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Growing unease over Alfred Mutua's independence

 President Uhuru Kenyatta chats with Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua during the burial of Gen Jackson Mulinge in Machakos County. INSET: Mutua’s political rival Johnstone Muthama. [PHOTOS: FILE/ STANDARD]

Kenya: Machakos County Governor Dr Alfred Mutua’s breakaway from the  Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) is more or less assured given his frequent opposing positions on issues at the centre of  the Opposition alliance’s political strategy.

His public and very vocal opposition to a series of CORD rallies—including the much-touted Saba Saba rally on July 7—has now put him on a collision course with the Wiper party that sponsored him to office. When he off-handedly dismissed the Saba Saba rally, Mutua took up the Jubilee mantra by urging  leaders to focus on development projects to enhance the living standard of Kenyans.

His open rebellion could be one of the biggest gambles of his political career and one that could come with serious ramifications in the next General Election. It has also become clear that the former Government spokesman, who succeeded in capturing a top elective position in his first shot, is aggressively fighting to become his own man in the highly-charged Kamba political landscape.

Mutua was elected on a Wiper Democratic Movement ticket and is reported to be seeking to become the pointman in Kamba politics at the expense of party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and his long time political opponent, Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu.

After launching numerous successful development projects, Mutua’s rise in popularity in Ukambani has sent his star rising among local people, much to the discomfort of some members of Wiper, which is a member of the CORD coalition.

Mutua, who captured the Wiper Party nomination after defeating former Cabinet Minister Mutua Katuku in a bruising political battle, and consequently rode on the wave of the umbrella party’s popularity to clinch the Machakos gubernatorial seat, now appears to have taken a political about-turn against his party leader Kalonzo.

Recent activities in the county and the wider Ukambani region attest to the widening rift between Mutua and members of the larger CORD coalition, and Kalonzo in particular.

A case in point is Mutua’s repeated calls to local people to shun the series of political rallies convened by the CORD leaders to push the Government into national dialogue conference. Indeed, Mutua skipped the Machakos rally held on July 6 to drum up support for the Saba Saba event even as his counterparts Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Julius Malombe (Kitui) joined CORD leaders at Kenyatta Stadium for the event. No apologies were communicated for his absence.

Although Mutua claims he had been  harassed by “some elements”  within the CORD leadership whom he, however, did not name, he has nevertheless showed he is not afraid of political confrontations.

He  has chosen to stay focused on his day-to-day duties as the Machakos County Chief Executive. For instance, during the burial of retired former Chief of General Staff Jackson Mulinge, Mutua made a grand entry into the arena side by side with President Kenyatta.

Grand arrival

Observers believe his grand arrival at the venue was calculated to send a key political statement ... that Mutua was ahead in the pecking order, arriving after other politicians had  reported earlier to usher the President into the venue.

And throughout the ceremony, Mutua sat next to, and occasionally chatted with the President. He appeared to have little time for CORD principals Raila Odinga, Moses Wetang’ula and Kalonzo who sat barely five metres to his left.

Back in his County Assembly, Mutua seems to enjoy the support of most of the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) who have ganged up to sponsor a ‘No Confidence’ Motion against his deputy Bernard Kiala after the two fell out.

Mutua has accused Kiala of working with Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama to mobilise MCAs to impeach him, claims that Kiala has vehemently denied.

And it is because of this war with Kiala that the political acrimony between the Governor and the CORD leaders has come out into the open, with some political pundits claiming Kiala is fighting a proxy war that pits Kalonzo and Muthama against Mutua. During the Machakos CORD rally on July 6, Kalonzo, utterly disappointed by Mutua’s absence, sent a  strongly worded message to the governor ‘that his conduct would be audited’. “It is not my intention to dwell on our internal party affairs, but we will sort out those issues later,” said Kalonzo.

Kiala, who welcomed the CORD leaders on behalf of the Governor, was all praise for Kalonzo, and said the entire Machakos County leadership was behind the CORD co-principal. Local leaders now say the Wiper party nominations expected soon may just be the turning point for the termination of links between Mutua and the Wiper party as well as CORD.

Ultimate successor

According to party insiders, Kalonzo is favouring a line-up that excludes Mutua, who many believed would be his ultimate successor as the Kamba kingpin.

The line-up favoured by Kalonzo, according to our source, has the former Vice President as party leader, Mwingi Central MP Joe Mutambu as deputy chairman, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr as Secretary General and nominated Senator Shakila Abdalla as Treasurer.

The post of chairman, according to the source, has still not been settled on, but there would be posts for Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar and nominated Senator Judith Sijeny.

But the Minority Leader for the Machakos County Assembly, Thomas Kasoa, dismissed as inconsequential threats that CORD would isolate the governor come 2017 on the account of his perceived rebellion.

In an interview with The Standard on Sunday, Kasoa, a fierce defender of the Governor, said: “I am confident Mutua will enjoy the full backing of Machakos residents as his development record speaks for itself.”

 

He added, “Wiper or no Wiper, we are not worried at all. We shall ask voters to compare the governor’s performance to their past experiences and make an informed choice based on that.”

Kasoa, who has been spearheading efforts to have Kiala removed from office on grounds of alleged misconduct, said most MCAs would throw their weight behind Mutua to ensure he secures a second term.

And in an apparent reference to Kalonzo, the MCA said, “It is regrettable that some politicians have been in power for decades and yet they have done very little  for the community’. “People are no longer interested in mere populist politics, and are tired of the old crop of politicians who have been there for long with nothing to show for it,” he said.

Mutua’s supporters, who appear to be wary of the fate of their leader, have allegedly been trying to assess the political mood on the ground, and have discussed the possibility of Mutua running on a Jubilee or non-Wiper ticket if he is ejected from CORD.


 

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