BY HEDWIG MATANO
The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) could be headed for a major split following a vicious power struggle between the three principals, Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula.
At the centre of the rift is the fight for the coalition’s presidential ticket ahead of the 2017 General Election.
Insiders paint a bleak scenario with each of the three principals determined to be on the ballot in 2017, coalition or no coalition.
The lack of structures within the coalition has ensured that no organised nomination process can take place to determine who the next presidential candidate will be, creating a free-for-all situation where each of the three principals has already declared that they will be the coalition’s presidential flag bearer in the next election.
Matters came to a head in early May when Raila launched his official campaign website and declared that age could not stop him from seeking high office. The declaration left little doubt as to his resolve to run for the presidency for a fourth time.
Tellingly, his co-principals, who had hitherto graced virtually every function Raila hosted, were conspicuously missing at the function, attended by the ODM leader’s usual hangers-on like Suna East MP Junet Mohammed and his Ugunja counterpart Opiyo Wandayi.
Wetang’ula had two weeks earlier avoided another function hosted by Raila despite being invited. At that point, nothing much was read in his absence, thanks, in part, to Kalonzo’s presence. On that occasion, Raila vehemently denied that the event signalled the kick off of his 2017 presidential campaign, even scolding journalists for creating that impression. Sources close to Kalonzo and Wetang’ula reveal that the two coprincipal did not take kindly the declaration.
“He has not only declared his interest to run in 2017, he has practically kicked off his campaign. What are Kalonzo and Weta (Wetang’ula) supposed to do, join in the cheering squad? It is unfair. We cannot continue being treated as bridesmaids. He should either retract his statement or apologise, or we go our separate ways,” an MP allied to Kalonzo protested.
Wetang’ula found an opportunity to hit back during a burial ceremony he attended in Ikolomani a week later. Addressing mourners, the Ford Kenya leader challenged Raila and Kalonzo to back his presidential candidature during the next general election.
“Luhyas have six million votes, Luos have three million, and Kambas have only one million… so it is them who should back me in 2017. It is the small rivers that join the big rivers, not the other way round,” he declared.
With that statement, the battle lines were drawn.
Not the one to take such challenges lying down, Raila decided to take the battle to Wetang’ula’s backyard. With the assistance of Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya who incidentally had told Wetang’ula off during the burial, Raila organised a meeting of ODM delegates from Western province at the Golf Hotel in Kakamega two weeks later.
The main agenda of the meeting was to revitalise the party in the region in readiness for the next general election, or it was so disguised. But the function’s real intention was to show Wetang’ula who calls the shots in Western province.
At the end of the meeting, the delegates made several resolutions, but one stood out. It read thus: “We resolve that our 2017 choice for the President is the Right Hon Raila Amolo Odinga, and we shall work tirelessly to rally the entire region to support his candidature.
The import of the resolution was to portray Wetang’ula as a man who did not command support in his own backyard; that Raila, in fact, commands more support in the region than does Wetang’ula.
Interviews with ODM grass roots leaders who attended the Kakamega meeting revealed the deep resentment with which they hold Wetang’ula. An ODM leader from Bungoma County explained the origin of their differences with Wetang’ula.
“Because Ford Kenya was our partner in the Alliance, we agreed that Wetang’ula takes charge of his purported Bungoma and Trans Nzoia stronghold, but he ended up rigging out all our strong candidates and instead imposing his own friends,” he stated.
“He has been quietly approaching ODM MPs and elected leaders in Western province telling them to defect to Ford Kenya. We know he is really working towards ODM’s downfall in Luhyaland so that he can use the community to bargain in 2017,” he went on.
The leaders accuse Wetang’ula of duping them that he would dissolve Ford Kenya and lead his troops into joining ODM in the run up to the last general election.
“Ask anybody how he hoodwinked us, during a rally in Kitale around December 18, 2012, that he was going to dissolve Ford Kenya and officially join ODM. He even took money from the party purportedly to organise the function only for him to go underground,” the delegate claims.
“We were all surprised when he surfaced much later insisting to join Cord as a corporate member just before the general election. If he is waiting for Raila to endorse him as the Cord candidate come 2017, he is in for a rude shock,” he stated.
According to Junet, Raila will be on the ballot in 2017, whether through a joint nomination exercise or otherwise.
“Kalonzo and Wetang’ula are our partners in the coalition; we appreciate that, but take it from me that Raila will run in 2017,” he stated.
“The only way Raila will not be on the ballot is if Jesus comes back before the elections or if the world ends before then,” he added.
It is such statements that have rubbed Wetang’ula and Kalonzo, and their supporters, the wrong way.
There have been murmurs of discontent from Kalonzo’s supporters who accuse some Raila lieutenants of behaving as if their man is the automatic Cord candidate come 2017.
Speaking in late May, Mbooni MP Kisoi Munyao warned Raila against dishonouring a memorandum signed between him and Kalonzo in 2012.
“The agreement was that we support the former Prime Minister up to 2017 and then he passes the baton to Kalonzo, who would, in turn, hand it over to Wetang’ula in 2022.”
“A Raila candidacy has proved to be a failed experiment. It is time for the coalition to honour the gentleman’s accord and adopt a new strategy,” Munyao said.
He maintains that the coalition would only win the 2017 presidential election if Raila backs a Kalonzo candidature.
“As a coalition led by Raila, we failed to beat the duo of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto in the March 2013 elections. Just like he declared ‘Kibaki tosha’ in 2002, Raila should now sacrifice his presidential ambition for the former VP,” Munyao asserts.
Yatta MP Francis Mwangangi warns that members of the Kamba community will no longer be used as a stepping stone to leadership for yet another time.
“I will only support him (Kalonzo) if he decides to go for the top seat in 2017, but anything short of that is simply a joke,” he concludes.^