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Kalonzo: Elusive jigsaw in Azimio and Uhuru succession game plan

Wiper leader expected to join OKA counterparts in signing their internal deal tomorrow before talks with Azimio. [Dennis Kavisu, Standard]

All signs point to a political deal that is so near yet so far. The chips are yet to fall into place, and this has put the awaited agreement between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga of Azimio movement on one hand and Kalonzo Musyoka of One Kenya Alliance (OKA) on the other.

The long wait for white smoke has caused uncertainty and anxiety in the political arena as over the possible crafting of Kenya’s grandest coalition yet. 

Uhuru and Raila have set March 12 as the day they will unveil the Azimio la Umoja’s presidential candidate. That date is only 12 days away, yet OKA principals have not shown clear sign that they will be joining Azimio despite pledges.

At the weekend, the ratifying of the partnership between Azimio and OKA was thrown into a spin by the entry of Chama Cha Kazi leader and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria into OKA. He joined Kalonzo (Wiper), Gideon Moi (Kanu), Martha Karua (Narc Kenya) and Cyrus Jirongo (United Democratic Front) in the coalition, adding a fresh twist into the already convoluted journey to the formal unveiling of Azimio and its presidential candidate.

Kuria said he was ready to work with OKA for as long as its leaders do not join Azimio. 

“Whereas we share many ideals between Chama Cha Kazi and OKA, we agreed to work together as long as OKA is not joining the Azimio coalition which is incompatible with myself and the Chama Cha Kazi party,” he posted on his Facebook page.

Kuria’s entry led to the postponement of the signing of OKA’s own coalition agreement that was slated for Monday and has since been rescheduled to tomorrow. All eyes will be on the five parties now, first, to see if they will sign a deal tomorrow and second, to watch if they will form a partnership with Azimio ahead of the August 9 polls.

Yesterday, two Wiper legislators in separate interviews said they will not allow Kalonzo to play second fiddle to Raila in a possible OKA/Azimio political union.

“If we are to work with Azimio, it has to be to in an arrangement where Kalonzo is the flagbearer and Raila plays the kingmaker; that is our one and only condition,” said Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua.

According to him, the Lower Eastern voting bloc that is solidly behind Kalonzo was fatigued with supporting Raila after standing with him in 2013 and 2017.

“We are not ready for another loss. We are not ready to repeat a mistake for the third time,” he said.

He also alluded to “deep mistrust” between Kalonzo and Raila, but ODM’s John Mbadi is on record as saying that the deal the two had was that Raila would back Kalonzo only after he serves one term as President. According to Mbadi, this has not happened as, in ODM’s view, there was no reason for mistrust or for Raila to back down in favour of Kalonzo.

Yesterday, Wambua said the Wiper leader has opened doors for negotiations. However, Kalonzo has himself blown hot and cold, at one time ruling out working with Raila and, more recently, signalling that OKA would be joining Azimio but as an equal partner and without a predetermined presidential candidate.

Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

OKA also wants to either produce the flagbearer or running mate for Azimio, a demand that might not sit well with either Raila or Uhuru. Raila is widely expected to pick a running mate from Mt Kenya region.

“Joining Azimio la Umoja is the desired outcome but negotiations could end up either way,” Wambua said. Should they end in a stalemate, Kalonzo still has the option of being on the ballot, a move that could deny either of the leading contenders the magical 50 per cent plus one vote that they need to win the presidency in the first round. This could precipitate a repeat election in which Kalonzo’s move will tilt the balance.

Kitui Central MP Makali Muli revisited this possibility.

“If a situation comes that we will see our numbers, even if we went alone, push us to opposition and we are unlikely to push for a runoff, then hardliners have to swallow their pride and agree to go for a position which is good for the party members and the country,” he said.

He appeared to suggest that Kalonzo still has many options open.

However, Makueni MP Dan Maanzo yesterday that if Kalonzo decides to support Raila, he will go alone without Ukambani people.“That will be a political divorce from the Ukambani votes,” said Maanzo.

Wiper deputy secretary-general Dan Mwashako said even if Kalonzo does not become running mate, he still has other options.

“The government is big and only a fool does not change his mind. If our party leader changes his mind and supports Raila I don’t think he is doing it for his own selfish interest, he is doing it for this country,” said the MP Wundayi.