Is Kenya’s major opposition on the verge of split?

By Jackson Okata - 7 April 2017 at 1:58 pm
Is Kenya’s major opposition on the verge of split?

As Kenya prepares to hold its general elections on August 8, political temperatures and tensions are on the rise in the country, something that is common and normal during political campaigns in East Africa.

Political parties and coalitions are not taking any chances as they prepare for a political showdown that is expected to be epic. The ruling Jubilee party under the leadership of President Uhuru Kenyatta will be flexing it out with the opposition NASA (National Super Alliance) coalition under the leadership of four principals who include Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula.

With only four months left to the general polls the NASA coalition – which brings together major opposition political parties – is yet to agree on who will be its presidential flag bearer. Jubilee has, of course, already settled on incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta as its presidential candidate.

There is trouble and a possible split brewing in the NASA coalition, owing to the fact that all four principals in the coalition want the nomination. Raila Odinga, a former prime minister who heads the Orange Democratic Party (ODM) is being seen as the frontrunner and favorite for the NASA presidential ticket but his co-principals are also fighting for the same.

Political analysts argue that the opposition coalition will be dead if one of its principals decides to bolt out.

For instance, Kalonzo Musyoka is a former vice president and leader of the Wiper Democratic Movement party who has threatened to bolt out of the opposition coalition if he is not named as its flag bearer.

In the 2013 general elections, the opposition coalition with Raila Odinga as its presidential candidate and Musyoka as the running mate lost to Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and Jubilee. The opposition was split in the 2013 polls, with former Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi bolting out of the coalition, which was blamed for the opposition loss.

A key point of contention that threatens to fracture the opposition coalition is a memorandum of understanding that was signed in 2013 between Odinga and Musyoka. In the MOU, Musyoka was to support Odinga with a promise that Odinga will return the favor in this year’s poll – but the party Odinga leads seems to have disowned the agreement, insisting that Odinga will be on the presidential ballot come August.

Musyoka’s Wiper party insists that the 2013 MOU should be implemented and that Odinga should support him in running for the presidency. Musyoka also argues that he has supported Odinga for long, and now he is a spent political force who should let go of his ambitions and support him instead.

Musyoka and Odinga have had a lukewarm political relation with the former spending much of his time in the government, and the latter most of his political time in the opposition. The two formed a coalition in 2002 and supported former president Mwai Kibaki, who managed to oust the Kenya African National Union (KANU) party which had ruled for over 24 years. After the 2002 election, both were appointed as ministers in the Kibaki-led government but were later fired after they fell out with Kibaki.

The two parted ways in the 2007 general elections with each of them running for the president on different party tickets, an election that the two lost as Kibaki was re-elected. Musyoka was appointed as vice president to Kibaki following the political chaos that resulted from the disputed polls. The move by Musyoka to work with the Kibaki government was viewed as betrayal by Odinga, who was later appointed prime minister in the same government.

Odinga and Musyoka again joined forces in the 2013 general elections and presented a formidable force despite Kenyatta’s victory.

And as things stand now, with both Odinga and Musyoka insisting that they have to be on the presidential ballot then there is a likelihood that the two might be headed separate ways. That will likely weaken the opposition and work to the advantage of the government and the ruling party.

Political pundits in the country are of the view that Odinga might end up teaming with Mudavadi and run for the presidency on a NASA ticket, while Musyoka might run independently on a Wiper ticket.

Jackson Okata

Jackson Okata

Jackson Okata is a Kenyan based freelance journalist

He has over seven years experience in broadcast and online journalism. He specializes in political, human interest, environment and investigative stories.He previously worked for the Kenya News agency, Sauti Radio, MBCI radio, Fahari radio,, News24kenya and the Kenya Free press.

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