By Gakuu Mathenge
The bid by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, to assume the face of the Party of National Unity (PNU) leadership on the road to 2012 succession battles has provoked mixed reactions.
By taking lead in PNU’s search for alliances, Kalonzo also puts his PNU rivals Uhuru Kenyatta and Prof George Saitoti in a quandary, prodding them to either line up behind him or oppose him. This comes in the wake of new opinion polls, which indicate Kalonzo is the favourite among his peers in PNU. In the Synovate poll released on Saturday, PNU supporters ranked Kalonzo top (32 per cent) as their preferred candidate, followed by Mr Uhuru Kenyatta (18 per cent), Ms Martha Karua (14 per cent) and President Kibaki at 13 per cent.
For the PNU leadership to oppose him it will only confirm a common tale against central Kenya political elite as masters of use-and-dump tactics who cannot be trusted.
Critics, however, think reforms and reconciliation at the moment rank higher than campaigns for 2012.
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"Tribal alliances are uncalled for now. Reforms and a new constitution are higher in priority. We should be talking about alliances of parties based on strategies to unite and heal the country, not tribal alliances" said assistant minister Lewis Nguyai.
The VP launched his bid for PNU alliances in uncharacteristically provocative speeches; one delivered in Machakos and followed up with another during a fundraising for PNU women caucus at a Nairobi.
Choosing his Ukambani home turf, and in the presence of Agriculture Minister William Ruto, Kalonzo floated the idea of the Kamba, the Kalenjin and Kikuyu forming a political alliance was telling. He rubbed it in by recounting he once was the king of opinion polls in the Rift Valley, before Ruto sunk him by joining the Orange Democratic Movement’s 2007 presidential race.
Then he chose the PNU women wing fundraising, to get more blunt: "The ODM does not sleep, they strategise day and night, while pretenders to the throne in PNU do nothing. We have been too cowardly… PNU is ridiculed we do not have people who can speak."
The usually reserved Assistant Minister and Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, fired the first salvo, saying he was surprised the V-P was talking about tribal alliances at a time the country was crying out for healing and reconciliation.
"What happens to the rest of the country if we follow this route?" Kenneth said while he addressed a rally in Runyenjes, hosted by assistant minister Cecily Mbarire.
However, even as speakers talk about healing and reconciling the country, it has been an open secret that Kalonzo has been under pressure from his home base to show his investment in PNU was worth much more than just propping up President Kibaki’s second term.