Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi (left) and President William Ruto
Caption for the landscape image:

Musalia Mudavadi’s big gamble in ANC merger with William Ruto’s UDA

Scroll down to read the article

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi (left) and President William Ruto during a meeting with Kenya Kwanza leaders in Karen on August 17, 2022.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi’s decision to fold his party could once again expose him to the same scenario that previously saw him forced out of outfits he helped build but had no control over.
Mr Mudavadi has agreed to fold his Amani National Congress (ANC) to join President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) in a merger deal, making himself vulnerable to a possible round of unceremonial exit as it happened in United Democratic Forum (UDF) and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).
Political analysts have described the move as a major political gamble that could turn politically expensive for Mr Mudavadi, especially for his ambition to succeed Dr Ruto in 2032.

Musalia Mudavadi

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi in his office at the Treasury Building in Nairobi on June 20, 2023.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

His entry into the ruling UDA is also likely to place him at the heart of the power struggle currently pitting President Ruto and his deputy, Mr Rigathi Gachagua.
Based on the 2022 election outcome, Mt Kenya of Mr Gachagua has more stakes in UDA compared to Mr Mudavadi’s western, which is still largely under ODM leader Raila Odinga. 
Analysts further note that UDA could also suffer the curse of past major ruling political parties after President Ruto’s presidency. Former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party (JP), which was formed following the merger of several parties, disintegrated and became a shadow of its former self.
Read also: I’m my own man, says Raila Odinga as State joins his bid for African Union post

Although the party officials described it as a ‘merger by amalgamation’, which means both parties folding to join a new outfit, Nation has established that UDA will largely retain its identity, with ANC being dissolved the same way the National Development Party (NDP) of Raila Odinga was dissolved in the merger with Kanu in 2002.
The former Sabatia MP has in the past been forced to resign from political parties that he actively built.
He unceremoniously left UDF – a party on whose ticket he contested for presidency in the 2013 presidential elections- where he emerged a distant third.
Mr Mudavadi was made the party leader in the run-up to the 2013 elections, but would later be forced to resign in June 2015 by the founders led by then-chairman Hassan Osman after more than a year of a power struggle
Before the resignation, Mr Mudavadi had tried to kick out Mr Osman, and senators Boni Khalwale (Kakamega) and Martha Wangari (then nominated) from the party before he succumbed to their political onslaught.
"I kindly thank you for having allowed me to be a member of your party. I wish the party well in its future endeavours,” said Mr Mudavadi in his resignation letter dated June 2, 2015. He later joined the ANC and he teamed up with other opposition leaders in forming the National Super Alliance (NASA) in the run-up to 2017.
In December 2020, Mr Mudavadi was forced to resign from Mr Odinga’s ODM, a party they formed following the 2005 referendum. Mr Mudavadi quit ODM ‘due to failure to amend nomination and election rules that made the party leader the automatic flag bearer in a general election.
“In politics, one has to be prepared to take challenges, and risks and move on. The level of patience and tolerance I have displayed in the belief that changes in the party constitution is important and should be acknowledged,” he said on December 4, 2020.

Musalia Mudavadi

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi during the signing of performance contracts by senior government officials at State House in Nairobi on August 1, 2023.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Jevans Bigambo, a political analyst, says the political deal could backfire on Mr Mudavadi and consequently frustrate his ambitions.
“Not everybody in the ANC is going to follow Mudavadi to UDA. Some may opt to join other parties that are more appealing and popular in Western. Mudavadi seems to have gotten into a merger in the boardroom without proper participation of party members,” says Mr Bigambo.
He notes that entry is also likely to trigger a cold war between Mr Mudavadi and Mr Gachagua as each will want to position themselves to succeed President Ruto.
“Unless he brings Western to UDA, his move is a major political miscalculation because other regions like Mt Kenya and Rift Valley would continue to claim more stakes in UDA,” he observes.
Read also: The making of regional political chieftains

ANC party leader Issa Timamy on Wednesday said the outfit was aware of the uncertainty and concerns by members about the merger.
“I understand that there are concerns and apprehension over the merger. Change is never easy, but we have to so that we manage the affairs of our people. This is a merger by amalgamation. This is our preferred merger proposal,” said Mr Timamy, who is also the Lamu Governor.
“By this, our respective parties of UDA and ANC will form a new political party which we shall all join as members. This will offer a necessary legal cushion to our respective membership and critically to our current elected members of the County Assembly and National Assembly,” he explained.
But political analyst Mr Martin Oloo argues that President Ruto knowing that Central Kenya may not vote for him to be the last man in the 2027 election, is squarely looking into Western and Nyanza regions to galvanize his support.

Mr Oloo says that if Mr Mudavadi survives politics in UDA and can take on DP Gachagua who is now like his nemesis, by bringing in his party, that gives him a bit of a say because he is folding a party.
“Unlike the DP who was already in and thus does not have a bargaining power, Mudavadi will now have a bargaining power and obviously, it will plunge him into a bitter argument with Gachagua,” says Mr Oloo.
In terms of succession, he says, it’s Mr Mudavadi that DP Gachagua has a problem with.
“The President too will have to be conscious that the duel will benefit him. But is it the right time for those conversations to take place, the answer is yes, this is the time,” added Mr Oloo.
Mr Mudavadi had in April described his latest move as a “political earthquake,” akin to the one which marked his official entry into President Ruto’s political fold ahead of the August 9, 2022 elections.
On Wednesday at State House when officials of the two parties met, Mr Mudavadi pointed out that after a moment of meditation on the best place to direct the ANC party to, he was satisfied that with President Ruto his members were in safe hands.
“This is the safe pair of hands that have been referred to by the party leader (Issa Timamy). The alternative would have been to be quiet and let you go in the wilderness but that would have been highly irresponsible of me,” the PCS said at the State House event.
He went on: “You can be penny wise but pound foolish. Let us be part of a bigger formation.”
Read also: Grand confusion in Kenya's political landscape

Mr Mudavadi went further to give an assurance to the Head of State that henceforth after the legal mechanics have been exhausted, they will field candidates under the UDA umbrella.
“Do you think it would be wise to field a candidate against the person who gazetted me as the Prime Cabinet Secretary?” posed Mr Mudavadi.
The dissolution of ANC further provides an opportunity for National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula to consolidate the region under his Fork Kenya party.
In the last poll, ANC won seven parliamentary seats – mostly in Western as well as the Lamu Governor position while Ford Kenya has six members in the National Assembly plus the Bungoma governor post.
But Mr Wetang’ula is already aggressively working to flip the numbers in favour of his outfit in the 2027 General Elections through a series of meetings, some targeting opposition members.
When Mr Wetang’ula was elected as the Speaker of the National Assembly, he went to the region and declared himself the country’s third most powerful government official after President Ruto and DP Gachagua. Constitutionally, Mr Wetang’ula is the third-in-command.
However, politically, Mr Mudavadi has made it appear that his Prime Cabinet Secretary – which is not recognized by the constitution – is more powerful.