Kalonzo bets on luck, hard-hitting politics, mobilization

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

Fiery, hard-hitting, tough-talking, and ambitious mobiliser are some of the characteristics that define Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka as he begins to chart a new path in opposition.

In the last few weeks, Kalonzo appears to be a man on a mission and is not taking any chances in his quest to stamp his authority as the new face of opposition.

The tone of 'Man Stevo' as he is popularly known by his ardent supporters has changed, his anti-Kenya Kwanza policy messaging is becoming bolder, while his quest to expand the influence of Wiper across the country is also gathering pace.

For a man who has been an understudy of his ally ODM leader Raila Odinga, observers and his ardent supporters believe he is on a mission to blossom as the new crème of the opposition.

Raila's allies in ODM also believe the Wiper leader is attempting to entrench his support in opposition and step into Raila's shoes, albeit with several question marks over his political mettle.

Rongo MP Paul Abuor thinks Kalonzo is trying to step out of Raila's shadow hence the attention he’s receiving lately as he markets himself to inherit the opposition leadership.

"The Wiper party leader has an uphill task. This is because Raila is a brand that has been tried and tested by Kenyans over the years," says Rongo MP Paul Abuor.

This came to the fore during his three-day visit to Nyanza as he moved to rally the region to support his political endeavours and assure the region that the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition would remain intact even in the absence of Raila.

The visit also came barely a few days after he held closed-door meetings with a section of leaders from the Mount Kenya region to elaborate on his plan to popularise his presidential candidature in 2027. 

Part of the plan entails expanding the networks for his Wiper party.

Political analyst Mark Bichachi argues that Kalonzo is trying to come out as a strong and decisive leader who can campaign at the levels of Raila and Ruto.

“The Wiper leader has a rough road ahead of him but he is within a breath of the presidency and is definitely looking at dominating the political scene," Bichachi says.

In his visit to Migori, Kisii, and Nyamira counties this week, Kalonzo appeared to discard his soft approach to politics that has been synonymous with his political career and embraced a more confrontational style as he launched scathing attacks against President Ruto’s regime.

And yesterday, barely a day after he concluded his visit, his comments sparked criticisms from a section of Kenya Kwanza leaders who accused the opposition of inciting Kenyans against the government.

Speaking in South Mugirango Kisii on Saturday, National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichwung'wah, Majority Chief Whip Sylvanous Osoro, and a host of Kenya Kwanza MPs said the government is putting up measures to improve the livelihoods of poor Kenyans.

Kalonzo, who was accompanied by the DAP-Kenya party leader had accused the government of introducing unnecessary taxes within a year.

"We have heard stories from a section of leaders who have been at the helm of the country's politics and leadership for several years. What is being proposed in the next Finance Bill is in line with the Kenya Kwanza Manifesto," Ichungwa said.

Observers believe Kalonzo’s renewed energy against the government has already started bearing fruit as he continues with his quest to expand his influence.

Constitutional Lawyer Bruce Odeny opines that Kalonzo Musyoka is now a seasoned politician who has proved himself worthy to lead.

The lawyer believes that Kalonzo's humility to accept his mistake and support Raila's opposition has made him famous within the opposition strongholds. He said this showed his boldness.

"I think it is time for him to take the opposition mantle once Raila exits the political scene," the lawyer says.

He believes there is no other opposition politician in Kenya who can currently compare to Kalonzo's maturity and experience.

But while some observers believe Kalonzo is on the right path, others claim he still has a long way to go to convince opposition supporters that he has the mettle to replace Raila.

Communication strategist Barrack Muluka opines that Kalonzo has never been convincing as a voice in the political opposition. 

"Even his body language and the inflexion in his voice betray him. He lacks the opposition fire in the belly. His words come through as glottal duck-speak," Muluka says.

He opines that Kalonzo could fill up the space, but he could never be an astute replacement for Raila. "He can try. But he's not convincing," Muluka states.

In his Nyanza tour, Kalonzo appeared to be the alternative voice and sent hard-hitting punches against Ruto’s regime as he rallied the region to reject Ruto’s excesses.

The Wiper leader who embarked on a three-day tour to the Nyanza region opened a Wiper party office at Kehancha, Kuria West Sub-County before making stops at Migori and Rongo towns to endear himself to the masses.

Constitutional Lawyer Joshua Nyamori believes Kalonzo is in a difficult situation and is pessimistic about Kalonzo's prospects of replicating Raila's stellar performance in opposition.

Nyamori says Kalonzo's many years of dalliance with Raila did not translate into an expanded political network and support beyond his traditional Eastern support base.

"Clearly, Raila has been slow at declaring direct support for him. This has left Raila's supporters with the opportunity to make their own choices," Lawyer Nyamori says.

He opines that UDA on the other hand is aggressively mobilising and organising in Raila's stronghold in Luo Nyanza.

"With the role President William Ruto is playing in Raila's bid for Chairmanship of AUC, it is very much likely that the current ODM support base will shift towards UDA," Mr Nyamori states.

He says although Kalonzo has kept his Wiper party intact for over ten years, it lacks proper networks outside his stronghold of lower Eastern that can make him pose a serious challenge in the 2027 Presidential Election.

Uriri MP Mark Nyamita says the closest Kalonzo made an impact was in the last elections when analysis proved his value to the Azimio brigade. 

However, he thinks the Wiper leader is yet to prove to be a man on his own.

"The next president after Rutp will be of the younger generation and that puts Kalonzo out of the equation. He will remain the party leader of the Wiper Democratic Movement," argues Nyamita.

Kalonzo's allies, however, believes he is the next big force in the country's politics.

[Report by Harold Odhiambo, Eric Abuga and Anne Atieno]

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