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Raila Odinga remains mute as leaders mull over future of Azimio in Mt Kenya

Azimio la Umoja Coalition presidential flag bearer Raila Odinga (centre), former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth (right) and nominated MP Sabina Chege during town hall meetings with aspirants under Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition in Kiambu, on Tuesday, May 03, 2022. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Leaders who vied on the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party ticket are at a crossroads on the fate of the outfit that was originally formed by 23 political parties.

The silence by top coalition party officials is said to be raising questions as to whether it will survive the political turbulence for the next five years.

A section of leaders who lost in the August General Election say they have not got a way forward from the party’s top brass that include their leader Raila Odinga and chairperson, former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

While Uhuru was the Azimio chairperson, he also remained the party leader of Jubilee Party underperformed in this year’s polls, shrinking in size in terms of political influence in Mt Kenya region and in both houses of Parliament.

Failure by the former ruling party to reinvigorate and sponsor its candidates, has been attributed to Uhuru’s silence since Raila’s ODM and Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Democratic Movement managed to send a big number of representatives to the August House.

Azimio’s running mate Martha Karua’s Narc Kenya has no legislators in both houses.

Some leaders like former Kieni MP Kanini Kega and Jubilee party director of elections maintain they were aware of President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) dominance in the region, they maintain that they chose not to betray the region’s son.

“If I wanted to be reelected, I knew what I could have done; stand up, insult the former president and say he had neglected our region. But I chose the truth and even if the situation repeats itself, I will stand with Uhuru,” Kega maintained.

Kega was among the political bigwigs who were floored by greenhorns who vied on UDA party. His colleagues say they must study the ground and make an informed decision in five years.

Former Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi believes that Azimio was only a special purpose vehicle to take Raila to State House and since it did not achieve its target, its fate was doomed.

According to Ngugi, political interests keep changing and by 2027, many will have their interests and allegiances morph from the coalition party to other formations.

“No opposition coalition party has survived the changing political fortunes in Kenya, even the coalitions that formed the government did not unite until the next general election,” notes Ngugi.

Former President Mwai Kibaki formed the Nationa Rainbow Coalition (Narc) in 2002 that brought together several opposition parties to defeat Uhuru, then Kanu’s presidential candidate. Five years later, Narc disintegrated and Kibaki sought for his reelection through the Party of National Unity (PNU).

In the run-up to the 2013 elections, Odinga’s ODM formed the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) alliance to face off with the Jubilee coalition that brought Uhuru’s TNA and Ruto’s URP together.

CORD joined with more parties to form the National Super Alliance (NASA) in 2017 while Uhuru and Ruto convinced 12 parties to dissolve to form Jubilee party, while NASA morphed to Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance.

Former Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru who unsuccessfully tried to unseat Governor Ann Waiguru said it was over to Azimio.

“The Azimio coalition party is done and dusted, I moved on to other private and business matters. I have kept off politics,” said Kibiru.

But to others, it is too early to speculate that the coalition faces an imminent death just because they have not been seen criticizing Ruto’s government.

Former Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu says the opposition will criticise and oppose Kenya Kwanza government fairly and unfairly, and will also incite the public against the government just as they did to Uhuru government.

This was the position given by former Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, Jubilee’s Secretary General who said there have been regular meetings by relevant organs of the coalition party in readiness to roll out an elaborate opposition strategy.

According to Kioni, although individual MPs who lost had taken a sabbatical leave to allow the chosen candidates time to deliver their promises, there was a beehive of activities at the boardroom level to formulate a strategy that would keep Kenya Kwanza government in check.

“We have held three meetings with the Azimio coalition organs and the top leadership led by Raila and Uhuru are available when we need them. By next year, Azimio will be back in full force and it shall present itself as the alternative government,” maintains Kioni.

He said they will use the coalition structures to establish the Shadow Cabinet that will directly play oversight roles to Ruto’s government.

“The party is scheduled to hold three seminars sponsored by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) for youth and women in Nairobi, Mombasa and Naivasha by next month. We may seem silent but we are silently analysing and evaluating our mistakes to reinvigorate and revive the coalition,” noted Kioni.

Former Jubilee Woman Representative Priscilla Nyokabi is advocating for a vibrant opposition.

“The thin win by Kenya Kwanza government shows elections can go either way and political parties must internalise this and stick to their lane even after the election,” she said.

Although Nyokabi seemed to echo Kioni’s statement that there were activities in readiness for a vibrant opposition by January she suggested that it was time for Raila to also prepare his successor.

Clifford Mutembei, Jubilee youth coordinator in Mt Kenya region was of the opinion that poor performance by parties that formed Azimio was the main reason the coalition would disintegrate.

“Instead of Jubilee party devising a strategy to deliver a win for Raila they started fighting over control of resources and we ended up performing dismally. Out of all the parties in Azimio only ODM can stand since unlike our party it has good structures and prudent management practices,” said Mutembei.

Prof Gitile Naituli, a political analyst observed that only parties that sponsored candidates can have influence on opposition and Jubilee is not among them.

Naituli said only Wiper and ODM can be left to oversee the government through their sponsored candidates, a move that spells doom for the Azimio coalition.

“There is nothing like Azimio, we only have ODM and Wiper. And given the simmering succession battles in ODM, Kalonzo can outwit Raila to be 2027’s main opponent against Ruto,” noted Naituli.

“Parties are likely to survive if they give their supporters a reason to stick with them, but this is not the case with Azimio.”

Naituli, who watered down Kenya Kwanza Cabinet on claims that it will frustrate Ruto’s reelection bid, maintained that Kalonzo needs to sustain his onslaught against Ruto’s government to stage a serious political fight in 2027.

“The Cabinet is full of politicians and nondescript individuals who will fail Ruto unless he becomes the minister himself, coupled with serious opposition. Kalonzo may team up with Karua in 2027 to face off with Ruto,” said Naituli.