Plans for Uhuru to chair Azimio as Raila runs for president

Residents of Meru flocked Maua Stadium where ODM leader Raila Odinga met more than 3500 members of different women groups from the region on March 10, 2022 [George Kaimenyi, Standard]

At least 15 political parties have lined up to formally join the Azimio La Umoja movement and subsequently endorse ODM leader Raila Odinga’s presidential bid tomorrow, even as it emerged that President Uhuru Kenyatta will chair the coalition party.

Preparations for unveiling of the grand coalition at a National Delegates Conference (NDC) to be held at Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) were yesterday at the tail end amid concerted efforts to reunite Raila and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

Sources told The Standard that the former premier held talks with Kalonzo yesterday morning in Nairobi in a last minute push to have him join Azimio.

After the meeting, Kalonzo held a meeting with Kanu chairman Gideon Moi and Jimmy Kibaki, retired President Mwai Kibaki’s son.

“It is true that the two leaders met at a neutral ground in Nairobi. Details of what they discussed can only be shared by the two,” said a Wiper MP.

The affiliate parties have since sent out invites to 20 delegates each for the event that will be followed by a major political rally.

“Clarification on attendance to Azimio meeting of Saturday March 12, 2022. Each political party in Azimio will only be allowed 20 delegates,” reads a text message to party officials.

It continues, “The ceremony is simply one for signing of the coalition agreement and not a convention in the style of NDC.”

Head of Raila’s campaign team and Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi described the event as a decisive moment that will largely influence the August 9 elections.

“We have completed the preparations, and our main agenda is unveiling our presidential candidate, approval of colours and symbol. I expect a colourful and vibrant event. A decisive moment of this campaign. We have lined up a rally afterwards at Jacaranda grounds,” said Mr Muriithi.

ODM Director of Elections Junet Mohammed said President Kenyatta was expected to attend since all party leaders backing Azimio have been invited to the jamboree.

“It will be a big day for us. We expect over 15 parties to sign the coalition agreement. I may not know the diary of the President but all party leaders have been invited,” he said.

Uhuru and Raila are also expected to unveil the structure of Azimio la Umoja Movement.

A proposed structure shows Uhuru will become chairman of the coalition party in a move that will keep him politically active after his presidency, while Raila will be the coalition’s presidential candidate.

The coalition has created four posts of deputy chairperson in a structure similar to ODM’s 2007 pentagon that brought together regional kingpins.

The deputy chairpersons will be picked from Coast, Western, North Eastern and either Nairobi or Eastern regions.

Apart from Jubilee and ODM, the anchor parties in the coalition, there are a dozen other outfits set to sign the coalition agreement.

They include Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K) associated with Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, Upya Movement linked to Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani, Maendeleo Chap Chap of Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua, Party of National Unity (PNU) and Ubuntu People’s Forum linked to Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui.

Others are Narc of Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, Kenya Union Party of West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo, United Democratic Movement of Mandera Governor Ali Roba, Devolution Empowerment Party of Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, Muungano Party of Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, Pamoja African Alliance Party, which is affiliated with Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, and National Ordinary People Empowered Union linked to East African Legislative Assembly lawmaker Mpuri Aburi.

Yesterday, ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna and his DAP-K counterpart Eseli Simiyu said they expect all parties to unanimously pick Raila for the top seat.

“We expect the ODM nominee for president under Azimio, our party leader Raila Odinga, to be formally endorsed as the coalition flag bearer,” said Mr Sifuna.

Mr Simiyu said the newly formed party had already made up its mind to back Raila and would use the occasion to affirm the position.

The Tongaren MP told One Kenya Alliance (OKA) principals that they need to make up their minds and join the coalition before it is too late.

“The main event is to endorse Raila as our flag bearer. DAP-K has made its position clear that it backs Raila,” said Mr Eseli, adding that those yet to make up their minds have until today to take a stand.

Earlier in the week, Raila indicated that the movement was ready to craft a winning campaign vehicle without OKA. “We will deal with those who come to us; we will not force anybody to come to Azimio,” he said.

OKA, which brings together Kalonzo (Wiper), Baringo Senator Gideon (Kanu), Martha Karua (Narc) and Cyrus Jirongo (UDP), has yet to declare whether it will join Azimio la Umoja Movement.