Senator Khalwale takes on Gachagua as UDA wrangles intensify

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwalwe during an interview with Standard in a Kakamega hotel on August 6, 2023. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Cracks in the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) continue to widen as internal wrangles intensify.

In a bare-knuckle attack, Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale warned Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua against using ‘junior leaders’ to fight senior politicians in the country.

“Just because he is the Deputy President, Gachagua thinks he can use junior politicians like Cleophas Malala and Omar Hassan in Mombasa to fight senior politicians. He wants to get them out of the way to minimise competition in 2032,” Dr Khalwalwe said.

The senator warned Gachagua against entertaining the notion that he will succeed President William Ruto.

Khalwale boasted of superior education and longevity in politics than the DP.

“Do not be deluded that because Ruto succeeded Uhuru in 2022, you will succeed Ruto in 2032. When Ruto leaves, a Luhya leader will take over from him,” he said.

The fiery senator said time is ripe for the Luhya community to ascend to the country's top seat.

“It has to be clear, nobody at the county or national level will play cheap politics on us. If it is the question of education, I am more educated than him (Gachagua). If it is political experience, mine is four times bigger than his. He must respect us. We are not a small community. We are more than 7 million people," said Khalwale.

Multi-Media University’s Prof Gitile Naituni said the senator’s rant against Gachagua was a sign of disrespect to the Deputy President.

“Khalwale has a senior position in the Senate, and being part of the government, he must respect seniority. He might have sensed some subtle political differences between President Ruto and DP Gachagua and has taken the opportunity to strike and earn himself some political mileage," he said.

Prof Naituni noted that a similar tactic was used against Ruto when he was DP.

“Khalwalwe believes Ruto is leaning towards Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi. This has emboldened him to attack Gachagua, confident that Ruto will not reprimand him,” he said.

Political analyst Elias Mokua said at the centre of this grandstanding is succession politics.

“Politicians look at socio-political events using a five-year lens. It may be useful for Kenya Kwanza leaders to stay focused on delivering Kenya Kwanza promises and give 2032 elections a back seat for now.”

“Politicians should prioritize Moraa’s (Kenyans) interests that largely include, but are not limited to fighting inflation and reducing the cost of living. Kenya Kwanza catfights are not high on Moraa’s priority list,” he added.

Attempts to get a comment from Malala were futile. His allies said he travelled to Madagascar where he is an observer in the elections.

There seems to be no love lost between the senator and UDA Secretary General.

The two are locked in a supremacy battle in Western and currently run parallel UDA offices in Kakamega.

Khalwalwe and Walter Mkinginyi, a UDA member, lodged a petition before the Party Disputes and Resolutions Committee seeking to eject Malala as UDA secretary general over alleged gross misconduct two months ago.

Recently, however, UDA secretary general dismissed Khalwale and Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa’s calls for him to be ejected for the party position.

“Khalwale and Barasa are jealous because I am at the helm of the UDA party,” he said. “My position as SG is subject to election, and I will face any contestant, be it from the mountain, lake or plateau regions. We shall hold the elections, and they will be credible. I am ready for the election because UDA is a democratic party.”

Differences between Khalwale and Malala predate the 2022 General Election, during which time, internal party horse-trading prevailed upon Khalwale to shelve his Kakamega County gubernatorial ambition in favour of Cleophas Malala.

The latter lost the contest to ODM’s Fernandes Barasa, who garnered 192,929 votes against Malala’s 159,508.

Kimilili MP accused Malala of working for UDA competitors and attacking Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and Speaker of the National Assembly Moses Wetang’ula.

“By attacking Mudavadi and attempting to cause divisions in Kenya Kwanza, Malala is laying the ground for the opposition to win in Western in the 2027 elections,” he said.

Lugari MP Nabii Nabwera is also on record, having accused Malala of disrespecting elected leaders in western Kenya and calling on them to disband ANC, which he derisively called a village party, and Ford-K to join UDA.