself in a delicate position as he tries to ward off rivalry between UDA allied leaders in Western region.

There are supremacy battles between forces loyal to Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang'ula.

While Mudavadi appears to be focusing on steering the government towards the ambitious Kenya Kwanza manifesto, some forces back home are drifting away from him, with encouragement from their handlers in Nairobi.

Speaking in Kakamega last Sunday, Senator Boni Khalwale warned the president against losing focus, reminding him that the only leaders of Western are Musalia and Wetang'ula.

"You asked us for votes, and we contributed. Our people voted for you because they expected development," Khalwale said.

Khalwale offered insights about the unfolding power play reiterating the position of Mudavadi and Wetang'ula as Western leaders.

Khalwale said: "We voted for you and expect you to deliver on your promises. We support the president until 2032, but expect tangible development. He cautioned Ruto that those aligning themselves with him might not necessarily embody true leadership qualities, urging Ruto to stay focused.

When we called, Khalwale he explained, "Ebu, listen to the video; it's self-explanatory."

At the heart of this conflict is the elevation of former Kakamega senator Cleopas Malala as Secretary-General of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) who is close to the deputy president.

Malala has become an influential leader who has been cleared to attend Cabinet meetings, a development that is causing jitters in ANC and Ford Kenya camps.

Speaking in Musalia's home county, Vihiga, Malala told locals that he sits in the Cabinet to ensure Ruto's manifesto is well implemented.

"As a leader, the president has to deliver what he promised in the campaigns, and it's my mandate to ensure that has happened by being part of the Cabinet," Malala said on June 27 this year.

During a recent meeting at State House Ruto's comprehensive tour of Western was discussed. Interestingly, this tour was scheduled on the same day as a significant event in Mudavadi's personal life: the wedding of his younger daughter.

The president is on a five-day working tour of Western region where he will commission a number of development projects.

Sources said that Malala, determined to weaken Mudavadi’s hold on Western politics, is rallying former area leaders and political strategists who understand Western political terrain.

He has been visiting the region and engaging with local delegations to clarify the contentious finance and development bills while appealing to the locals in their efforts to strengthen their influence in Western.

But not all leaders are impressed by Malala's place in the political matrix.

"Malala is a political reject. He holds no position in the constitution. He can take anyone to State House, but at the end, whoever wants us, the Western region people, will have to go through the government or elected leaders," said Kakamega Deputy Governor Ayub Savula.

The Standard has established that a recent meeting at State House marked the beginning of plans for a comprehensive tour of Western region by Ruto. Interestingly, the meeting was scheduled at a time Mudavadi's daughter was getting married in a traditional ceremony.

"Today, I was privileged to have led a delegation of leaders drawn from our vast Mulembe Nation for a meeting with President William Samoei Ruto at State House-Nairobi. Strengthening the UDA Party's grassroot support in the western region took centre stage," Malala tweeted.

Policy researcher and governance expert Charles Wafula said that the divisions were expected, but it would be tricky for Musalia to start fighting back now.

"He should sit back, build his brand, learn to communicate with locals, and use mobile campaign resources. Musalia is a boardroom politician and has a challenge talking to the masses. Musalia’s biggest enemy is Musalia Mudavadi," Wafula said.

Wafula added that Mount Kenya was organised in Kenya Kwanza as compared to Western and that they will continue pushing Musalia and Wetang'ula to the edge until the last day.

Political analyst Javas Bigambo said that the consequences of not toeing the party line are ruthless.

"Parties belong to individuals in Kenya, and their word is a rule in the party. I am sure that if they don't toe the line or listen to the likes of Rigathi, they will be kicked out in party nominations or be impeached," Bigambo said.

The implications of this rift have affected the implementation of the Kenya Kwanza manifesto, with nearly 30 per cent of government positions promised to Mudavadi and Wetang'ula remaining unfulfilled.