Raila Odinga the man to watch in 2012 in Western Kenya
By Maurice N. Amutabi
For quite some time, Western Kenya has been a unique hunting ground for votes in national elections. Already, western Kenya has already seen a good share of political intrigues and posturing, one full year before 2012 when the elections are supposed to take place. There are many reasons for this political apprehension. The reasons are Raila mania (love for Raila) and Raila phobia (fear of Raila) doing rounds. There has been talk about Raila Odinga planning to ditch Musalia Mudavadi for William Ruto as running mate in 2012 elections. There are rumours to the effect that Raila’s camp will convince Musalia to run for the position of Governor or Senator in Vihiga, to allow Raila to serve for one term as President, and then support Musalia in 2017. From the history of ‘agreements’ and MoUs in Kenya, this is an arrangement that no one will accept. Whereas this is possible in politics, the position is untenable because the majority among Abaluyia people might ditch ODM for another party if this were to happen. The scenario is even riskier given the fact that Ford-Kenya and New Ford Kenya, and even Cyrus Jirongo’s Kaddu are waiting in the wings for such fallout. They are just too eager for such an eventuality.
Another issue that complicates the equation and precludes a likelihood of a Raila-Ruto ticket is the fact that some Abaluyia politicians are considering supporting Musalia Mudavadi for the presidency. Pundits believe that if Musalia were to stand, he would easily get the support of other ethnic groups, including the Kalenjin, who regard Raila as their enemy. The only problem is that this would easily be seen as a move to divide ODM, a situation that Musalia is already aware of and which he has commented on many times. It is similar to the scheme that the KKK and G7 were trying to use Eugene Wamalwa to spoil Raila’s votes in the region. There are also those who think that Musalia would be a better compromise candidate, like he would have been in 2012. It is therefore, not surprising that all eyes are on Raila, with people watching his every move and action, which largely determine the way the Abaluyia will vote.
There is no doubt that Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta, Charity Ngilu, Kalonzo Musyoka, Mwai Kibaki, Daniel Moi, Najib Balala, Yusuf Haji, George Saitoti, William Ntimama, among others, will still be important actors in the 2012 elections. One thing that has not changed is the place of Raila Odinga in the politics of Kenya, for he still remains enigmatic as he is central. It is also clear that individual actors and political parties will continue to play an important role in elections in Kenya. Despite the fact that there are many who have declared interest to run for the presidency in 1212, all eyes seems to be on Raila Odinga? Why? This is because ODM still remains the party to beat. It is therefore, imperative to watch closely what is taking place there.
The idea of a Raila-Ruto ticket under ODM is welcomed in many Kalenjin circles but frowned upon by many Luyia elite who see such as a possibility as the greatest betrayal in Kenya’s political history. It would also mark the end for their support for Raila. Many Kalenjin elite feel that this would be a lifeline given to William Ruto from the catch 22 situation in which he finds himself in. This is because Ruto’s dalliance with Uhuru Kenyatta has not gone well with many grassroots people, many of whom were agitated when IDPs from elsewhere were recently earmarked for settlement in Burnt Forest. Ruto seemed to make an about-turn on his alliance with Uhuru Kenyatta when two thousand squatters invaded a 1,040-acre property in Eldoret which the government bought to resettle IDPs. The Kalenjin squatters invaded the Chemusian Farm in Eldoret East where the government intends to resettle 500 IDPs from Mawingu in Nyandarua. Pressure mounted when Kalenjin councilors from North Rift met Ruto and demanded that he rethinks his alliance with Uhuru. He is reported to have gone to KASS FM where he seemed to reconsider his alliance with Uhuru. This has seen Ruto run to Coast where he tried initiated an alliance with Ali Makwere. To pundits, this move confirmed that Ruto was clearly nervous and desperate.
Some pundits think that Musalia Mudavadi is likely to be framed by individuals in Raila’s camp who are keen to use the ‘graves’ scandal in local government to get Musalia in trouble so that they can fill his slot with by solid running mate, one who will get Raila and ODM more votes. Their eyes have been on William Ruto. Their argument is that Musalia does not command significant Luyia support like former President Michael Wamalwa did. What such schemers fail to realize is that Musalia is the only substantial candidate that provides a winning combination with Raila Odinga in all opinion polls held since 2008. The only other potential vice-presidential who has featured better when placed with Raila and who has polled close to Musalia is Uhuru Kenyatta. Even then, Uhuru Kenyatta himself knows that he cannot get significant Kikuyu votes if he ran as anyone’s running mate. He can only be guaranteed some support if he is on top of the ticket.
The ‘KKK alliance’ is already water under the bridge; largely due to the perception other groups have of a Kikuyu. They know that an alliance in which a Kikuyu is not on top of the ticket cnaot sell. It also clear that the Kalonzo Musyoka, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto grouping has hit a dead end, as well as the G7 which has left Ruto with very few options and choices. What worries Ruto, and also the reason Dr. Sally Kosgey is not sure who to support between Ruto and Raila is the fact that Raila Odinga is the man to beat in 2012. All the polls indicate that Raila is the frontrunner and there must be good reasons why many Kenyans think that he will be a better president. Perhaps they are happy with his alliances and the way he reaches out to other ethnic groups. It is also possible that they want to reward him for the bungled 2007 elections which many believed that he won, but at the same time many have realized that he is driven by principles rather than selfish interests. it is for this reason that many observers think that there is no way Raila can drop Musalia Mudavadi as his running mate in 2012. Their fate is tied.
The 2012 elections present the Abaluyia with an opportunity to unite. The politicians are mostly liberal and they seem to get along well. There are no hatchets between them, or merciless rivalries such as those seen in the past. Unity remains a mirage with so far five presidential hopefuls from the region: Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Masika Wetangula, Sylvester Bifwoli Wekoli, Eugene Ludovic Wamalwa, and Cyrus Shakhalaga Jirongo. For now, ODM, Ford-Kenya and New Ford Kenya are the main actors in the region. Many political observers are of the opinion that there will be many shifts in alliances before 2012. A lot will depend on how Raila handles Musalia Mudavadi, who is the front runner in Western leadership hierarchy.
Prof. Maurice N. Amutabi teaches Political Science at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. Amutabi@yahoo.com