Musalia Mudavadi

Amani National Congress Party leader Musalia Mudavadi.

| Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Revealed: The Uhuru-Mudavadi beef

What you need to know:

  • Political observer says Musalia decision to join Ruto was made out of anger to spite President.
  • Allies of ANC party leader say he had been made to believe he was the President’s heir.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi have a lot in common. They are age mates, were both born into big political families, and they also pursued economics degrees at the University.  

Their political paths, however, never seem to converge but instead the duo have taken divergent ways at every General Election. 

When the late President Daniel Arap Moi overlooked the more politically experienced Mudavadi and instead chose Kenyatta as his successor in 2002, Mr Mudavadi remained in the ruling party but felt slighted and even declined nomination as Kanu MP after losing his Sabatia parliamentary seat.

Ten years later, when retired President Mwai Kibaki was leaving office in 2012, Mr Mudavadi for a while appeared to have been the compromise candidate in place of Mr Kenyatta who was facing charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC), until the famous “mademoni” quip that saw the current president snatch the front-runner position.

The two appeared to have buried the hatchet in the build up to this year’s General Election, until last Sunday when Mr Mudavadi launched a scathing attack against Mr Kenyatta’s presidency, dashing all expectations that the duo would be in the same political camp in the August polls.  

But just what triggered President Kenyatta and Mr Mudavadi’s bitter fall out?

Close political confidants say it is the failure by President Kenyatta to endorse Mr Mudavadi as his successor that triggered the bitter fallout, which culminated with the latter making the bold decision to join Deputy President William Ruto’s camp.

Despite his handshake deal with ODM leader Raila Odinga, the President is reported to have given the ANC leader an undertaking that he could anoint him as his successor, but only if he could hold together political parties that were constituent members of the National Super Alliance (Nasa).

In response to accusations that the country had been led by only two families and two tribes for all but 10 years since independence, President Kenyatta declared that he was ready to break the tradition of the presidency rotating between two tribes, Kikuyu and Kalenjin.

National Assembly Deputy Majority Whip Maoka Maore, an ally of the President, says Mr Mudavadi misconstrued the statement as an endorsement.

“In his mind he saw it as the President’s endorsement of his bid,” Mr Maore said in an interview, adding that the ANC leader has harboured strong feelings against the President since 2012 when attempts to make him the Jubilee party Presidential candidate was resisted by Mr Kenyatta and DP Ruto’s allies.

Political betrayal

The promise, made in January 2021 at the burial of the ANC leader’s mother, Hannah Mudavadi, became untenable sometimes last year after the President gave hints that Mr Odinga was his choice for a successor.

The political “betrayal” kick started a chain of events that culminated with Mr Mudavadi’s decision enter into a détente with DP Ruto in a scheme that political observers argue was meant to spite the handshake partners.

“He became angry and started attacking Jubilee administration’s economic policies and debt management. He felt betrayed by the President for being asked to support Mr Odinga,” said Lugari MP Ayub Savula, Mr Mudavadi’s once loyalist turned critic. 

“He believes Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta cheated him out of his birthright,” added Mr Savula in an interview.

After joining the DP, the ANC leader in his Sunday speech departed from the conventional and unleashed a rare but stinging attack on President Kenyatta and the first family. 

In his hard-hitting statement, Mr Mudavadi extricated the DP from the economic challenges the country is going through and sought to blame it all on the President.

He created a portrait of Kenya as a failed state, citing corruption, disrespect for the rule of law and clawed back gains in democracy, all which he blamed on the President.

The attack was the ANC leader strongest attempt to disentangle himself from the established order, signaling the deep distrust between the two men.

“That speech was unlike Mr Mudavadi. Somebody must have written it for him and we know who it was,” said Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli, who, alongside Mr Odinga, were not spared in the diatribe.

“It appears he was handed the speech and never bothered to read and understand its content. He is bitter,” added the Cotu boss, a staunch ally of the handshake duo.

By choosing to attack the President at an event in which ANC was joined by UDA politicians, Mr Mudavadi cemented the perception that he had fallen out with the President.

Political analyst Herman Manyora believes attributes the ANC leader’s gripe in part on the failure or refusal by the President to pick him as his successor.

Purported endorsement

“All along President Kenyatta had made him believe that he was his chosen heir,” said Mr Manyora, who argues that the decision to join DP Ruto’s camp was done in anger to spite both the President and Mr Odinga.

However, Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi says Mr Mudavadi’s conduct in Bomas has nothing do with anger, but entitlement and naivety, saying the ANC leader has a 10-year jinx that stalks him every time the country is in a political transition.

“From 2002 and in every transitional elections, Mr Mudavadi has made monumental errors. This one is not an exception,” he said.

People around the ANC leader trace the fallout between the two leaders to January 9, 2021 after the burial of Mr Mudavadi mother, an event the President declared a State funeral.

Interviews with people within the One Kenya Alliance (OKA), and who are privy to the ongoings, reveal that the President remained in the Mudavadi home long after the burial, where he dined with and engaged the Mudavadis in a banter deep into the night.

It was at this meeting, they believe, that the President might have dropped the hint that is at the centre of the anger that Mr Mudavadi has exhibited.

“It might have been a direct promise. Perhaps it was delivered in a coded manner. May be it was dropped in the heat of the moment, but there is no one who can tell with certainty whether he meant it or not,” said a senator in the OKA political formation who sought anonymity.

Soon after the burial, Mr Mudavadi’s circle grew as they openly started talking about the purported endorsement. 

It was amplified by the declaration by the President at the burial, in which he said Kenyans were tired of a rule by two tribes and he will support another tribe in 2022.

The One Kenya Alliance (OKA) was formed soon after and the State back-peddled in its support for the Odinga-led ODM in Matungu, Kabuchai and Machakos senatorial by-elections, which were held in March 2021, two months after the burial.

Powerful State mandarins at the Office of the President took over Mr Mudavadi’s campaign strategy.

“They provided funding and guidance on where OKA was to go and what they were to say,” said the source.
Nairobi senator Johnson Sakaja did not hide it.

Powerful individuals

“When you see me taking a position know that is the winning side. I don’t second guess or take chances,” he purred, during a rally in Nyandarua in June.

On the opposite end, ODM was in a retreat. The President had rallied the State machinery through the police and provincial administration behind ANC, Kanu, Ford Kenya and Wiper, even as ODM cried foul. 

On the polling day, ODM and its supporters in Matungu found themselves in the middle of violence as the police watched without acting.

Even the State was embarrassed by the intensity of the violence and had Mr Malala arrested and charged with several offences, including robbery with violence, felony, destruction of property and causing injuries to a presiding officer. 

The ODM and Jubilee fight moved into Bonchari constituency in May 2021 following the death of MP Oroo Oyioka and another confrontation between the State and Jubilee ensued.

Kisii Governor James Ongwae’s home was raided by the police on account that he was holding an unlawful meeting with Senator Sam Ongeri.

ODM turned its guns on Interior CS Fred Matiangi and PS Karanja Kibicho and asked the President to fire them for being partisan. 

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed blamed Dr Kibicho for the loss and threatened that ODM was ready to ditch the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). 

The message was further amplified by Siaya senator James Orengo who blamed some powerful individuals around the President of driving a wedge between the two handshake partners.

“There is a cabal inside government who are busy chatting the way how Kenya will be ruled after the 2022 election,” Mr Orengo declared. 

“They are simply reaping where they have not sowed. Without Mr Odinga, they would not be planning those successions and therefore they must listen to the two BBI principals,” Mr Orengo said.

Dr Oburu Oginga, while appearing on KTN, had nice things to say about the DP.

Mudavadi’s latest move

“Mr Odinga and Ruto are great friends, they just differ on a few fundamentals that can be ironed out, they’ve worked together before.”

DP Ruto joined the fray, too. He described ODM as the only national party after Jubilee and hinted he could work with Mr Odinga, because the two shared certain goals.

“Some people think I have problems with Mr Odinga. I don’t. These differences are political. Mr Odinga is agreeable on the need to form national parties. He faces similar issues that I face,” he said in March 2021.

The tide however swung again against Mr Mudavadi when the President convened a series of meetings in which he urged the OKA team to support Mr Odinga. The first meeting was in Nairobi, two in Mombasa and at least one in Sagana.

When the media reported that OKA had been asked to support Mr Odinga in the Mombasa meeting, the ANC leader denied during an interview with Citizen TV.

“There was no such conversions,” Mr Mudavadi declared matter of factly. “It must go out clearly that the decision on who becomes the President will be made by the voter not boardroom decisions.”

Mr Mudavadi, while speaking in Eldama Ravine yesterday took a swipe at President Kenyatta who, after the alliance between ANC and UDA, told a section of leaders from Western Region that he was disappointed with Mr Mudavadi. 

President Kenyatta is on Tuesday at State House said to have told a section of Western Kenya leaders that he was disappointed with Mr Mudavadi’s move to unite with DP Ruto.

"Mr President, you have a right to be disappointed with me. But, I want to tell you: Kenyans are even more disappointed in you. They are hungry, they are tired. Let's not lie to each other," the ANC leader told a crowd in Eldama Ravine, which is Kanu chairman Gideon Moi's backyard.

The ANC leader maintained that he has decided to work with DP Ruto and no amount of intimidation will change his mind.