FIGHT FOR EASTERN VOTE

How Governor Mutua’s presidential bid poses tough test for Kalonzo

Kalonzo's grip on Ukambani faces litmus test

In Summary

• Governor Alfred Mutua is pulling all the stops to dislodge Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka as Ukambani political kingpin.

•But Kalonzo's allies have poured cold water on his candidature, terming him a non-starter.

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka at a funeral service on Tuesday, February 18, 2020.
Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka at a funeral service on Tuesday, February 18, 2020.
Image: PHILOMENA KILONZI

Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s entry into the growing list of 2022 presidential aspirants could pose a tough test for Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

Kalonzo has been the undisputed political kingpin of the Ukambani region and has enjoyed massive support of the community almost to a man for decades.

He has been banking on his grip on the vote-rich region to strike alliances that have kept him politically afloat for decades, despite losing in the last two presidential races – as running mate to Raila Odinga.

 
 

However, the former and last Kenya's Vice President’s firm grip and influence in the region is now facing a litmus test after Governor Mutua announced his presidential bid on September 6.

“Kalonzo Musyoka is not just in a fix politically but has been boxed into a corner by Mutua and other governors and politicians from the region,” political observer Javas Bigambo said.

Bigambo said Kalonzo’s fate as the region’s kingpin could be sealed if Mutua opts to work with the two governors — Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni)  to box him out.

Kibwana has also declared his intention to run for President.

“If at all governor Mutua would want to work with the other governors from the region, then the question would be, who is Kalonzo Musyoka ready to work with is?” he posed.

Kalonzo has fallen out with the all the three Ukambani governors.

The Wiper boss has also fallen out with his long-term friend and financier former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama, who has abandoned him for Deputy President William Ruto. 

 

“So far, we have seen all the other governors oscillating away from him, which then is a wake up call to Kalonzo to see first how to consolidate the Kamba bloc and vote before he moves out to seek support from other regions,” Bigambo said.

The analyst added that Mutua will give Kalonzo a run for his money in the region because of his new style of politics that appeals to the majority — the youth.

“He has adopted an American and British style of politics and delivery that seems to be miles ahead of Kalonzo's flat approach to his public communications,” he observed.

Mutua is serving his second and final term, for which he was re-elected on his Maendeleo Chap Chap Party. This is after he fell out with Kalonzo, on whose party he had won the 2013 governor race.

“It is time for Kenya to usher in a new dispensation… a new period of better leadership and life. We need a new way of thinking, of doing things and a new type of leaders,” Mutua said during his presidential bid launch in Mlolongo in a thinly veiled attack on Kalonzo.

Kalonzo has also said he will not be anybody’s running mate in 2022. “I will not just be a candidate but a formidable candidate,” he said in July.

Political analyst Martin Andati observes that while Mutua’s presidential candidature may not shake Kalonzo’s grip on the region, it might jeopardise the latter's negotiations for political alliances.

“Kalonzo is still the Ukambani kingpin. Mutua may not have such a big influence apart from maybe destabilising him so that he cannot go out there to negotiate. If they fight each other in the community, that diminishes Kalonzo’s chances of becoming President,” he said.

But Kalonzo's allies have poured cold water on Mutua’s influence, terming him a non-starter.

Kalonzo Musyoka is not just in a fix politically but has been boxed into a corner by Mutua and other governors and politicians from the region
Javas Bigambo

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr opined that while Mutua may enjoy support in Machakos by virtue of his office, it takes more to have a national appeal.

"I personally think he is stalking his claim for regional leadership in advance and nothing more," Kilonzo, who is the Wiper vice chairman, said. 

Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo and his Mavoko counterpart Patrick Makau also downplayed the governor's bid.

“Mutua cannot complicate anything for Kalonzo. He will not get more than 4,000 votes from Ukambani. Anybody who is a serious presidential candidate cannot launch a bid so early,” Maanzo said.

The Wiper MP said Mutua is not in the cadre of serious presidential candidates, which according to him, has only three politicians – ODM leader Raila Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto and Kalonzo.

“There is no single party, unless it is in a coalition, that can rule this country. By 2022, even if he still insists on running on his party, he would be inconsequential as Mukaru Nganga and other presidential candidates we have seen in the past,” Maanzo said.

"It is not about Rift Valley, Central or Ukambani. 2022 race must have coalitions. if you are lucky to get into a good coalition, then it means you have a chance. In Kenya we know the big five (communities). So, it is upon you and me to know if Mutua is in the big 10 not even five," Makau said.