Opposition can beat Kenya Kwanza even without Raila

Azimio la Umoja principals Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka. [File, Standard]

The exit of Raila Odinga from Kenyan politics may come through the proposed AU Chairmanship seat. That is the prayer of the Kenya Kwanza government. Dump him in Addis Ababa far away from national political happenings where he is often the thorn in the flesh. After all, the government has swung into full 2027 political campaigns aware that its performance to date is not exactly convincing to the electorate.

Partly, this strategy to ‘offload’ Raila to the AU and start early campaigns is to shift the mindset of Kenyans to the big election stage in 2027 so that they do not have to focus on the current high cost of living. As Machiavelli says, a prince is to make sure, the ruled do not focus on painful experiences for long. The prince must draw their attention elsewhere. The other part of generating interest in the 2027 elections is to bury the disturbing memories of the Bomas chaos of the 2022 presidential election in tallying and announcing the results. 

Against this backdrop, the exit of Raila will bring good tidings to the Kenya Kwanza government. As many have already opined, if Raila clinches the continental seat, a political vacuum will be felt among many in Kenya.

It may be the beginning of years of political dominance of the two tribes that feel entitled to the presidency. Obviously, where a president comes from wouldn’t be a big deal in a functioning democracy. However, in Kenya, the presidency provides undue advantage to some tribes and regions at the expense of others. Look at how appointments are made after general elections. The statistics are in the public domain.

Raila has been the face of the Opposition. Some have maliciously and consistently argued that they like him in the Opposition to hide their inner desires to control the government. Be it as it may, Raila has to exit the political stage at some point. What becomes of competitive politics in Kenya? I am not pessimistic.

Kenya has some extremely brilliant emerging leaders who can not only run the Opposition but also form the next government. Strong and determined leaders like Ledama Ole Kina, Edwin Sifuna, Simba Arati, Hassan Joho, Gladys Wanga, Beatrice Elachi and Eugene Wamalwa, among others, give me hope that there is a future in competitive politics in Kenya. I must say I was a great admirer of the then-emerging political visionaries like Ababu Namwamba and Hassan Omar but for some reason, their stars have dimmed.

This new generation has what it takes to benefit from the networks of Raila and his allies. With a proper strategy, it is not inconceivable that they can wrestle the presidency away from the Kenya Kwanza government in the next general elections. While Kalonzo Musyoka stands out as a frontrunner presidential candidate considering how much time, energy and resources he has invested in supporting Raila, he nevertheless, needs to repackage himself as a serious contender.

He needs to be felt as a mobiliser outside his home counties. He also needs a practical vision like the one he coined a while back: Developing a Kenya 24-Hour Economy. Kalonzo must have the guts and the strategy to inherit the Raila support base. It won’t just happen without a convincing show of quality in public leadership towards the post-Raila Odinga political space.

Further, Kalonzo and Martha Karua, being the seniors in the Opposition, need to show that they can form a strong political team to carry on the mantle of Raila. The Raila supporters will be happier with continuity in opening up democratic space in Kenya, reducing inequalities between tribes and regions and a reformed electoral process.

Kalonzo and Karua have to be seen carrying the legacy of Baba to the next level. This is the kind of promise millions of Azimio supporters want to urgently see. They do not want to find themselves in no man’s land. With the support of former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Azimio luminaries like Wycliffe Oparanya, the Opposition has the potential to turn itself into the next government.

Dr Mokua is the Executive Director, the Loyola Centre for Media and Communication

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