What you need to know:
- DP started engaging Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula following their bitter exchanges with ODM leaders.
- The leaders are reported to have been engaged in on-and-off secret meetings since 2020.
Deputy President William Ruto started courting Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi about two years ago and continued holding secret on-and-off negotiations that culminated in Sunday’s announcement of a political partnership, the Nation has established.
According to close allies of the two leaders who spoke to the Nation , the DP, keen on succeeding his boss President Uhuru Kenyatta in the upcoming August General Election, took advantage of the then bitter exchange of words between the top leadership of the Nasa political coalition, which Mr Mudavadi was part of, and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) boss Raila Odinga, to woo the ANC boss and the Ford Kenya leader, Moses Wetang’ula.
Mr Mudavadi’s membership of the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) political formation comprising him, Mr Wetang’ula, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and the Kanu boss Gideon Moi has been the biggest bone of contention in the protracted negotiations.
The negotiations, sources said, gathered momentum in June 2020 when police broke up a meeting convened by Mr Wetang’ula at the home of Malava MP, Malulu Injendi.
“The talks have been ongoing for a long time... There was a lot of teargas somewhere in 2020 when we were doing a joint function with ANC and Ford Kenya, that is how old this relationship is … something tangible could come up, but then we would go back with more revisions,” said Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, a staunch political ally of the DP.
Before Sunday’s joint public appearance, Dr Ruto and Mr Mudavadi held a night meeting a fortnight ago and held intense discussions until 2am.
That night meeting marked Mr Mudavadi’s unofficial withdrawal from OKA, as well as his severance of ties with his erstwhile ally Mr Odinga, ending the possibility of the two teaming up in the August polls.
Mr Washiali has declared that he will not defend his parliamentary seat, to instead concentrate on campaigning for Dr Ruto.
Politics of deceit
On the many occasions when the ANC boss fired political salvos at President Uhuru Kenyatta in public rallies it was because he was almost finalising negotiations to work with the country’s second-in-command, the political allies have revealed.
The purging of Mr Wetang’ula and Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala from the senate minority leader and deputy leader positions respectively, in addition to the perceived targeting of other allies of Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula, added impetus to the DP’s courtship of the ANC boss.
The purge, the DP reportedly told them, made them victims of the ‘politics of deceit’.
“We shall no longer countenance the company of those who cannot be trusted. No, never again. For the avoidance of doubt, the ANC stand, which I am privileged to pronounce, is that the spectre called Azimio is not an option (for us) in terms of partnerships,” Mr Mudavadi announced on Sunday, accusing Mr Odinga of betrayal.
ANC National Chairman Kelvin Lunani told the Nation that the DP has assured them that he will respect the two leaders and treat them as equal partners, something he said ODM failed to do in the National Super Alliance (Nasa) coalition.
“We have been looking for friends who are like-minded because once bitten twice shy. The contribution of Musalia to Nasa was never appreciated. He was insulted and called all sorts of names. Musalia is carrying the load of the Luhya, so he has to position them where they will benefit,” said Mr Lunani.
He says Mr Mudavadi was disgruntled in the manner in which the former Prime Minister used the March 2018 Handshake “to only take goodies to his Nyanza backyard, sidelining Western Kenya, which has been supporting him since 2007.” The DP, he says, has promised fair development projects to all regions if he clinches the presidency.
“We supported Raila through Nasa, he got the cake of the purported Nasa, he never shared it, he only took it to his people. As a leader, you look for space to assist your people. In the past five years we missed it. They wanted us to go and beg the President to get development. That is why we want to be in a government where all communities are respected and the national cake is shared equitably,” Mr Lunani says.
Defending the refurbishment of the Kisumu port and Nakuru-Butere railway, Mr Odinga recently said it will not only benefit Nyanza region but the entire Western part of the country.
State House ambition
“Let no one say Raila has brought development in certain regions. In Kisumu, the port could only be constructed in Kisumu because there is no lake in either Bungoma or Kakamega. It is something which was constructed years ago by the colonialists and it had been forgotten,” said Mr Odinga.
He dismissed claims that he is using the handshake to favour his political backyard of Nyanza, while forgetting regions across the country that have voted for him overwhelmingly in the past.
“Revival of the old metre-gauge railway, from Nakuru to Kisumu, will extend to Butere in Kakamega. The other one from Eldoret to Kampala will not help Raila or people of Bungoma only or Kisumu, no. It is pure propaganda that Raila has taken development to his backyard only. I cannot forget my people of Western. I cannot forget any part of the country in terms of development,” the former premier said.
In the clearest indication that the ANC boss has shelved his State House ambition for Dr Ruto, Mr Lunani says the focus is not on what they will get in terms of sharing positions, but the DP’s assurance that they will be treated equally has won their hearts.
“We’re looking at this root as where all Kenyans will benefit. Musalia is not hungry for a position. When he was nominated to Parliament by Kanu in 2002, he declined. In 2017, he shelved his ambitions to be a campaign manager. He can just choose to be campaign manager of Ruto as long as the government shall deliver to the people of Kenya,” he said.
United Democratic Alliance (UDA) chairman Johnson Muthama said the party had not discussed any power sharing deal with Mr Mudavadi, arguing that the move is aimed at building what he described as a ‘united country’.
“We are not coming together to discuss who takes what. We’re in it for a united country where everyone gets government services, not one which is divided with deceit and lies,” said Mr Muthama.
He added: “Kenyans have suffered and we have seen what has happened in the past years. Power sharing deals have not been working out in the past. We tried out with Raila, it did not work out, Uhuru tried with Ruto, it also failed. Therefore, we want to change this narrative.”
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa says Mr Mudavadi will back Dr Ruto’s bid for presidency.
“There is a saying in our community that a smaller river joins the bigger one. This means that there is no way William Ruto can support Mudavadi, it is Mudavadi to do so. Ruto has a national network,” the Kimilili MP said.
Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, an ardent supporter of Mr Odinga, maintains that the Western region is firmly behind the Azimio la Umoja political formation spearheaded by Mr Odinga.
“The people of Western region will not be hoodwinked to support UDA through a purported earthquake that is meant to propel UDA at the expense of our people. We shall be behind Azimio as directed by elders and affirmed by majority on December 31,” he said on Sunday.
Saboti MP Caleb Amisi also accused the ANC leader of betraying the community for his own selfish interests by working with UDA.
“We advise our supporters not to fall prey to the rhetoric of UDA through purported agreement with the ANC party leader, whom all along we knew was not in the running for the presidency, but using the community for his personal gain,” said Mr Amisi.
Former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale claimed the Sunday declaration has given the region political direction, which will unite the entire Luhya nation in the August elections.
“The route is chosen and we shall travel it together with the coalition,” said Mr Khalwale.