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Kalonzo’s next move may seal Ruto, Raila fate in August poll

By Jacob Ngetich | Jan 26th 2022 | 4 min read

Wiper Democratic Movement Leader Hon Kalonzo Musyoka during a leaders meeting for the Lower Eastern region at his Yatta farm. [Dennis Kavisu, Standard]

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka is a man to watch ahead of the August 9 polls. Mr Kalonzo, who is seeking to take a second stab at the presidency, has been thrust between two aspirants and may be the deciding factor in the State House race.

But the man from Tseikuru will have to dig deep into his reserves and his 37-year political experience to take advantage of the prevailing circumstances, which have handed him the opportunity to play such a crucial role in the presidential race.

Kalonzo appears to be caught up in what could be shaping up into a two-horse race as he commands a base which has some two million votes in the eastern region. This can be the tie breaker of the presidential race.

The former Vice President has the power to be a king or a kingmaker. He could determine which side the chips fall for presidential hopefuls William Ruto of UDA and ODM’s Raila Odinga.

He, however, has tough options.

Should he choose to contest the presidency, Kalonzo’s decision will have huge political ramifications for Ruto and Raila, because he will deny them about 1.5 million votes from the lower eastern and those from his supporters in the Diaspora. This could force a rerun if either of the two top contenders does not bag the magical 50 per cent plus one of all votes cast.

Raila has indicated he is keen on a running mate from Mount Kenya and therefore may not consider the Wiper leader. This could deny the ODM chief and designated Azimio la Umoja candidate, a large chunk of the 1.5 million votes in eastern. The bloc is critical enough to lower his possibility of clinching the presidency.

If Kalonzo joins Raila, this will raise his (Raila’s) chances of scooping the 1.5 million and a sizeable bloc from upper eastern and consolidate his win. Already, Ukambani governors Charity Ngilu (Kituti), Alfred Mutua (Machakos) and Kivutha Kibwana of Makueini have indicated their support for Azimio la Umoja.

Last week, Ngilu came out to defend Kalonzo from attacks by Ruto during recent rallies in the region.

Should the Wiper leader opt to support Ruto, he (the DP) will be assured of a large chunk of the 1.5 million votes in lower eastern. Ruto has wooed some Ukambani leaders to join UDA. 

One of UDA’s most dependable promoters is chairman Johnstone Muthama, who is eyeing the Machakos governor’s seat. Other Ruto allies in the region include MPs Vincent Munyaka (Machakos Town), Nimrod Mbai (Kitui East) and Vincent Musyoka (Mwala) and former Nairobi Deputy Governor Jonathan Mueke.

Hours after ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi announced a political pact with the DP last Sunday, Mwingi Central MP Gideon Mulyungi said: “Mudavadi cannot be trusted. We urge you (Kalonzo) to soldier on and we shall follow you wherever you go.”

Mavoko MP Patrick Makau too indicated the ANC leader’s earthquake could have beneficial effects to Kalonzo.

“After promising Kenyans to expect a political earthquake, he only ended up joining the wheelbarrow team. This is betrayal. And we are urging Kalonzo to soldier on and become the OKA’s flag bearer,” he said.

OKA has positioned itself as a third force.

In the 2007 disputed presidential race, Mwai Kibaki won by slightly more than 200,000 votes, which suggested had Raila and Kalonzo partnered, they would have won by a big margin.

Kalonzo rescued Kibaki when he agreed to support his government. On the part of Ruto, Kalonzo’s candidature works for him given it will deny Raila a critical constituency.

Muthama has been reaching out to MPs, professionals, businessmen and grassroots leaders from lower Eastern to sell Ruto’s bottom-up economic model. This month alone, Ruto has been to the region five times.

Last week, Kalonzo was given the mandate by his Kamba community to go for the presidency and carry the aspirations of the lower Eastern region. He assured the community that he will be on the ballot and he will not step down for anyone after being Raila’s running mate in 2013 and 2017.

His role is now more pronounced after two of the One Kenya Alliance principals joined forces with Ruto.

On Sunday during the ANC National Delegates Congress, Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula pulled out of OKA and made a pact with the DP.  The move has left Kalonzo and Kanu chair Gideon Moi as the remaining principals in OKA. 

Some Wiper MPs have warned Kalonzo that he risks walking alone and millions of his supporters will never forgive him if he fails to make a stab at the presidency this year.

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