Past hurts haunt quest for coalitions in Kenya

Saturday August 14 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre) recently held a consultative meeting with Raila Odinga (ODM), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Moses Wetangula (Ford Kenya), and Gideon Moi (KANU) at State House, Mombasa. PHOTO | PSCU


Past boken promises and personal fallouts have returned to haunt the quest by Kenya’s leading presidential aspirants to build pre-election coalitions or strengthen their campaigns, 12 months left to another succession election.

Former prime minister Raila Odinga is closing in on a crucial public endorsement by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who reportedly asked opposition party leaders in the now defunct National Super Alliance (Nasa) coalition to back Mr Odinga at a meeting in Mombasa this past Tuesday.

But President Kenyatta’s efforts to broker a coalition deal for Mr Odinga with former allies continue to hit a brick wall, as the latter are still sore and smarting from a recent fallout and doubt power-sharing agreement will be honoured in case the coalition wins the election. Former vice-presidents Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi are holding out for presidential bids of their own, citing an undertaking by Mr Odinga to forfeit his ambitions for the presidency in the 2022 election when they negotiated the Nasa coalition agreement in 2017.

The two have since moved on to form the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) with two other party leaders and were early this year encouraged by reports that some influential people in the president’s inner circle were fronting for their candidatures. Mr Musyoka, whose Wiper Democratic Movement Party has the third highest number of MPs behind the ruling Jubilee Party and Odinga’s ODM, sought to raise his stakes in the latest negotiations by unveiling his presidential campaign centre a day to the Mombasa State House meeting.

Four of them in the room have each been at the opposite ends of broken coalition promises that have come to define Kenya’s politics in the run-up to every succession election in the past two decades.

In the 2002 presidential succession race, Mr Odinga, Mr Musyoka, Mr Mudavadi and then vice-president George Saitoti were the top aspirants in the ruling party Kanu but were overlooked by former president Daniel arap Moi, who settled for President Kenyatta as his preferred successor. The Mwai Kibaki succession was equally intriguing, with the then vice-president, Mr Musyoka, being shunted aside to pave the way for President Kenyatta to run as the pro-establishment candidate in the 2013 election.


President Kenyatta is believed to have at some point backtracked on a deal to step back and back Mr Mudavadi’s candidacy instead. The backdrop to the gripping 2022 presidential succession story has been dominated by the fallout between President Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto and the president’s co-operation agreement, with his archrival Mr Odinga.