Jubilee Party Leader and former President Uhuru Kenyatta

Jubilee Party leader and retired President Uhuru Kenyatta during his party's National Delegates Conference at  Ngong Racecourse on May 22, 2023.

| Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Uhuru factor in Azimio fallout over Bomas talks team report

What you need to know:

  • Mr Odinga has in the recent past been involved in a massive recruitment drive for his Orange Democratic Movement party.
  • Although the coalition's leadership insists the political outfit is still intact, heightened activities within the constituent political outfits point otherwise.

The fallout in the Raila Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition seems to be growing day by day, with the shadow of its council chairman – former President Uhuru Kenyatta looming large in the upshot.

Just like the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord) which crumbled after the 2013 General Elections and the National Super Alliance (Nasa) which was declared defunct ahead of the 2022 elections, Azimio, which was Mr Odinga’s special purpose vehicle for State House in last year’s polls is facing similar threats.

Although the coalition's leadership insists the political outfit is still intact, multiple interviews by Nation with insider sources, divergent views by principals on the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO) report, as well as heightened activities within the constituent political outfits point otherwise.

Mr Odinga has in the recent past been involved in a massive recruitment drive for his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party, and so has Mr Kenyatta whose Jubilee party Secretary General is currently involved in a similar drive across the country.

Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua on Thursday solely issued a party statement where she distanced herself from the NADCO report and yesterday (Friday), former Defense Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa who has also opposed the report was also in Kakamega popularizing his DAP-Kenya party.

Mr Kenyatta, who was the brain behind the coalition's efforts to slam the brakes on his deputy William Ruto, (now President), from ascending to State House, is said to have taken great exception to the report, and is one of the voices agitating for heightened pushbacks against Kenya Kwanza administration.

Although he has not come out publicly to express himself on the matter, the brazen position taken by his Jubilee party and Kamwene – an opposition lobby group for Mt Kenya region, and his ex-Cabinet Secretary for Defense – Mr Wamalwa against the report, even after its endorsement at the coalition’s Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting is a pointer to his stand.

While Mr Odinga has described the NADCO report as “unfinished but a good beginning,” and proposed a referendum to create the office of the leader of opposition and to formalize the office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary, his principal assistant in last year’s poll – Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua insists “it is a fraud which Kenyans should frown upon and reject.”

On Friday, Mr Wamalwa also took a bold step and said no to calls for a referendum “which does not address the cost-of-living issue,” going parallel with Mr Odinga’s position. 

“Without the cost of living, we will not support that referendum and that’s why I have not signed the report. Even Kenyans will not support such a referendum. You can take that to the bank,” Mr Wamalwa asserted.

He said that Kenyans were hurting and “you can’t ask them to go for a referendum yet they don’t have food and school fees. It’s not just insensitive but an assault to the people of Kenyan.”

Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni came to the defense of Mr Kenyatta, the party leader, even as he reiterated their reservations against the NADCO report.

“We had no faith in that process. Whatever we were given is a document that is not conceivable,” Mr Kioni said.

He pointed out that as the spokesperson of Jubilee party, they do not subscribe to the report since it failed to address pertinent issues of the cost of living, electoral justice and fidelity to multiparty democracy.

In a terse statement on Thursday, Ms Karua sharply differed with Mr Odinga on the NADCO report and called for its rejection.

“…the NADCO report has nothing to alleviate the suffering of citizens but offers goodies to the leaders. It is a fraud that Kenyans should frown upon and reject. It's a distracting national smokescreen,” she said.

Ms Karua, who was Mr Odinga’s running mate in last year’s election, further cast aspersions on the committee which was co-chaired by Azimio principal and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and National Assembly Majority leader Kimani Ichung’wah.

“Unfortunately, the findings of the report confirm that the committee was formed by the unwilling, composed of the incompetent to do the unnecessary,” she charged.

Mr Wamalwa and Mr Kioni however, downplayed allegations of division in the coalition, insisting that they were speaking the same language.

“Martha is expressing what we have all said but maybe in stronger terms by being unequivocal than some of us but that does not mean we are divided.”

“Azimio is a democratic movement that allows divergent views however strong they may be and people should not read too much into that or worry why I did not sign the report,” Mr Wamalwa told Nation.

Mr Kioni said Azimio remains united, adding that Kenyans will continue seeing its leadership together in public functions.

“We will continue to consult with Kenyans in public barazas and you will see us speak in one language,” Mr Kioni said, even as he defended Mr Kenyatta over allegations of rocking the Azimio boat.

He said: “I speak as the Secretary General of the party after consultation with the entire leadership so you cannot pinpoint one leader and lay accusations against him.”

In an earlier interview, Nation had established former President Kenyatta’s shadow was looming large in the brazen position taken by the coalition’s leading lights, with highly placed sources in the coalition revealing disapproval of the talks by Mr Kenyatta over the cost-of-living matter.

“Uhuru made frantic efforts to scuttle the talks. Twice in about two months recently, Uhuru convened Azimio leaders to discuss the bilateral talks. Both meetings have been held at Raila’s home in Karen at Uhuru’s request,” a highly placed source told Nation.

He revealed that Mr Kenyatta convened the Azimio leadership to be briefed on the progress of talks a month begore it was finalised.

“At the meeting he expressed strong disapproval of the talks, preferring that Ruto (President William Ruto) be put under intense pressure. But it was not clear what he wanted the pressure to achieve,” the source added.

Saboti MP Caleb Amisi however, pointed out that it was too early to conclude on the Azimio fallout. 

“Azimio is the most democratic open political movement.  Members disagree on principals but finally get a compromise. Raila is an astute statesman of international repute with enormous capacity on how to bring every dissenter on board,” said Mr Amisi.

He went on: “Azimio is beyond individual leaders. It is now a Kenyan project. You leave Azimio, you leave alone, maybe with your little cabal of family, and other members will immediately somersault to your position. Azimio has been taken over by Kenyans.”

Uriri MP Mark Nyamita and his Gem counterpart Elisha Odhiambo accused Azimio leaders seeking for a return to the streets of being insincere.

“That report (NADCO) needs to be brought to the floor of the house soonest so that we dispense of it. The creation of IEBC is of priority so that reforms, if any are done in good time. Martha Karua who couldn't even command a polling station cannot honestly dream of leading street protests. We also do hope that Eugene will decline the allowances as well,” Mr Nyamita said.

Mr Odhiambo pointed out that street protests will achieve nothing but only hurt ordinary Kenyans.

“Kenyans are tired of political theatrics. Azimio seems to have reached a dead end because of selfishness and political aggrandizement. The only window available is to let the country be,” the Gem MP said.

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi said that the dialogue had now moves from Bomas to the people of Kenya who will make a sound decision on the report.

“Hon Karua and Hon Wamalwa have a right to have a dissenting view from majority of Azimio leaders who support the NADCO report and official communication made.”

“If you keenly listen to the two leaders, they are saying the same thing as the majority because Azimio position is that the report is imperfect and work in progress but for strategic agenda we will support and demand that Kenyans should have their input in it. I think our two good leaders have not understood the strategic bit and I hope with time they will,” Mr Osotsi said.

Multi-Media University don Prof Gitile Naituli however, defended Ms Karua’s position on the report, saying it does not suggest division in the coalition.

“Central Kenya has got special challenges which are not necessarily affecting other counties and the idea for Kamwene is not to oppose Azimio but to address those unique challenges facing us in the Mountain region within the context of a strong and energized Azimio,” Prof Naituli argues.

He went on: “Martha’s position does not mean Azimio is breaking up or not cohesive.”

Political analyst Dismas Mokua said the NADCO report forms a strong basis for “an all-inclusive citizens, partners and stakeholders’ conversations on how to secure Kenya’s political economic stability.”

“Political leaders should engage in ideas cross pollination with the sole intention of making Kenya the winner in the conversation,” he said.

He went on: “Both Wamalwa and Karua are playing populist politics and attempting to manipulate Kenyans. Wamalwa and Karua will not succeed in their attempt to rally Kenyans against the report because they don’t have political capital for such an adventure. The duo want to use opposition to the NADCO proposals as a stepping stone for 2027 presidential elections. They want to position themselves as presidential candidates. Their opposition is fixed at 2027.”

President Ruto, Mr Mokua noted, has indicated his willingness to support NADCO recommendations in toto while Mr Odinga said he supports NADCO report in principal but registered offence that NADCO did not address the cost of living.

“Kenya Kwanza administration has already set infrastructure in motion to address the cost of living and has demonstrated capacity and competence in addressing key cost of living issues like food inflation. Kenya Kwanza has been correcting policy mistakes made by President Kenyatta to place Kenya in the recovery path. President Ruto says Kenyans will soon enjoy dividends of his administration’s interventions,” he added.

He said that Azimio is President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, adding that Mr Wamalwa and Ms Karua exit will have no material effect in the coalition.

“Azimio will probably open champagne bottles if the duo exit Azimio. There was no Martha effect in 2022. There will be no Martha effect if Karua quits Azimio. Both Wamalwa and Karua need Mr Odinga more than he needs the duo.”