Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s domination of Ukambani politics is under threat as three governors are positioning themselves to take over.
Kalonzo is struggling to be part of President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga’s team, following the March 9, 2018, handshake.
He remains an outsider and even a job promise as a special peace envoy to South Sudan is yet to be fulfilled.
Kalonzo was widely reported to have been appointed to the position as part of the handshake goodies. But the Star has established that almost three months after the promised appointment, nothing tangible has come his way.
Back in his backyard, a rebellion is brewing. Kitui governor Charity Ngilu, Makueni’s Kivutha Kibwana and Machakos’s Alfred Mutua have teamed up to oppose his leadership.
Kibwana and Mutua are serving their last terms as governors.
“Going forward, we’ll speak with one voice to unite the community and negotiate directly with the national government on issues affecting our region,” the three declared on Wednesday, opening a new political battlefront in Ukambani.
Kalonzo’s allies immediately warned that the three were digging their political graves. MPs Gideon Mulyungi (Mwingi Central), Musili Mawathe (Embakasi South), Joshua Mbithi (Masinga), Mulu Makali (Kitui Central), Patrick Makau (Mavoko) and Kitui senator Enock Wambua rallied behind him.
In what they called the Mavoko declaration, the leaders said Kalonzo remains the Ukambani political kingpin. They pledged to support his presidential bid.
The lawmakers dared Kibwana to quit Wiper and seek a fresh mandate on his Muungano Party ticket “if he is man enough”.
“There is nothing those governors are doing. The road launched on Wednesday was constructed in 2016 to the tune of Sh220 million. The governors’ unity is to squander public funds, which they don’t want Wiper MCAs to question,” Mbithi said.
He dismissed the trio as having no political clout to mount a serious State House bid.
Wambua demanded respect for the Wiper leader in his backyard to boost his presidential ambitions.
Uhuru, Deputy President William Ruto and Raila have unfailing support in their backyards. Kalonzo’s quest would be heavily dented if he lost the battle to the governors.
On Kalonzo’s envoy role, Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau confirmed to the Star that he is not yet head of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission on Peace in South Sudan.
Kamau, a former envoy to the United Nations, however, said the matter is under consideration.
“The reason why JMEC is yet to communicate is probably because the Intergovernmental Authority for Development meeting is yet to happen,” he said.
But a source at the JMEC secretariat told the Star there has been no communication whatsoever about Kalonzo’s appointment.
Asked whether Kalonzo is under consideration for any position, the source said, “Not that is known. The narrative was one that was sold by Kenya intelligence operatives.
“In any case, Kenyatta has zero authority to appoint the chair of JMEC. The chair is appointed by the IGAD Summit [heads of states] chaired by Ethiopia’s [Prime Minister Ahmed] Abiy.”
Raila is already flying across the continent as AU High Representative for Infrastructure Development.
JMEC, which Kalonzo was to lead, is part of the Igad framework and has been overseeing the peace process in volatile South Sudan since 2013.
The commission is mandated to monitor the implementation of the 2015 peace deal between President Salva Kiir and ex-rebel leader Riek Machar. It reports directly to Igad’s heads of state and government.
There is also speculation within diplomatic circles that some South Sudanese leaders are opposed to Kenya and neighbouring countries leading the process.
The immediate former JMEC boss is former Botswana President Festus Mogae, 79, who stepped down in September because of health issues.
While serving as Foreign Affairs minister under retired presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki, Kalonzo was involved in mediation efforts in Somalia and Sudan (before the South seceded).
He and General Lazarao Sumbeiyo helped to end the long-running conflict between 2001 and 2005 when Khartoum eventually agreed to allow Juba to break away.
It was not immediately clear if Uhuru would begin another job hunt for Kalonzo should the current plan fail to materialise.
The communiqué of the 33rd Extraordinary Summit of Igad Assembly of Heads of State and Government — the last summit meeting last year — released on September 12 did not mention a successor to the former Botswana leader.
During the period that it was reported that Kalonzo had taken up the job, JMEC was reconstituted at a meeting convened on November 19 by Ismail Wais, the Igad Special Envoy to South Sudan.
Ambassador Lt Gen Augustino Njoroge of Kenya was named the interim chairman and will act until a new head is appointed.
Njoroge, who served as Kenya’s Ambassador to Israel from July 2010 to July 2016, was JMEC deputy chairman. The reconstituted team held its first meeting on December 12.