Inside the perennial Kalonzo and Ngilu supremacy battles
In October 2011, as the nation came together during the state funeral of renowned environmentalist Prof Wangari Maathai at Uhuru Park, the political enmity between then Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Water minister Charity Ngilu was laid bare in public after the two refused to shake hands.
Two months later, the same drama was replicated at a fundraiser in Kitui after Ngilu once again snubbed Kalonzo’s handshake.
Then Makadara MP Mike Mbuvi Sonko had raised temperatures at the fundsdrive, which was taking place in Ngilu’s political backyard by asking the two political titans to embrace as a show of unity, amidst cheers from the crowd.
“Due to the respect I have for the Vice President (Kalonzo) and Minister (Ngilu), I want the Vice-President and the minister to rise and hug each other so that we can witness them forgive each other,” said Sonko.
But despite Kalonzo heeding Sonko’s call and rising from his seat, a disinterested Ngilu remained glued on her seat, and when she later rose to address the crowd, she maintained that she would rather use her time to address poverty and under-development in the region.
“We must love each other whether we like it or not,” said Kalonzo when it came to his turn to address the gathering.
Despite the two sitting next to each other, they did not exchange any words throughout the ceremony.
The bad blood between the two Ukambani political titans, according to analysts, emanated from the corruption allegations that had rocked the Water ministry throughout Ngilu’s tenure in the docket and which she blamed on Kalonzo.
Ngilu had publicly complained about Kalonzo’s alleged hand in the corruption allegations during the launch of Ndovoini borehole in Kangundo, Machakos county, on September 19, 2011.
“If we put Sh2.9 million here and people get water, this is value for money. But somebody is not happy when we are giving poor people water.
Kalonzo Musyoka should stop interfering with the Ministry of Water because the staff in the ministry are complaining that they are being called and given threats,” fumed Ngilu. Kalonzo dismissed the allegations as untrue.
In the run-up to the 2013 General Election, Ngilu and Kalonzo pulled from different sides. While Kalonzo threw his lot with opposition leader Raila Odinga under the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord), contesting as his running mate, Ngilu backed President Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto’s ticket.
The renewed rivalry came to the fore once again when Ngilu’s National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) fielded former Makueni MP Philip Kaloki in the senatorial by-election that followed the death of the first Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo in 2013. Kaloki, who had defected from Kalonzo’s party, lost to Mutula Kilonzo Junior.
The duo would clash once again in June 2017 during the Kitui gubernatorial campaigns at Kabati shopping centre within the county when Ngilu’s supporters clashed with those of the then Governor Julius Malombe, who was repeatedly heckled as he attempted to address the gathering. Ngilu would trounce his rival who enjoyed Kalonzo’s backing during the ensuing general election.
The two would clash a few weeks later during Ngilu’s swearing in as the new Kitui Governor, which the latter gate-crashed and went ahead to remind his nemesis that his Wiper Party still enjoyed a majority in the County Assembly.
Fast-forward to September 2019 and the unending rivalry between the two was witnessed when Wiper-allied Kitui county leaders snubbed the Senate’s first Mashinani sitting in Kitui.
And last month, Wiper Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) started preparing an impeachment motion against Ngilu accusing her of gross violation of the Constitution and undermining the authority of the County Assembly, among other alleged misdeeds. The motion has, however, been temporarily halted by the High Court. Wiper has 28 out of the 54 elected MCAs.
A few days before the impeachment motion was filed, Kalonzo was in Mwingi town for a meeting with the MCAs, a visit which was not taken kindly by the Ngilu camp which maintains he is behind the governor’s woes.
Kalonzo’s ally, Kitui Senator Enock Wambua, has since told off Ngilu, asking her to carry her own cross without dragging the Wiper leader’s name into her “self-inflicted woes”.
During an interview with a Kamba radio station last week, Ngilu tore into Kalonzo, terming him an anti- development leader who has done little for the community during his more than two decades in government.
Martin Masai, a political strategist and a veteran journalist who is conversant with political intrigues in Ukambani, said the differences between Kalonzo and Ngilu are “structural”.
“Kalonzo is a conformist while Ngilu is a reformist. Kalonzo was introduced to politics through the Mulu Mutisya school of politics to perpetuate the status quo while Ngilu came up to break the status quo. It is like oil and water. They can never mix,” he stated.
Masai says the duo can never work together and will never reconcile. “Kalonzo pulls for himself while Ngilu has the interests of the people and country at heart,” Masai claimed.