Raila's AU ambition jolts political parties, set to birth new alliances

Azimio leader Raila Odinga. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Just like the 2018 handshake between then President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga, the latter’s now emerging relations, which point to secret handshake with President William Ruto, has jolted political alignments.

In Raila-Uhuru handshake, the  National Super Alliance (Nasa) was badly mutilated beyond repair, with co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress, ANC) and Moses Wetang’ula later joining hands with Kanu National Chairman Gideon Moi to form One Kenya Alliance, leaving Raila, assisted by Uhuru, to seek a new coalition. 

The intrigues of the Raila-Uhuru handshake are being replicated in the Raila-Ruto bromance with Azimio, which was created from the remains of Nasa, now seeming to receive the heat. 

Political arsenal

Kalonzo has already gone ahead to put up a political arsenal bringing on board DAP-K leader Eugene Wamalwa, former presidential candidate George Wajackoyah, Kanu’s Gideon Moi and Usawa Kwa Wote party leader Mwangi Wa Iria.

The coalition in the making, which The Standard has learnt may be christened Solidarity Alliance, has already hit the ground running and has started attending church events and meeting the people.

On Sunday, Kalonzo led his lieutenants,  who included Wamalwa and Wa Iria, for a church service in Embu and thereafter addressed locals where he criticised the Kenya Kwanza administration, thereby presenting himself as the alternative after Raila is out of the political matrix. Kalonzo also sought to bring the defunct Eastern Province together to back his presidential ambitions.

“Isiolo, Marsabit, Embu, Makueni, Kitui, Machakos, Meru was Eastern Province. We were taught politics by the likes of Jeremiah Nyaga (who hailed from Embu) and were it not for tribal ethnicity, he would have been the president. Time has come for you to produce one of your own to run for president,” Kalonzo said in a strategy seen as a move to alienate Meru, Embu and Tharaka Nithi from the larger Mt Kenya region to support his presidential bid.

Raila’s party Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) may be groping in the dark as it has been characterised by succession politics.

Political analyst Charles Njoroge opines that the party could ‘face the litmus test of its time’ since Raila’s successful bid may leave it leaderless.

Major transition

“The party may face what the former ruling party faced – disintegration and emergence of factions... Should Raila succeed in his quest, the Jubilee party misfortunes will befall ODM and it will be a major transition of Kenya’s party politics,” Njoroge opined.

Njoroge’s views goes against ODM luminaries who downplayed claims that the party will lose its mojo when Raila leaves.

Siaya Governor James Orengo asserted that the opposition party possesses a solid foundation and will survive, given its longstanding establishment and history.

“Raila has built a political machine and nationwide base and support that cannot disintegrate and ODM will remain a progressive movement and a bastion for freedom, justice, democracy, and the rule of law,” he said.

On his part, Oparanya, one of the ODM’s deputy party leader, in an interview with The Standard, said there was no discord within ODM, noing the party was strong and formidable.

“We can’t afford to initiate succession within ODM while the party leader is here with us. It’s akin to initiating the inheritance process while your parents are still alive. We are united and the party is strong,” he said.

On the political alliances, Oparanya, while admitting that Raila will eventually form a new political alliance for 2027, said it was too early to speak about the matter.

“While it is true that political alliances are formed a few months to the general election just like how National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) was formed in 2022, it’s too early to start discussing who will form which coalition with who,” he said.

While Kalonzo is repositioning, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and Jubilee’s Jeremiah Kioni, on the other hand, have retreated back to Mt Kenya region where they have mobilised small political parties for Limuru Three on April 20. The forum is meant to chart the way forward of the mountain with a view of forming a political alliance for 2027 presidential game plan.

Karua said the meeting will discuss issues of Mt Kenya region’s common interests such as heavy taxation, especially on farm produce, among other issues.

“We are allowed by the Constitution to come together to discuss our common interests. Other communities join hands to discuss their issues and we are no different,” Karua said.

Olive branch

Kioni said the team has extended an olive branch to Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and all the leaders elected on the ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket to the conference to discuss the way forward.

Kioni claims the Raila-Ruto deal will sidestep Gachagua and the region as a whole.

“With the coming together of the two, I can tell you those in Mt Kenya would rather think quickly as a community and think of our survival and it is better to think of our survival when we still have some strength somewhere left economically and politically,” he said.

He added: “The invitation to ensure that we have unity in Mt Kenya is across the board for those in UDA and for those in Azimio because the survival of the community is more important than our personal interests.”

His sentiments seem to echo what Gachagua said while in Embu County on Saturday that there were plans by “the enemies of Mt Kenya region” to use the youthful leaders to divide the region along the counties’ lines, reminding his community of its political journey since 1992 and vowed not to let anyone to “be used to divide the community”.

Region isolated

However, Laikipia East MP and The Service Party leader Mwangi Kiunjuri cautioned on unity by a section of the leaders, warning that it may lead to the region being isolated by other communities in the country.

According to Kiunjuri, the regional leaders’ pursuit of unity should not lead to anxiety, tension and panic to the Agikuyu community as that would put the community at loggerheads with the president.

“We must solve our issues behind the tent but we can’t come out clearly as if we are fighting the government of William Ruto. The way we are going, it is as if we have problems with the national government,” Kiunjuri said.