Tuesday, August 21, 2007
By Ababu Namwamba
Kalonzo Musyoka’s exit from the Orange House is having exactly the opposite effect from what was expected by both the Mwingi North MP and the Kibaki corner.
Instead of precipitating disarray among the Orange forces, Kalonzo’s departure has instead galvanised the mainstream leadership of the popular movement and catalysed its rapid flight.
The mood of uncertainty that had engulfed the party in the wake of the Kalonzo obduracy has given way to a stirring sense of relief and unity of purpose. There is a new spirit of urgency to prove that the Orange juggernaut is unstoppable, and to especially demonstrate that the Kalonzo walkout was more boon than tragic. The "Kalonzo factor" has been swiftly neutralised as the ex-Nyayo blue-eyed boy becomes isolated and takes on the bad guy image of the conformist recalcitrant cosy with anti-change forces.
In under one week, the fledgling Western Alliance has solidified while ODM has effortlessly swamped the renegade ODM-Kenya and scheduled a National Delegates Congress for September 1 where the team to lead the party to battle is to be unveiled. This must have greatly alarmed Kalonzo and gravely disappointed the Kibaki crowd that had anchored the President’s re-election strategy on the hope that a split in ODM would see at least one significant Orange leader leave alongside the former Kanu organising secretary.
Little wonder then that there has hardly been any cheer from the otherwise voluble Kibaki sidekicks. And while Kalonzo and his mainly Akamba handlers have put on brave faces, the faÁade of bravado hardly conceals the palpable sense of panic in their ranks that has seen them hole up in their Ukambani backyard as Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto, Joseph Nyagah and Najib Balala stomp the length and breadth of the political landscape.
The sheer public venom that greeted Kalonzo’s "strategic" manouvre and the ecstatic cheer that welcomed the ODM original take-over masterstroke by his erstwhile ‘brothers’ was a stinging reality check.
With his political path having been smoothed by the patronage of the late Chief Justice Kitili Mwendwa, the departed King of Akamba, Mulu Mutisya and ex-president Daniel Moi, Kalonzo now finds himself in the unfamiliar spot of having to swim against the current unaided. And things do not look rosy at all. Already, his self-inflicted isolation has shattered the much touted mien of the born-again diplomatic gentleman, while his recent public utterances have cast him as rash and temperamental, with a bloated sense of self importance.
After Steadman fanned his ambition to mythical heights, reality must be dawning on Kalonzo that on his own, he is a paper tiger without a solid political base, and easy fodder for cannons firing from his past as a hawkish anti-reform Nyayo apologist. It is quite telling that he has been easily boxed into his Ukambani tribal pigeon hole; and even here he must contend with his perennial Achilles heel, Charity Ngilu, and Kibaki foot soldiers, Mutua Katuku, Kivutha Kibwana and Joseph Munyao. On the national scene, the likes of Julia Ojiambo offer him little political premium, and he is likely to encounter hostility in the ODM strongholds of Western, Nyanza, Rift Valley, Nairobi and Coast.
But Kalonzo still has four options: One, join Kibaki and play fifth fiddle to already established system hawks. In the event of a Kibaki re-election, he could return to the Environment ministry.
Two, team up with Uhuru Kenyatta, Moi and Nicholas Biwott to form a super-conservative third plank. Since he shares in Uhuru’s dream of being part of the next government, whoever wins, this would offer him a post-election negotiation platform. Three, run independently, in which case he would condemn most of the Akamba votes to the dustbin of "spoilt votes" for they would take him nowhere near the precincts of State House.
Four eat humble pie and return to the mainstream ODM fold.
Meanwhile in the Orange House, the Maisha Bora (better life) dream is on a roll. The exit of Kanu and Kalonzo has thrown up three excellent prospects. One, it has separated sheep from wolf and given space to proven reformers to steer the Orange Odyssey unencumbered by conformist ghosts from the past. Two, it has left a trim outfit unlikely to suffer Narc-like post-election wrangles.
Three, it has paved the way for the maturation of a well-knit political party anchored on the crucial Western block and with the flexibility to build alliances with like-minded forces. Kibaki better watch out!