Kalonzo Musyoka: The glue that holds Wiper party and Ukambani turf together

Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka addresses Nyamira residents on March 21, 2024. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Despite some uncharitable labels by critics who perceive former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka as indecisive, the Wiper leader has outdone his peers in maintaining an iron grip on his political base.

The former VP, who is currently the Azimio co-principal, has remained the glue holding his Wiper party and Ukambani voters together.

Kalonzo-led party is as old as Orange Democratic Movement, meaning it has outlived a lot of political turmoil in the 19 years it has existed, first as ODM Kenya and later Wiper.

Other political parties such as Jubilee party are in turmoil with two factions engaging in battle of its soul in court. One faction is led by nominated MP Sabina Chege while the other pledges its loyalty to former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Succession race

ODM is now embroiled in a succession race after its leader Raila Odinga decided to run for the African Union Commission (AUC) chairmanship, with factions coalescing between former governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa) and Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) with a third force being from the Nyanza community.

The ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA) seems to be at a crossroads after its inability to hold grassroots elections. Some forces have filed lawsuits to challenge the appointment of county coordinators who are supposed to preside over the elections.

Even after postponing the polls last December to next month, UDA, which is currently the most formidable party, has not shown any clearest indications of embarking on the exercise.

The Wiper party dominance in Ukambani has been unshakeable despite the emergence of small parties such as Maendeleo Chap Chap affiliated to Tourism Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua and former Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu’s Narc.

In Western region, party allegiance has been divided between National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula Ford Kenya, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi’s ANC, ODM and Democratic Action Party affiliated to Eugene Wamalwa.

Wetang’ula is also embroiled in supremacy battle with Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya, with the two engaging in a war of words on who between them should be the region’s kingpin.

Despite Kalonzo being dismissed as lacking a solid political stand, he has held together even when there was feeling that Ngilu, Mutua and former Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana were brewing a revolution in his backyard. The Akamba community has all along stuck with the illustrious son of Tseikuru.

According to the Ukambani leaders, Kalonzo is de facto kingpin who did not appoint himself to lead the community “but was given the leadership mantle by elders in an event that involved rituals and in strict adherence to Akamba traditions”.

Makueni Woman Representative Rose Museo, who is serving her third term in the National Assembly, explained that the handing over event saw Kalonzo receive the leadership mantle from Mulu Mutisya, the Akamba supremo, a secret she attributed to locals fearing to go against Kalonzo for fear of angering the region’s forefathers.

“The event involved rituals and that is how Kalonzo became our leader. Those who rebel against him have no political lifeline. They may serve for one or two terms but their political star diminishes,” she says. 

According to Museo, Kalonzo’s crowing as kingpin was held in Kilome with the blessing of leaders such as Tony Ndilinge, Mulu Mutisya, among others.

She added that Kalonzo, unlike other party leaders, appreciates efforts by the political leaders in his party and does not listen to rumour-mongers, a move she noted has seen him hold his region tightly under his reign.

Makueni Senator Dan Maanzo says Kalonzo’s honesty was the reason for the “minimum dissent in Ukambani region” saying the few who decide to rebel are punished by the electorate by being voted out. “Even the few rebels who decided to go against the grain had their political careers shaped by Kalonzo. The fact that he has untainted character with no scandals is another reason that our region holds on to him in every election cycle,” he says. 

According to Maanzo, Kalonzo’s trustworthiness has seen Wiper party spread its wings from Ukambani to Nyanza, especially in Kisii, where it has two elected MPs and other regions like in Taita Taveta where three out of four MPs were sponsored the party.

Best strength

Political and governance expert Prof Gitile Naituli opines that Kalonzo’s demeanor of quietness, just like the third President the late Mwai Kibaki, is his best strength in holding the grip of his party yet the most misinterpreted character politically.

“Kibaki was christened ‘general kiguoya’ (cowardly general) but to those who knew him, he was the best man to take on second President the late Daniel Moi. Kalonzo doesn’t work like a politician but like an ordinary person with a high level of integrity that makes him not to accumulate enemies but friends,” Naituli adds.

In his autobiography Against All Odds, Kalonzo writes that “In single party, I chose to weigh my words – never speak too much and above all never display my ambitions especially in Cabinet or near the President and his men” a character that may be used to describe his mode of operations.