Azimio implosion: Kalonzo charts own path after Uhuru's exit, Raila's defeat

Kalonzo Musyoka

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The two ‘political brothers’, whose parties formed Azimio could be pulling in different directions after one of the most divisive and closely fought elections. Is this the death of the coalition?
  • Wiper Democratic Movement leader, Kalonzo Musyoka, is in the process of rolling out his presidential campaign to face off with President Ruto in 2027. 
  • In the wings is Martha Karua, Odinga’s presidential running mate, waiting for her opportunity.

Having come to terms with last month’s electoral shocker, the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition has finally opted to settle down in the opposition amid questions as to who exactly is steering the blue ship.

With President Uhuru Kenyatta’s departure and Raila Odinga’s loss to the Kenya Kwanza candidate William Ruto, it remains unclear whether the two key principals will want to continue as the political faces of Azimio now and beyond 2027, or if they will instead play the kingmaker role by propping up another politician as the coalition’s flag-bearer.  

The Weekly Review has independently established that the Wiper Democratic Movement leader, Kalonzo Musyoka, is in the process of rolling out his presidential campaign to face off with President Ruto in 2027. 

In the wings is Martha Karua, Odinga’s presidential running mate, waiting for her opportunity.

There is also Jeremiah Kioni, the Jubilee Secretary-General, who is increasingly becoming the face of the party.

Raila Odinga

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga with his running mate Martha Karua during their final rally at Kasarani stadium on August 6.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

It has retained its team of strategists to help navigate through the tough times ahead as well as keep President Ruto’s government on its toes.    

Conflicting paths

These varied positions already point to the presence of independent and conflicting political paths for Azimio leaders and member parties.

This reality is buttressed by Saboti MP Caleb Amisi’s statement earlier in the week to the effect that his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) boss, Odinga, will be on the ballot in 2027.

Much as these are his personal feelings, they reflect the wishes of many members of ODM.

His assertions mirror accusations levelled against the outgoing President by some Azimio politicians that he overplayed his support for Odinga – a factor that portrayed the latter as a “state project” and, therefore, negatively affected his electoral chances. 

It is barely two weeks since Ruto’s swearing-in as Kenya’s fifth President and the apparent reading of Azimio allied politicians from different scripts is political fodder for rivals in Kenya Kwanza to exploit.

The teaming up of Kenyatta and Raila, for instance, is a move the highly alert and calculative President would love to break, for his own political interest. 

Little wonder, Kitui Senator who also doubles as Azimio’s national treasurer,  Enoch Wambua, is quick to point out that “all is well within us”, adding that any emerging cracks within the outfit will be addressed accordingly. 

The new deputy Senate Minority Leader holds that those looking forward to the disintegration of Azimio “can continue dreaming”, arguing that the outfit is the biggest political coalition in and outside Parliament:

“In terms of democratic space for the articulation of issues, that space is a lot broader than would be found on the other side. We are determined to hold the Executive to account in a very robust, responsible and objective manner”. 

The latter resolve, as articulated by Wambua, largely formed Odinga’s talking points when he addressed the Azimio parliamentary caucus held in Athi-River Machakos County, last Friday.

He urged his lieutenants to remain united or perish politically. 

Azimio Unity

Karua and Kalonzo equally stressed the need for the Azimio brigade to work together as a team and resist the temptation of crossing over to the rival camp, lest as the Narc-Kenya party leader warned, “you will be made mincemeat”.

The sentiments by the Odinga-Karua-Kalonzo trio were evidently made with an eye on Ruto – alive to the reality that he is the biggest political threat to Azimio’s unity and post-poll strategy.

Azimio is coming up against solid opposition from Ruto, who is keen on consolidating his forces to secure a second term in office.

The President is alive to the political threat of a combined force of Odinga and Kenyatta and according to pundits will do everything possible to put a wedge between the two “political bothers”.  

Instructively, Ruto announced – during his swearing-in ceremony on September 13th – the appointment of his predecessor as peace envoy to Ethiopia and the Great Lakes region.

While other considerations, including influence and interest of western powers were at play, the fact that he made the announcement on his historic day speaks to the hurry within which Ruto is keen at extending an olive branch to Mr Kenyatta. 

According to protocol, the Jubilee party leader will report directly to the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) leader – an arrangement that offers the two quality and quantity room for free engagement.

This situation is further complicated by the reactions of Mr Kenyatta’s backers, particularly his political strategist Prof Mutahi Ngunyi, who recently suggested in a tweet that the former President was happy in retirement.

The political scientist went on to advise Odinga against using the same old tactics of protest against Ruto, warning they would backfire.   

Ngunyi’s further invitation of Odinga to embrace national unity has attracted mixed reactions amongst Azimio supporters.

Some within Odinga’s ODM party, like Embakasi East MP, Babu Owino, have alleged that their party leader “was played”.  

This line of argument is rather discomforting to Kioni and other politicians from the Mt Kenya region, who lost their parliamentary seats largely on account of backing the Azimio leader’s presidential bid.

The former Ndaragwa MP points out that he, alongside others who vied on Jubilee, Narc-Kenya and tickets of other Azimio-friendly parties, made a huge sacrifice in favour of Odinga and “paid the ultimate political prize”. 

Separately, poll statistics of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) appear to vindicate the Jubilee official that his team’s campaign input indeed paid off.

"Improved performance"

Odinga, who in his last four bids performed dismally in the Mt Kenya region, registered a major improvement in all the counties. 

In the populous Kiambu County, for instance, the ODM leader’s vote tally trebled from 69,190 in 2017 to 210, 393 this year, with Murang’a and Nyeri counties recording the highest improvement, from 9,122 to 73,539 votes and a paltry 4,735 to 51,939 votes, respectively between 2017 and 2022. In total, Azimio scooped 1,134, 826 votes from the region as compared to 573,292 votes in 2017.  

Kioni further argues that the low voter town out, owing partly to his party leader’s plea not to vote for his then deputy, Ruto, contributed to Odinga’s “improved performance” in the region.      

Besides Azimio, it seems Jubilee Party’s primary interest now is how to claw back political gains so far made by Ruto ahead of the next General Elections.

Jubilee’s quagmire is not unique – since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in 1992, this has become a perennial problem of ruling parties. 

After surviving the 1997 onslaught, the independence party, Kanu’s 40-year hold onto power came tumbling in 2002 under Mwai Kibaki’s National Rainbow Coalition (Narc), and to date, Kanu has never recovered.

Kibaki’s own Party of National Unity (PNU) became a victim after his second-term exit from office in 2013, and now Jubilee is struggling under the same political curse.    

Meanwhile, the home party of Azimio is confronted with various vested interests of individual leaders, vis-à-vis contrasting political realities.

Odinga, for instance, who boasts of the largest number of elected leaders in the outfit, is largely anticipated to give room for another leader.

Kalonzo, who has supported him three consecutive times expects to be the chosen one this time around, yet still Karua considers herself next in line according to the current arrangement. 

According to Wambua, the leadership structure of Azimio – the council and the secretariat – has not changed, meaning the status quo remains with regard to the stewardship of the blue ship.

But with political interests and realities changing fast, it will be interesting to watch how long this status holds.   

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