New UDA Secretary General Cleophas Malala seeks to replace Tuju as CS without portfolio

Cleophas Malala

UDA Secretary-General Cleophas Malala addresses journalists yesterday at Hustler Plaza in Nairobi on March 2, 2023. 

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

New United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Secretary-General Cleophas Malala has hit the ground running, announcing a one-party dream to be used by President William Ruto in his 2027 re-election bid. The immediate former Kakamega senator has set an August deadline for Kenya Kwanza Alliance affiliates to fold. He also expects to be co-opted into the Cabinet as was the case with former Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju. While he admits that the Cabinet is at the constitutionally accepted number of 22, Mr Malala cites the case of former Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) boss Mohamed Badi, who was allowed access to Cabinet even after the ceiling was reached. He defends his decision to resign from Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress (ANC) and is confident that President Ruto is on the way to forming a strong ruling party that now targets more than 200 MPs in the National Assembly and 33 of the 47 governors. Mr Malala spoke to ONYANGO K’ONYANGO.

What is President Ruto’s vision of this one-party plan?

The President wants political stability in Kenya. You cannot meet the target of your development agenda when there is no political tranquillity.

Several parties forming a government can lead to internal competition. It would be very hard to govern the country with such contests.

It would be difficult for the President to make appointments that will help him fulfil whatever he promised Kenyans during the campaigns as he would have to constantly balance between parties.

This is why we want changes. When the President makes appointments, he needs to look at merit. He should pick people who can work. It should not be a question of rewarding political parties just because they are part of the coalition that is running the government.

We want to have one command centre. That will enable President Ruto to govern the country in a better way.

How do you plan to avoid the pitfalls Jubilee’s one-party dream faced?

This is a different scenario. Things have changed drastically. Whatever is happening is different from what you saw during the formation of Jubilee.

Jubilee failed because of the political characters who were running that agenda. They were not genuine and were only after advancing their egoistic interests. President Ruto is genuine and sincere.

After the August 9 presidential election, the President and Kenya Kwanza alliance have ensured that what was agreed on stands. The details in the agreement have been upheld. 

As said earlier, the political players in the Jubilee arrangement were not genuine. They were deceptive in their approach. They wanted to stab one another in the back. Our leader is different as he is committed to whatever promises he makes to the people of Kenya.

We do not foresee UDA or our alliance taking the same route used by Jubilee.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Jubilee wanted to model their one-party plan around South Africa, China and Tanzania models. What is Kenya Kwanza’s plan?

When we were forming Kenya Kwanza, we told citizens that the alliance is a merger of peers and ideas. We were not just merging to get power. We wanted to make Kenya work. We want to deal with the many problems the country was facing.

We inherited a troubled economy. We are putting our heads together in an attempt to solve the problems facing this country.

Our agenda as a single party would be to align our thoughts in ensuring we solve the problems once and for all.

We are not really benchmarking with the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa, the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Tanzania’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). We want to have a party that will be benchmarked by the coming generations.

Former UDA Secretary-General Veronica Maina congratulates her successor Cleophas Malala

Former UDA Secretary-General Veronica Maina congratulates her successor Cleophas Malala at Hustler Plaza in Nairobi on February 27, 2023.

Photo credit: Evans habil | Nation Media Group

We want a situation where people in Zimbabwe will one day say they would want to have a party like Kenya’s UDA.

People from Malawi, Lesotho and other countries in Africa should be coming to Kenya to learn how to form a strong party.

What are the timelines of the proposed merger?

We want to have party elections by the end of this year. August is the tentative month.

It will be great if these Kenya Kwanza affiliate parties will have merged by August. That will mean when we align our leadership in August, we can easily accommodate the people who have joined us. 

It would be futile to hold grassroots elections in August and then merge later when we already have a chairperson, organising secretary and other party leaders. Rearranging the leadership can pose serious problems for the party.

We implore the Jubilee affiliate parties to consider this. We will persuade and request them to merge.

We need to do that before the end of the year so that the President and his team can focus on our development agenda.

Why did you resign from the ANC?

President Ruto sat me down recently and gave the reasons we need to have one party in Kenya. 

I resigned from ANC because I wanted to show my ANC people the way. I wanted to show them leadership. Like John the Baptist, I came to prepare the way for them. They will eventually come to this merger and know that they can be easily accommodated.

I resigned to join the UDA to give ANC the confidence that having one strong party is not a bad idea.

Some Kenyans and political analysts see your appointment as UDA secretary-general as a scheme to tame Mr Mudavadi and National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula. What do you tell them?

My appointment as UDA secretary-general will strengthen Mr Mudavadi and Speaker Wetang’ula. The two leaders have a person who has their interests at heart and who comes from their region. We shall be solidifying Western Kenya in the ruling party. Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula are the eventual winners.

If the ruling party is re-elected in 2027, Mr Wetang’ula will remain Speaker of the National Assembly. He will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the merger because we will have a supermajority in Parliament. If UDA is re-elected in 2027, Mr Mudavadi will be guaranteed the Prime Cabinet Secretary position for another five years.

I am not in any way competing with Mr Mudavadi and the National Assembly Speaker. They are my seniors and mentors back home. I will always respect them. They are also my seniors in the government. I have absolutely no reason to undermine the two leaders.

In fact, I consulted Mr Mudavadi before making the move and he gave me the blessings. I would not have crossed to UDA had he had objected to it. We have been working together to ensure a strong coalition in the name of Kenya Kwanza.

How receptive are the other parties to the UDA merger plan?

As democrats, we are not going to force anyone into the merger. We are saying that the envisaged political party will be big and strong.

UDA new officials

Former UDA secretary-general Veronica Maina (left) and former chairperson Johnson Muthama (right) handover to the new secretary-general Cleophas Malala and chairperson Cecily Mbarire at the Party's offices in Nairobi on March 2, 2023.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Parties that agree with us will also be part of the government. If others think it will not be easy to fold their parties, we will not force them into the merger. We will allow them to maintain their parties but there will be only one ruling party.

How does the Kenya Kwanza alliance plan to link the party and the Executive?

The link between the party and the Executive is the secretary-general.

I have been given the mandate to run the party. One of the instruments handed over to me on Thursday was the Kenya Kwanza manifesto. We are the political face of this government as a party.

We have the mandate to ensure the Kenya Kwanza government delivers on the campaign promises. Remember we are the ones who will be politically accountable come 2027.

(Former Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael) Tuju was a minister without a portfolio in the last administration. Will it happen to you?

It will be my singular duty to ensure that we monitor the execution and implementation of our manifesto by the people who have been appointed to the Executive.

I shall be sitting in the Cabinet to make a follow-up on the decisions made, but not as a Cabinet Secretary. Constitutionally, the country already has 22 Cabinet Secretaries but I can be co-opted into the Cabinet.

The Cabinet can co-opt a member to sit in it to monitor the interests of the party. Our party will be there to ensure the Kenya Kwanza manifesto is implemented to the letter.

We will also ensure as a party that we carry out quarterly opinion polls. Our members need to be telling us their feelings on what they think we have done well and in which sector. We also need to know our follies and how to make improvements.

We shall be getting polls from our members on which Cabinet Secretary is working hard and which one they think is doing little. 

We shall be briefing the President on the performance of Cabinet Secretaries, chief executive officers of state corporations, parastatals and even in the National Assembly and Senate.

We shall be closely monitoring our lawmakers for we want them to deliver on their election pledges. 

If an MP is not performing, it will be our duty to remind him or her. We are here to be politically accountable to the electorate. We do not want to let down the Kenya Kwanza supporters and Kenyans in general.

How big a representation does Kenya Kwanza target in the next Parliament and Council of Governors?

We aim to have a supermajority in the next Parliament. That means Kenya Kwanza has to cross the 233 mark in the National Assembly. We need to have at least 33 elected senators while governors should be more than 35.

Even in the current Parliament, President Ruto has a super majority because the Jubilee lawmakers have agreed to work with us. Some Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) lawmakers are also working with this administration. 

Let’s talk about Western Kenya. What are President Ruto’s chances in 2027 and what is the plan to get there?

President Ruto is going to be stronger in Western Kenya than before. In the last General Election, he garnered around a million votes from the region – that is 630,000 votes in the five counties of Vihiga, Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia and Trans Nzoia and around 400,000 from the people in the region who are in the diaspora.

Because we have made our way into government, leaders from the region will mobilise our people and have them register as voters. We are going to change the tide. Western Kenya will no longer be an Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition stronghold. The region will soon turn yellow from orange. Our people have always wanted to be in government. 

Now that they know where the government is, they will have absolutely no reason not to support President Ruto.

The party launched a membership registration campaign on Wednesday. How many members are you targeting?

As at Thursday, we had 8.9 million members. We target 4.5 million more in this drive. The idea is to have more than half the registered voters in Kenya as our members.

We shall be home and dry if our membership is 13 million to 14 million. It will mean we will only require our members to vote for us during any election.

Who will be allowed to participate in the UDA elections? Will you contest the secretary-general seat?

Only registered UDA members will take part in the August election, and that includes our MPs.

I may gun for the secretary-general seat, the party may agree if I should do so or the decision will be made by the National Delegates Convention (NDC). As a person who is not used to being spoon-fed, I will contest. This is a democratic party and anybody else who thinks he can run against me is welcome.

What is UDA’s plan for Nyanza?

We want to register 250,000 members from each of the four counties of Nyanza – Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay and Migori. Registration begins in Kisumu this weekend.

We intend to register people from every polling station in Nyanza. We will even go door-to-door to find members.

We will also come up with a reward plan. Those who register as UDA members will get incentives. As a government, we control the national resources.