Musalia Mudavadi and Rigathi Gachagua
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Why Ruto, Raila talks team report is another checkmate for Gachagua, Mudavadi

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Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi (right) welcomes Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua to make his address during the signing of Ministerial Performance Contracts at State House, Nairobi on August 1, 2023.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

The National Assembly’s unanimous adoption last Thursday of the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) report might at first glance suggest eventual smooth passage of the various legislative and constitutional proposals from the team jointly appointed by President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

However, swirling political undercurrents within both Ruto’s governing Kenya Kwanza coalition and Raila’s Azimio la Umoja/One Kenya coalition may yet come to throw numerous spanners into the works. 

Within Azimio, some key affiliates, including the Mt Kenya bloc led by Raila’s 2022 presidential election running-mate Martha Karua of Narc Kenya and former MP Jeremiah Kioni of the Jubilee Party, and former Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa of DAP have teamed up to reject the report.

Raila Odinga

Azimio la Umoja Coalition leader Raila Odinga.

Photo credit: File| Nation Media Group

In Kenya Kwanza, a sizeable Mt Kenya grouping seen as loyal to Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has also made no secret of its discomfort with any arrangement that may herald a political accommodation between Ruto and Raila.

It is, however, emerging that their biggest concern is not the prospect of Raila winning a seat at the high table under the kind of ‘handshake’ deal struck with President Uhuru Kenyatta to quell the post-election turbulence of 2017, but internal Kenya Kwanza dynamics that may elevate the profile and succession prospects of Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi.

Amongst key recommendations of the National Dialogue team appointed by Ruto and Raila to look into grievances around the 2022 presidential election results was creation of a post of Official Opposition leader, presumably Raila’s for the taking, as well as elevation of Mudavadi’s office to that of Prime Minister.

The post of Prime Cabinet Secretary is presently just like that of any other CS, though with supervisory cabinet clusters as donated by the president through the Executive Order.

A constitutional amendment bringing back the office of Prime Minister with clearly defined powers and functions would be a power centre of its own, rivalling if not eclipsing the office of Deputy President.

A major concern is that the other then being ‘principal assistant’ to the President and first in the line of succession, the second-in-command has no specific roles defined by either the constitution or am Act of Parliament.  

When President Ruto crafted his Cabinet on assuming office after the 2022 elections, he gave Deputy President Gachagua and Prime CS Mudavadi supervisory and coordination duties over various government functions, some of them over-lapping, but he did that at his sole discretion just as he underlines the mandate of other member of the cabinet.

Musalia Mudavadi

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi.

Photo credit: Evans Habil I Nation Media Group

A constitutional amendment formalising the later post and rebranding it Prime Minister would come with specific functions and responsibilities, including, potentially, overall coordination and supervision of government, whole that of Deputy President would remain an empty shell with powers merely at the mercy of the President.

That is what has some worried, and hence a quiet pushback that might see an influential cabal hatch a scheme to derail passage and implementation of the national dialogue report.

A number of UDA MPs who spoke to The Weekly Review in confidence because they did not want to be seen opposing a presidential initiative indicated that a strategy was already in place, but it would focus on Raila rather than Mudavadi.

A key element will be a series of public pronouncements on Raila’s quest for chairmanship of the African Union Commission.

They will be demanding that if he expects support of Ruto and the government machinery in lobbying efforts across African capitals, then he must publicly abandon the opposition stance and commit to fully and publicly support all government measures, including contentious taxation proposals and the affordable housing and universal health schemes.


Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya| NMG

Already, they are set to point out that Raila’s troops in Parliament almost unanimously voted against the Affordable Housing Bill just a day before the National Dialogue report was brought up for consideration.

The strategy is to link implementation of the National Dialogue report and government backing for the AU job to the demand that Raila ‘behaves’.

Indeed, it might make sense that the opposition leader cannot expect government support in his quest for the continental appointment, and probably a soft and honorable landing towards retirement form local politics, without giving something in return. 

There will also be an opportunity to exploit divisions and rivalries in Azimio. The Mt Kenya bloc on Azimio, which is believed to enjoy the patronage of former President Uhuru Kenyatta, has long made clear its opposition to national dialogue recommendations they say do not address key issues around the cost of living.

Further fault lines have cropped up in Azimio with Kioni and others complaining that Raila had not briefed them in advance that he was gunning for the AU assignment, suggesting that he cut a deal with Ruto for his personal benefit to the exclusion of opposition colleagues.

Kalonzo Musyoka

Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka (left) and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah during the signing of the bipartisan talks framework agreement on August 29,2023.

Photo credit: Wildred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

Then there is the emerging tussle offer the Raila succession. If the national dialogue proposals for an office of Official Opposition leader are implemented while Raila is focused, there will be a scramble for the post.

The office is supposed to go to the runner-up in the presidential elections, but in Raila’s absence his running mate Karua might expect it will be hers.

However, her party does not a have single elected MP to back her claim, while the Deputy leader in Raila’s ODM, Wycliffe Oparanya, is signalling that he is ready to step in as the party has the second highest number of MPs. 

Also laying claim to the position, as well as the 2027 presidential ticket, is Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who incidentally co-chaired the dialogue committee with Kenya Kwanza House Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah.