Return to Azimio fold, Wiper team cautions Kalonzo
Wiper Party aspirants have asked their leader, Kalonzo Musyoka, to go back to the Azimio-One Kenya coalition and engage in structured talks over his role in the Raila Odinga-led power line-up.
They also asked their party boss - who pulled out of the coalition last week and launched his presidential bid after Raila failed to name him as running mate - to “reconsider” his position.
Raila has already offered Kalonzo the post of Chief Cabinet Secretary if the coalition wins the August election.
Kalonzo’s decision to jump out of Azimio and go it alone jolted members of his party, especially aspirants for various seats who had already invested their energies and resources to campaign for themselves and for Raila under the Azimio umbrella.
Some, like Wavinya Ndeti who is eyeing the Machakos governor seat, have complained that they had invested in branding their campaign materials with the Azimio colours and slogans, and had been left in a quandary.
Yesterday, about 100 Wiper-allied leaders - both elected and aspirants for various positions - mandated Kalonzo to evoke the dispute resolution mechanisms under the Azimio-One Kenya agreement to solve the stalemate, with a view to getting Kalonzo back in the coalition.
The majority of the leaders hail from lower Eastern - considered a Kalonzo stronghold - which has over 1.6 million votes that Azimio is eyeing in its battle with its biggest challenger, the Kenya Kwanza Alliance led by Deputy President William Ruto.
“As leaders, we have agreed our country is greater than Wiper itself and because we had already agreed to work with Azimio-One Kenya Alliance, maybe it is time that we exhaust all the options that are available under the alliance,” said Kathiani MP Robert Mbui; Wiper’s national organising secretary, in a press briefing at yesterday’s talks in Machakos.
“Because there is a dispute resolution mechanism under that alliance, we are asking our party leader to reconsider the possibility of having further discussions on this coalition agreement,” Ombui said.
The major challenge is that the Azimio coalition agreements prohibit any partner from leaving six months before a General Election and three months after. There are 77 days to the August 9 polls.
Article 16 of the Azimio coalition agreement says that in case of a conflict; the Azimio Council should set up a five-member dispute resolution panel to address it.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is the chair of the Azimio Council of which Kalonzo is a member. The panel must comprise eminent personalities from within or without Kenya who are not holders of any positions in the coalition. The team shall determine any dispute within 21 days and its decision is final.
According to the agreement, the panel’s verdict can only be challenged at the Political Parties Dispute Tribunal.
Yesterday, Wiper leaders lamented that Kalonzo had not been informed of any position to be given to him in Azimio and he only learned about it from the media when the Azimio presidential nominee, Raila, announced that Kalonzo would be considered for Chief CS if Azimio won.
“Kalonzo has not received any document indicating what the offer in Azimio is. We want a structured discussion,” the Wiper politicians said.
Allies of the former Vice-President have put their feet down, demanding that the position offered to be secured in the agreement, which should also provide clarity on the Wiper party’s share of power should Azimio form the next government. Any such offers should be presented formally during the dispute resolution talks.
In a statement, Wiper Party said although it was disappointed by how its leader was treated, there was still a possibility of Kalonzo working together with Raila.
Mbui says Wiper was “fully aware of the desire by many Kenyans to have the election concluded in the first round”.
There have been fears that should Kalonzo be on the ballot, neither of the two favourites in the presidential race will secure the 50 per cent plus one vote of ballots cast.
A winner must meet this threshold to avoid a run-off. Where the threshold is not met, the top two candidates are expected to face off in a second round. The electoral commission has already budgeted for the possibility of a run-off.
Yesterday’s statement by the leaders represented a toning down of the hardline position they had taken earlier when they insisted that Kalonzo would go all the way to the ballot.
“We are God-fearing people and we know that it is possible that we are going to work together,” a statement from the party said.
“We hope that principals under the coalition of Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya can sit together and be able to put on paper all those things that they think they can offer to this party so that we are able to make an informed decision on the next move,” they wrote.
However, they said Kalonzo’s decision to vie was not a personal one but had been okayed by the party.
“We thought our party leader will be picked as the running mate and had positioned him as a possible presidential candidate. His papers are at IEBC and he has already picked a running mate,” they said.
They say the move to name a running mate and file Kalonzo’s papers with the electoral commission was a strategic move to raise stakes in the negotiations.
Governors Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) have asked Kalonzo to accept the position offered by Raila.
“I have not asked for any single position since I joined Azimio. I know the power of a chief minister in a government. Who on earth can decline such a position and opt to be in opposition?” asked Ngilu.
Ngilu was one of the candidates who were interviewed for the position of deputy president alongside Kalonzo.
The Kitui governor says all the candidates had agreed to accept the outcome of the interviews and support whoever was picked.
Raila eventually nominated former Gichugu MP Martha Karua as his running mate.
“If Kalonzo wants to run and lose alone, then it is fine... because we want to tell our people the truth that we only have two horses on the presidential ticket; One for Raila and Martha and then William Ruto,” said Kibwana.