Johnson Muthama
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Johnson Muthama’s Damascus Moment and reunion with Kalonzo Musyoka

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Commissioner at the Parliamentary Service Commission Johnson Muthama during an interview in Nairobi on Thursday, November 16, 2023.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Former Chairman of President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance Johnson Muthama has had a Damascus moment and retreated back home.

Mr Muthama’s recent assertion that the Kamba community has been sidelined in Kenya Kwanza government has lifted the lid on the simmering war between him and youthful leaders from Ukambani.

While the former Machakos Senator insists that as the founding chairman of UDA he still has “allegiance to the ruling party”, he has claimed his right to criticise the government.

“Despite being a loyal supporter of this administration, it doesn’t mean that anyone can deter me from championing the unity of my community or airing my grievances and as I do that, it shouldn’t be misconstrued that I am leaving UDA or ceasing to support the President,” he said.

To buttress his point, Mr Muthama on Monday, June 17, appeared to rally parliamentarians to back the contentious Finance Bill 2024.

 “The government can only meet its responsibilities if it gets funds to operate, and these funds are primarily raised through taxes. Therefore, it is essential for Kenyans to support their government by fulfilling their tax obligations. After that, we expect the government to use the taxes prudently for service delivery,” he said.

His recent outbursts have raised the question: Was there a promise by President Ruto that he’d be handed a bigger mandate in the government and he now feels betrayed?

Since he lost his bid for Machakos governor on a UDA ticket in 2022, Mr Muthama has been lukewarm, rarely appearing in public especially after he was removed as the party’s interim national chairman to become a member of the Parliamentary Service Commission.

Mr Muthama has now offered to convene bipartisan political talks among leaders from Ukambani to discuss the community’s stake in government and its future.

He joined Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka in accusing President Ruto for allegedly relegating Kambas to peripheral roles in his government.

“I formed UDA party which went on to win elections and form government but there’s no single Kamba where the national cake is shared,” Mr Muthama said during the burial of former Cabinet Minister Joseph Munyao’s wife in Mbooni, Makueni County.

In a more telling indication of their frosty relations, Mr Muthama skipped a church service in his Kangundo backyard attended by National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah and President Ruto’s aide Farouk Kibet, among other UDA leaders, on Sunday.

Mr Muthama's troubles began even before the 2022 elections when he insisted on running for governor against the wishes of the party. His problems worsened when President Ruto chose former Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua—Mr Muthama’s sworn political rival—as one of his Cabinet secretaries. According to Fred Muteti, an ally of President Ruto who chairs the Special Economic Zones Authority, Mr Muthama has never reconciled with the fact that Dr Mutua, whom he spent years fighting, was preferred against him.

It is against the backdrop of these political frustrations that Mr Muthama is seeking a reunion with his former allies in Wiper party.

His call for unity talks and his plans to convene the Kamba leaders meeting at his Komarock ranch have drawn angry reactions from President Ruto’s youthful allies in the region.

 Led by Dr Mutua and UDA national Organising Secretary Vincent Kawaya, they accused Mr Muthama of hoodwinking the Kamba community that they are not included in Kenya Kwanza government for his own selfish political reasons.

In separate interviews, the two leaders said Mr Musyoka and Mr Muthama don’t have to hold senior positions for the Kamba community to feel adequately represented in government.