Cracks in Kenya's ‘Third Force’ as principals pull in different directions

Saturday November 20 2021
OKA leaders

OKA leaders from left, Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetangula, Kanu Chairman Gideon Moi, Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, and Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala. FILE PHOTO | COURTESY


Parallel public meetings by leaders of the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) last weekend and questions over individual loyalty have exposed deepening cracks in a political outfit thought to have a chance at forcing a presidential election run-off next year.

Former Vice President Musalia Mudavadi on Sunday appeared at a separate meeting in Kajiado County moments after a statement by OKA’s campaign secretariat indicated he and the other alliance leaders were to address joint public rallies in the same area.

Kalonzo Musyoka, another former vice president, teamed up with Baringo Senator Gideon Moi at a series of public rallies.

Mr Mudavadi sought to play down reports of differences among the four parties — ANC, Wiper Democratic Movement, Kanu and Ford Kenya — in the political formation unveiled in March as a “third force” to check the dominance of Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the 2022 presidential succession politics.

Risk of breakup

But his ANC party has looked the most disgruntled of the lot, with its MPs having issued a public ultimatum to OKA to name its presidential candidate by December or risk a breakup.


Mr Mudavadi’s allies have also questioned Kanu chairman (Gideon Moi) loyalty to the alliance, citing his public overtures to Mr Odinga.

Like their counterparts in Wiper Democratic Movement and Ford Kenya, the ANC politicians retain a loathing for Mr Odinga over his ODM party’s role in the collapse of the National Super Alliance (Nasa) coalition, which backed his presidential bid in the 2017 election.

Mr Odinga and Dr Ruto are widely seen as the front runners in the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta, who will retire next year after serving his second and final term.

But with one required to meet the constitutional threshold of 50-percent-plus-one votes cast nationally and at least 25 percent of votes cast in 24 out of 47 counties to be declared the presidential winner, an OKA-backed candidate would complicate Mr Odinga’s or Dr Ruto’s chances of a first-round victory.

In the last such tight presidential election race in 2013, for example, President Kenyatta avoided a run-off against Mr Odinga by only 63,115 votes.

Alive to the potential damage OKA can do to their respective presidential ambitions, both Mr Odinga and Dr Ruto have in recent weeks embarked on efforts to either woo Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi to their sides or neutralise their influence in their perceived regional strongholds. Dr Ruto has been courting the OKA leaders to cross over to his United Democratic Alliance party, exploiting their grievances over being pressured by President Kenyatta to back Mr Odinga.

With cracks appearing to widen in the alliance, the anxiety in the Ruto and Odinga camps about a possible run-off might well begin to ease.

Mr Odinga, who has won the majority of votes in Ukambani in the past two elections due to his coalition ticket with Mr Musyoka as running mate, has sought to retain a foothold in the region by winning the support of county governors while keeping communication channels with the Wiper Democratic Movement open.

For his part, Mr Musyoka received 879,903 votes as the Wiper Democratic Movement’s candidate in the 2007 presidential election while Mr Mudavadi got 483,981 votes when he contested in 2013.