PROFILE

Kalonzo Musyoka: The making of an African diplomat

Kalonzo's peace efforts in complex political situations led to his being widely recognised as a statesman.

In Summary

• The African magazine published in The Netherlands says it nominated the former Vice President for peace efforts in the Horn of Africa and continent.

• His diplomatic journey did not start until 1993, when he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, the first of his two stints in the docket. 

Wiper leader and Kenya Special Envoy to South Sudan Kalonzo Musyoka during an interview with the Star at SKM Command Cenre in Nairobi on September 13.
KALONZO: Wiper leader and Kenya Special Envoy to South Sudan Kalonzo Musyoka during an interview with the Star at SKM Command Cenre in Nairobi on September 13.
Image: DOUGLAS OKIDDY

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka on September 19 received the Icon of Democracy Award by the Voice Magazine.

The African magazine published in The Netherlands says it nominated former Vice President Kalonzo for his peace efforts in the Horn of Africa and across the continent.

Kalonzo has said he wants to run for President. 

The magazine retraces his journey from his rural home of Tseikuru in Mwingi, where Kalonzo was born on the Christmas Eve in 1953.

The University of Nairobi law graduate first tried his hand at politics with his unsuccessful bid for the Kitui North parliamentary seat in 1983.

Two years later, he won the seat in a by-election at age 32.

The following year, in 1986, President Daniel Moi appointed him assistant minister for Works and Housing, serving until 1988.

On his reelection in the 1988 elections, Kalonzo was named National Assembly Deputy Speaker until 1992. He was Kanu's national organising secretary from 1990 until 2002.

His diplomatic journey did not, however, start until 1993, when he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, the first of his two stints in the docket. The second was under President Mwai Kibaki from 2003 to 2004.

It was during Kalonzo's time that Kenya’s foreign policy was anchored in regional peace and stability. That came with mediation in the Horn of Africa – Sudan and South Sudan as well as Somalia.

In an interview with the Star on September 13, Kalonzo spoke about his peace efforts and the intrigues in the region, which led to his being widely known as a diplomat in Kenya and Africa.

He is now Kenya’s special envoy to South Sudan, and is involved in peace talks 10 years after the birth of the youngest African state, which he helped midwife.

 Soon after being appointed Foreign Affairs minister in 1993, he became chairman of the ministerial council that revitalised IGADD, then the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development, in Djibouti in 1994.

They removed one D (for drought) as they thought it was limiting.

“We enhanced the mandate to become the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and one of the main planks, apart from development, was resolution of conflicts.

"And it looks to me that particular pillar has taken a lot of time and resources because you realise the region is engulfed in conflict,” he said.

With this revitalisation, the Number One responsibility of IGAD became resolving the Sudan conflict in the Sudan, which by then had claimed more than two million lives in Africa’s longest running conflict.

"And we said we must do something because of the level of hatred in the state," Kalonzo said.

He was thrown into the deep end of conflict negotiations and mediation.

“In 1993-94, as a young Foreign minister, we held the talks here in Nairobi. I remember in my office, hosting both Dr John Garang and Dr Riek Machar. Dr Garang was leading the faction referred to as SPLM- Mainstream and Dr Riek-led SPLM-United.”

“My mission was to get them to negotiate as one with Khartoum, which was then under President Omar al Bashir. The government side from Khartoum was led by the speaker and other powerful players.

And we had to get these two brothers to negotiate. It took a whole day until midnight to get them to negotiate,” Kalonzo, who has declared 2022 presidential ambitions, narrated.

The differences were that Garang saw Riek as friendlier to Khartoum and he was for the liberation of the South or confederation. That's because at one stage, Kalonzo said, he had become so popular that he could even have been elected president of the entire Sudan.

Kalonzo and team got them to negotiate as a team and developed the Declaration of Principles.

Wiper leader and Kenya Special Envoy to South Sudan Kalonzo Musyoka during an interview with the Star at SKM Command Cenre in Nairobi on September 13.
KALONZO Wiper leader and Kenya Special Envoy to South Sudan Kalonzo Musyoka during an interview with the Star at SKM Command Cenre in Nairobi on September 13.
Image: DOUGLAS OKIDDY

The DoP identified the conflict issues: separation between state and religion because the North was under Sharia law; marginalisation of the South by the North and the sharing of resources and the right to self-determination, an inalienable right in the UN Charter.

The Wiper leader said to recover time lost in the Sudan peace talks, he drove the process so hard that President Moi told him the people in Khartoum were complaining.

Prior to that, he had given a lecture at the Strategic Institute in Khartoum and addressed the possible isolation of Sudan over the hardline stance in the conflict. Khartoum didn't like it.

President Bashir approached Moi and asked him to remove Kalonzo from the peace process.

“Moi did not remove me from Foreign Affairs, but he brought in Zachary Onyonka, now deceased, to handle the process. Unfortunately, Onyonka suffered stroke and he didn't drive it as hard. I think  that's what Khartoum wanted, to buy time," Kalonzo said.

Onyonka at one time served as Foreign Affairs minister. He was the father of Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka, who also served as assistant minister in the same docket under the Grand Coalition government.

Though at the time Kalonzo had been edged out and moved to the Ministry of Education, the two parties resolved in the Machakos Protocol the issue of the right to self-determination and the separation of state and religion. They agreed on a referendum.

Kalonzo would return to the Foreign Affairs ministry under Kibaki in 2003, when he handled the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

“Vice President [Kijana] Wamalwa had just died. I was leading the peace process and General [Lazaro] Sumbeiywo was reporting they had difficulties at the peace talks at the Mt Kenya Safari Club. The SPLM delegation was very difficult,” he recalled

Kalonzo was assigned to take President Mwai Kibaki’s letter to President Hussein Mubarak of Egypt in an attempt to bring him on board. He didn't get him in Cairo but met Egypt's foreign minister and gave him the letter for the President. Mubarak was on leave and did not want to be disturbed.

“We ended up addressing a press conference as foreign ministers and my colleague spoke in Arabic. I don't know what he said but he kind of blamed John Garang for the stalemate at the Mt Kenya Safari Club. When I called Garang as I sought to find out whether we could meet with Ali Ousman Taha, Sudan's vice president, he was very angry with me.”

He asked, “How can you blame us?”

I said, “John, what are you talking about? I don't know what you're saying."

And he said, “You seem to agree that it's SPLM which is the problem at the Mt Kenya Safari Club!”

I said, “John, I spoke in English. I didn't get a translation of what [Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad] Maher was saying. In any event, I'm calling you to find out whether you can meet because of the stalemate. And Garang said 'even if it is the devil himself, I am ready'."

Kalonzo said he achieved a breakthrough because from Cairo, instead of flying back to Nairobi to report to Kibaki, he flew to Khartoum. There he  convinced Bashir to allow Osman Taha to come to Nairobi, which was itself a big problem.

This is because just a month earlier, Bashir had released his vice president to Lagos at the invitation of President Olusegun Obasanjo, to meet with Dr Garang.

But one ended up in the upstairs room of the hotel and the other one downstairs. They never met. Dr Garang refused.

Bashir did not want to repeat the same mistake.

To convince Bashir, Kalonzo said he would make sure Dr Garang meets with his vice president. And in the event Garang refused to meet Ali Ousman Taha, he would cover it by representing Sudan at the state funeral of Kijana Wamalwa.

Ousman Taha did not attend the state funeral. Instead, they started the talks at the Great Rift Valley Lodge. Eventually they  moved to Simba Lodge and the talks officially began.

General Sumbweiywo communicated the breakthrough to the world by getting the parties together for a photo op.

Kalonzo reported to the UN General Assembly, "...the peace process for the resolution of the conflict in the Sudan is now irreversible."

By helping Kenya birth the resolution of a conflict in South Sudan and a republic in 2011, Kalonzo has earned the reputation of an accomplished mediator and diplomat.

He has offered his services to the Somalia and Mozambique peace processes as well.

(Edited by V. Graham)