‘Kalonzo heckling at Mombasa rally broke ODM-K’
Kalonzo Musyoka’s exit from ODM Kenya a few weeks to the 2007 General Election left the other contenders for the party’s presidential ticket in a quandary, Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi writes in his memoir.
Kalonzo was among a galaxy of political stars jostling for the party’s ticket, the others being Raila Odinga, Mudavadi, William Ruto, Najib Balala and Joe Nyagah.
Buoyed by victory in the 2005 referendum on the Constitution, in which they were on the ‘No’ side, the ODM Kenya team was confident of uprooting President Kibaki from power.
Pollsters had consistently predicted Kalonzo was the best candidate for the ticket. According to Mudavadi, there were misgivings about Raila’s electability.
“It was felt in circles close to Raila that Kalonzo thought he was the best candidate and there should be no primaries.
That we should allow him to be our candidate on the basis of what the pollsters were saying,” writes Mudavadi in his autobiography: Soaring above the storms of passion.
On the other hand, Kalonzo’s allies believed Raila might manipulate the primaries to give him the party ticket.
Besides, Raila and Kalonzo had disagreed on the method of picking the party presidential candidate.
But an incident at a party rally in Mombasa’s Khadija Grounds dramatically altered the party’s fortunes.
“A profound moment came at a rally at Khadija Grounds in Mombasa. There had been tussling between Kalonzo and Raila for some time now on the method of presidential primaries,” he recalls.
“This precipitated an ugly incident. Hence changing the course of things and our fortunes from this moment.”
He says that When Kalonzo was invited to address the gathering, a section of the crowd shouted him down while some waved carvings of hammers, their representation of the Hummer that Raila had recently acquired.
By their action, Mudavadi says they were essentially telling Kalonzo to shut up and cede ground to Raila.
A shocked Kalonzo was forced to cut short his speech.
There was a feeling by those in Kalonzo’s camp that their man was being bullied to support Raila.
“Shortly afterwards he announced that he would no longer participate in ODM rallies. The espirit de corps descended somewhat all around.
The party upbraided supporters who had shouted down Kalonzo and called for tolerance. However, it was not the same again,” Musalia writes in the book authored by his party secretary general Barrack Muluka.
Realising that they were drifting apart, the party leaders called a meeting at Nairobi’s Serena hotel to address the contentious issues. Kalonzo did not show up.
Soon after, Kalonzo declared that he would go it alone in the presidential race, with former Samia East (now Funyula) MP Prof. Julia Ojiambo as his running-mate.
But he did another dramatic thing: He went away with the ODM-Kenya party registration.
“While we were still a mass movement, we had no party. We needed to move very swiftly to remedy the situation,” Mudavadi recollects.
That was when it emerged that lawyer Mugambi Imanyara had quietly registered a party called ODM with the ripe orange as its symbol.
The party-less leaders negotiated with Imanyara to take it over and make it their vehicle in the election and reached a settlement.
A leaked diplomatic cable reveals that Raila had in 2007 predicted that Musyoka would bolt out to join President Kibaki.
In a May 2007 discussion with former US ambassador to Kenya Johnnie Carson, Raila expressed reservations about Kalonzo’s commitment to Opposition efforts to oust Kibaki from power.
Raila spoke to Carson at the height of the ODM-Kenya leaders’ jostling for the party ticket.
“He hinted that there was someone (rumoured to be Kalonzo), although Odinga did not say so) who might quit ODM-K and join the Kibaki team,” says the cable.
On his part, Kalonzo claimed that the government was helping Raila “because President Kibaki’s supporters would rather the President face him (Odinga), than Musyoka.”
“Kibaki will not have to leave State House to win against Odinga,” he told the ambassador. “If I am the ODM candidate, President Kibaki might not run,” he insisted.
However, Kalonzo did not defect to join the Kibaki team as Raila had claimed. He instead went ahead to run for presidency and emerged third in the 2007 presidential election.
Kibaki would then reach out to him amidst the 2007 election crisis eventually appointing him Vice-President to reinforce his then shaky hold onto power.
ODM had disputed Kibaki’s victory and the country was on fire. Moreover, his Party of National Unity had been outnumbered in Parliament.
Mudavadi thinks ODM should have reached out to Kalonzo earlier but did not, which Mudavadi thinks was a mistake.
“We were suddenly caught off guard when on 08 January, 2008 it was announced that Kalonzo Musyoka had joined Mwai Kibaki. They announced what they called “a partial Cabinet” with Kalonzo as Vice-President.
We had obviously also delayed in reaching out to Kalonzo in the pressure effort. This was a gross mistake on our part,” he writes.
Mudavadi, however, is doubtful whether Kalonzo would have agreed to join them after the humiliation by Raila supporters.
Further, they did not have anything to offer him.
“The benefits of his joining Kibaki at this juncture were also obvious. A pact with Kibaki would be a roller-coaster to “good things” while working with us implied struggle,” he reflects.