The game changers: Men, women whose moves will shape the State House contest in August 9 polls


President Uhuru Kenyatta with ODM leader Raila Odinga at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi City County during the Jubilee Party's National Delegates Conference.


Every move they have made recently has been calculated. Planned to impact their immediate and future political careers. In their wake, they have propelled or dealt a huge blow to the top contenders for State House.

They are the political game-changers, whose choice to align themselves with either Azimo la Umoja movement or the Kenya Kwanza Alliance, has tilted the scales.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang'ula had kept majority of Kenyans guessing on their next political moves ahead of the August 9 contest.

In pursuit of power, self-preservation and political relevance, they have abandoned former allies, crafted new strategies and jumped ship to where they feel confident of a win.

When President Uhuru Kenyatta publicly declared his support for Raila Odinga as his preferred successor, it not only confirmed what the public knew all along but also pushed Deputy President William Ruto to intensify his attacks on the Head of State.

“According to where we have come from, where we are and where we are headed, I want to ask you to hold the hand of the old man (Raila) and support him… the other young man still has time and we can support him in future…,” urged Uhuru.

Observers say Uhuru's declaration has bolstered Raila's chances of clinching the presidency since he brings with him the state machinery and his influence over the 5.9 million Mt Kenya voters.

Uhuru and Raila’s partnership began with the March 2018 handshake and grew stronger with Sagana State Lodge endorsement.

What ensued was mass defections of leaders from other parties to join forces with both Jubilee and ODM to form Azimio la Umoja coalition party.

Even leaders who were once fervent defenders of DP Ruto such as Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege and Jubilee elections director Kanini Kega, shied away and instead backed Raila. 

Musalia Mudavadi, Kenya’s seventh vice president and a former Deputy Prime Minister – delivered his earthquake moment when he threw his weight behind DP Ruto on January 23.

By doing so, he shifted his Western support base into Ruto's hands. In the 2013 elections, Musalia garnered over 480,000 votes and given the rise in population over the last nine years, has capacity to attract more voters.

Mudavadi had traditionally been an ardent supporter of Raila, with whom they formed NASA in the run-up to the 2017 polls.

So it did not come as a surprise when his move to back Ruto sparked off a power struggle in Western region, with a section of leaders opposed to his association with the second in command emerging.

It also caused disquiet in the Azimio la Umoja camp which retaliated by engineering mass defections from Mudavadi’s ANC party.

Then there is Narc Party leader Martha Karua who despite being courted by the Kenya Kwanza brigade, recently decided to run into the arms of Raila Odinga.

The iron lady formally joined Azimio in late March and endorsed Mr Odinga’s presidential candidature. Earlier, she had sent mixed signals and had found herself “politically isolated” after her counterparts from One Kenya Alliance (OKA) joined Azimio.

Another political player who has adjusted the sails of his political career is Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetang'ula.

His entry into Kenya Kwanza upset the historical dynamics of the Bukusuland. By backing Ruto, he handed him the support of a party that has been in existence for the past 31 years and that of the Bukusu region.

The jury is still out on whether the political moves of the game-changers will pay off but the defining moment will be on August 9 at the ballot.