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February 19, 2019

Why Kalonzo will remain in NASA

Why Kalonzo will remain in NASA.  /THE STAR
Why Kalonzo will remain in NASA. /THE STAR

It took me a while to figure it out.

But at last now I can see with some clarity the answer to the question that everyone has been asking: Will former Vice President Kalonzo leave the opposition parties’ coalition, the National Super Alliance, or not?

To get an understanding of this, let’s start with what he gains if he leaves NASA.

The current political wisdom is that there is nothing that President Uhuru Kenyatta desires more, for purposes of improving his chances for reelection, than that Kalonzo should break away from NASA.

For if he left, and took with him the estimated 1.2 million or thereabouts of core supporters from the Kamba community, it would not only deprive the opposition of a key vote bloc. More important is that this would provide an acceptable narrative of why the opposition lost, after the votes are counted in August this year.

We know now that in Kenyan presidential elections, the only defence against an explosive outburst of violence by opposition supporters is that they have to be able to “see and believe” why and how their side lost: Whether it be that a reliably neutral Supreme Court ruled so; or because the opposition leaders failed to unite.

So Kalonzo should really be able to dictate the terms of his departure from the opposition. One particularly juicy office he could seek to occupy – now that the members of our Cabinet are Cabinet Secretaries and not Cabinet Ministers – is that of ‘Chief Cabinet Secretary’.

This is a position not specifically legislated against in the current Constitution, and the President, assuming he is reelected, would be free to create such a position to accommodate Kalonzo.

It would certainly be more valuable than taking over the position of Leader of Government Business from Aden Duale, who is very much Kalonzo’s junior in politics.

At the moment, one James Macharia, the Transport CS, has no less than five Principal Secretaries – each with a unique portfolio – answering to him.

Well, if Kalonzo – following his defeat in the presidential election, of course – were to be appointed “Chief Cabinet Secretary” think how many PSs he would have to supervise, in performance of his new duties.

In addition to that, Kalonzo has been close to the centre of government for much longer than any of his ‘co-principals’ in the opposition. Indeed the past few years have been unusual for him, as prior to that he had been in Parliament - and usually in government - for close to three decades.

This means that he knows better than the others just how hard it is to uproot an incumbent President in Kenya; and what kind of machinery a Kenyan government can deploy to predetermine the results of a presidential election. For Kenya, Machiavelli’s remarks apply when it comes to a President losing in his bid for reelection: “…it is something that many have imagined, but which has never been seen or known to exist in reality”.

Well, considering these strong arguments in favour of his immediate departure from the opposition, why then does Kalonzo not make the swift exit from NASA, which many believe the President himself prays for day and night?

In my view there is one main reason for this: He is an experienced politician, and knows better than to place his fate in the hands of political rivals who have let him down before.

Kalonzo has spoken with much bitterness of how he devoted his time and diplomatic expertise to try and free Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto from the terrors of the International Criminal Court.

This was at a time when the prospect of these two ending up as President and Deputy President, respectively, was too remote for even the briefest consideration. And yet when the time came for them to support his presidential campaign (ie the 2013 election) they deserted him.

If he were to give them a second opportunity to “use and dump” him he would look so absolutely naïve and foolish that it would be the end of his political career.

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