IMMOVABLE KALONZO

Why Muthama's bid to shift Ukambani to Ruto, divide vote is a daunting task

Muthama’s support of Ruto is a ‘rebellious and fractious’ move that might earn him the ruthless ridicule of many in Ukambani

In Summary

• Since 2007, Kalonzo always has been among the few credible presidential candidates

• His domination of the region is undeniable and is what gives him sway and negotiation with top politicians such as President Kenyatta and Raila.

Former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka at the burial of Samuel Mutuku in Mwala on Friday, August 21, 2020
Former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka at the burial of Samuel Mutuku in Mwala on Friday, August 21, 2020
Image: PHILOMENA KILONZO

The 2022 General Election is still far away, but we how absorbed in politics the country becomes even three days after a general election. A lot has been happening in the political scene despite slowing of the Building Bridges Initiative reggae owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

For years, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka has remained the de facto political prefect and poster boy of Ukambani. He has made and mentored many, and from Kanu to ODM to ODM-K, and to Wiper, his kinsmen have always unequivocally embraced his political party.

Since 2007, Kalonzo always has been among the few credible presidential candidates through ODM-K and then through umbrella political vehicles such as PNU, Cord and Nasa. Having got his party’s endorsement for president once, he has shelved his ambitions thrice, supporting Mwai Kibaki once and Raila Odinga twice.

 

At a funeral at Muthetheni, Machakos county, right at the heart of his political base, Kalonzo made it clear that he is vying for the presidency in 2022 and will not stop at anything or cool his heals for anybody.

After 2017 elections, which he and Raila lost to Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto — and the handshake that took him and other key Nasa partners by surprise — Kalonzo moved on to endorse the Jubilee government and agreed to support it by word and deed.

He has since then been undertaking diplomatic tasks that the President occasionally assigns to him. A few months ago, he engineered a cooperation pact between Wiper and Jubilee, which many see as part of his blueprint to ascend to the presidency.

However, some have been skeptical about his chances for the top seat, particularly former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama, with whom he has had a love-hate relationship spanning more than a decade.

Muthama, who snubbed the opportunity to defend his seat in 2017 because of his differences with Kalonzo, is now hook, line and sinker in Ruto’s camp. After the elections, Muthama opposed the BBI and has since also severed ties with Raila. Although Kalonzo supports the BBI, he has made it clear that he will not be supporting anyone else in 2022.

The genesis of Kalonzo and Muthama’s argy bargy in 2017 was a stance the latter took. Being intent on controlling Machakos county, Muthama propped up a preferred governor, former Deputy Governor Bernard Kiala. Nevertheless, with Kalonzo asserting his political authority in the Ukambani region, and being diametrically opposed to Kiala’s candidature, he denied him headway in the party. The push and pull ultimately pushed Kiala out of the race.

Governor Alfred Mutua, whom Kalonzo mentored into politics and who used his Maendeleo Chap Chap party, was declared the winner by the IEBC but had to survive an election petition by Wavinya Ndeti, Kalonzo’s candidate.

 

MUTHAMA’S ENDORSES RUTO

At this funeral, the gorilla in the room was Muthama’s open endorsement of Ruto for President in 2022. Although the DP is fighting against what appears to be a rejection of his possible candidature within Jubilee, and a growing alienation in the political elite realm, this has not stopped Muthama from beating his drums in Ukambani.

Kalonzo, appearing irked by this, asked Muthama to tell Ruto to support him for 2022.

“With all Kalonzo’s [my] experience and international standing, do you honestly think that I am supposed to support Ruto who is of much less experience?” he asked Muthama, as he made him suffer the opprobrium.

Being at cross purposes with Kalonzo in 2017 saw Muthama leave his senatorial seat, which was quickly seized as a gift by Boniface Kabaka of the little known CCU party. This denied Muthama an active political office and,hence, his influence is arguably dwindling.

Although he is not in Parliament, he is an experienced politician and a voice in Ukambani, especially Machakos, where he is believed to be preparing to stand for governor in 2022. He is said to be back in school undertaking a degree in criminology. He, however, appears to have lost out in most battles he has waged against Kalonzo.

IMMOVABLE KALONZO

The overwhelming hurdle for Muthama and others such as Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana and his Kitui counterpart Charity Ngilu who have opposed Kalonzo in the region is believed to be the strong faith the people of Ukambani vest in Kalonzo as their leader.

His domination of the region is undeniable and is what gives him sway and negotiation with top politicians such as President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila.

Muthama’s support of Ruto is a ‘rebellious and fractious’ move that might earn him the ruthless ridicule of many in Ukambani, including those who may have hitherto been his supporters, especially after Kalonzo ridiculed him in public. Already, the falling has triggered much of the unseemly exchanges on social media by their supporters.

Kalonzo has been on a peacemaking drive, reconciling politicians from his region and making peace with others. He announced he had calmed the waters with Governor Mutua and is said to always strike a conciliatory chord whenever he meets others.

He recently reconciled Kalembe Ndile with Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, who had been savagely wrangling over some deals gone sour. Mutua, who was at some point opposed to Kalonzo, also made peace with the former Vice President.

In Machakos, Muthama, has in the past supported Wavinya deti (2013) for governor before changing camp and supporting Kiala in 2017. The last election saw him clash badly with Kalonzo, who preferred Ndeti to Kiala.

Kalonzo blames Muthama for continuously taking advantage of his kindness to insult and mislead him. He accuses him of inordinately going out to engineer flimsy political deals, which defines where he is politically today.

At this funeral, Kalonzo called on the media to make it clear that something affecting the Constitution was happening as Muthama and Ruto are reportedly set to form a party as the former had announced at the ceremony.

Kalonzo also invited Sonko ‘home’, if the politics of Nairobi got murkier, saying the governor had taken the right choice of working with Uhuru and he ‘would not regret’ it.

Kalonzo appears to have been indirectly threatening Muthama with bringing Sonko to Machakos to contest for governor in 2022, if Muthama continues to root for Ruto. With a good number of MPs, Kalonzo’s Wiper remains the most dominant party in Ukambani and campaigning against him will be formidable.

It will be interesting to see how Muthama performs in this process.

Caleb Mwamisi is a political commentator