For keen followers of Kenyan politics, news of a coup was the dreamy culmination of a month laden with betrayals.
The news set the stage for what had been billed as an explosive week in politics. Ford-Kenya (Ford-K) would be curtain-raising the show promised in Parliament later in the week, or so people had hoped.
News of the ouster of Ford-K party leader Moses Wetang’ula had seeped through Sunday morning.
His evictors, led by the party’s secretary-general, the Tongaren Member of Parliament, Eseli Simiyu, had been modest enough to term it a dismissal. Grounds? Gross misconduct.
It was the least they could do considering the low blow they had just dealt Wetang’ula, still grieving the loss of a relative. It was a cowardly act, yet bold, in that they had struck first at the man of the mundu khu mundu (a war cry meaning man-to-man) fame.
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The Bungoma senator would later call it “treachery”, a word he repeated innumerable times at a press conference later when he staged a coup of his own.
Wetang’ula & Co had set the mood for their retaliation, brandishing photos of a National Executive Council meeting, similar to an earlier one that had sacked him, keen on flaunting their numbers.
Their march to the lawn of the party’s headquarters was quite the candy for the cameras, ever seemingly obsessed with multitudes, and solitude in unique instances.
Their formation as they readied to deliver their remarks, spitting in the face of social-distancing guidelines by Health ministry, told of a lion ready to roar. “Blow it up Moses!” those who cared to watch must have cheered him on as they looked at their screens. But in the game of disappointing suspense, Weta, as they fondly call him, is master. He blew it.
All the anticipation at his presser crumbled with every word he spoke. He was assertive and made equally sound moves, but his speech was remarkably uninspiring. What was meant to be a vehement message against rebellion degenerated into sorry pleas, complete with memories of the trials and tribulations former friends had subjected him to.
“Coups are archaic. Coups are anachronistic to good order and coups are activities of cowards,” Wetang’ula lamented.
No wonder, his famous “it will be noisy, messy and with casualties” speech formed good fodder for the evening news. One by one, TV stations had deserted him earlier in the day, stopping the live coverage of his event mid-speech.
He had the opportunity to make headlines and he squandered it. All he had to do was play the populist card and the masses would have loved it.
Even worse was his “don’t panic” appeal to his loyalists within the party and his assurances that his faction had the numbers, assurances that were quashed when the registrar of political parties declared that his meeting failed to raise the requisite quorum on Thursday.
The former Minister for Foreign Affairs was increasingly looking like a foreigner in a house he had thought to be his.
Not even Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa, who was serving karma to Simiyu, taking up his post as secretary general after Simiyu had in the previous week dethroned him as the minority side’s deputy chief whip, could salvage the mess.
The Ford-K lion had lost its roar and was in dire need of back-up to ward off the enemy within.
Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, too, felt his comrade’s party could do with some push and came out to champion their cause, enmeshing a mutual ally in the wrangles but hesitated to call them out.
He would join his National Super Alliance co-principal on Monday and they brought sufficient company, their mouths flowing with threats for the trouble-makers. “You have signed your own political death warrant… Sisi tutakutwanga kisiasa (We shall whip you politically),” Kiminini’s Wamalwa fired the warning shot, ably backed by a battery of legislators who cheered when he cheered and rebuked when he rebuked.
But even with their shouting and the declaration of Wetangu’la to be one of the two true leaders of Mulembe nation, he was unable to make headwinds. He just couldn’t shake off the poor run of political form.