International Criminal Court decision to commit four Kenyans, among them two presidential aspirants, to full trial has intensified political activity and forced parties to review their strategies.
It started with series of peace-cum-prayer rallies, with heavy political overtones, by Eldoret North MP William Ruto and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta last weekend, in Eldoret and Thika towns. Featuring in their rallies are the other two prominent members of the so-called G7-Alliance – Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa.
Both leaders, who are set to host Ruto and Uhuru in their political bases this weekend, say they are also in the race for State House, and want one man stopped from reaching there ahead of them – Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
They are not the only ones in action as the race for State House gets hotter, with the election date though not known, but is probably just months away. Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Raila’s deputy in Government where he shares rank with Uhuru, and Orange Democratic Movement, too, has been on the campaign trail.
Talk is rife he is considered a good compromise candidate by Uhuru and Ruto should ICC make it difficulty for them to run. But at the same time they see him as too fixated with ODM and Raila that he may not buy their idea.
And so as the plot thickens, one man who has been out of the country, and who is the target of the gathering forces, is back and he, too, has planned a series of rallies – to counter the gains his opponents could have made against him after the ICC ruling. That man is Raila, against whom Mudavadi is raising the stakes in ODM, and on whose political path Uhuru, Ruto, Kalonzo and Wamalwa, though arguing they are all in the race, have decided to put up as many barriers as possible to puncture his momentum.
From the intensity of political activity it is clear the politicians have decided to go flat out for the prize: Taking over from Kibaki, Kenya’s third President, who is preparing to leave State House at the expiry of his term.
Raila returned to the country late last week from a two-week tour that took him to Gabon, South Sudan, and Davos, Switzerland. ODM on Tuesday released a programme that shows Raila would have a countrywide tour to popularise his party, and reinforce the fact he may have been under attack while away, but he is ready for the big fight, which first has to be fought and won in ODM.
ODM has been keenly monitoring political events following the confirmation of charges against former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura, Kass FM’s head of operations Joshua arap Sang, Uhuru, and Ruto.
Over 70 MPs attended two meetings hosted by Ruto and Uhuru in Eldoret and Thika last week. The same group is expected at Kinoru Stadium on Wednesday, before moving to Machakos, and Kitale.
In Meru, Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi would host Uhuru and Ruto, while in Kitale, their host would be Wamalwa.
Although the meeting has been called by Murungi to pray for President Kibaki’s former ally who stepped aside as Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Francis Muthaura, the politics of who is to carry the mantle after Kibaki is likely to dominate the meeting.
Though not facing any opposition in the Wiper Democratic Movement, Kalonzo has to reckon with the contradiction of his position, especially on ICC and what it meant for Uhuru and Muthaura while in office, by Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo. While Kalonzo aligned himself to Ruto and Uhuru, Mutula told them off arguing the Constitution does not allow them to run until ICC clears them (See separate story on page 11).
“Raila will travel to Machakos on Saturday, February 4, for meetings with various leaders from the region,” said the PM’s spokesman Dennis Onyango.
The Machakos meeting will be the beginning of a weeklong tour of the country. But before that, the PM will on Wednesday host President Kibaki in Kisumu for the opening of the new runway at the Kisumu International Airport.
Raila returned to the political scene when Mudavadi is also campaigning for the ODM presidential party ticket.
The Sabatia MP and his supporters have covered extensive ground, meeting ODM delegates. He has been telling them not to accept Kasarani-style delegate system of nominating party flag-bearer.
Mudavadi and his team are pushing the widely held notion he is more acceptable to the electorate because of his neutrality, and that he also enjoys a long time relationship with Uhuru. There is a strong talk in political circles the Uhuru-Ruto axis is reaching out to Mudavadi as a possible compromise presidential candidate should their own bid go up in smoke.
He has proposed that nomination of presidential candidate be done at the county levels, as was preferred by the party during a meeting with delegates in 2010. The decision on whether to nominate the candidate at the counties would, however, have to be endorsed at the National Delegates Conference on March 30.
Mudavadi has been touring the country meeting delegates and county officials to drum up support for the party and his own presidential candidature.
In his tour, the PM will open ODM county offices during the tour. “This is aimed at enhancing party activities at the grassroots and also to devolve party matters.
Raila will also meet delegates and party members from Machakos, Makueni and Kitui counties in Machakos Town Hall on Saturday. He would then head to Lodwar town next Tuesday, then to Kitale, Bungoma and Kakamega.
Mudavadi has toured several counties, including Bungoma, Vihiga, Kakamega, Busia, Kilifi, Taveta, Mombasa, Kwale, Kajiado Nandi, Elgeyo-Marakwet, and Baringo.
During a meeting of delegates from the 47 counties last month, the party resolved to have the party leader and his deputy take countrywide tours to market the party ahead of the General Election.
ODM has suffered a setback following a walkout by some Rift Valley MPs allied to Ruto. Ruto has since moved to United Republican Party, as his vehicle for State House after a troubled stint at the United Democratic Movement.
After the countrywide tours the party would hold National Youth Conference, Women Youth Conference, and finally the National Delegates Convention to plot electoral victory.
By Peter Opiyo, The Standard