Raila cuts short US tour to attend Nasa crisis talks
The four Nasa principals are scheduled for a crisis meeting on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after ODM leader Raila Odinga returns from a trip to the US.
The meeting has been called at a time the future of the opposition coalition has come into question. The sole agenda will be to reassure supporters that the Nasa (National Super Alliance) ship was intact in the face of growing storms.
A source familiar with the arrangements said the meeting will only be attended by the top leaders — Mr Odinga (ODM), Mr Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Mr Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Mr Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) — without their aides.
It comes after days of heightened speculation that Mr Musyoka was planning to go it alone. There have also been bitter exchanges among Nasa affiliates on whether to hold joint or separate nominations next month in party strongholds.
Each of the politicians will be expected to restate their commitment to the outfit and, in case of a change of heart, courteously inform the team that they could no longer journey together.
Mr Mudavadi told the Nation; “We want to stabilise the situation. Such a session would be important since we have not had a full house meeting since he (Mr Odinga) travelled out. We have the commitment of each one of us that we are in this to the end.”
An ODM legislator, who spoke in confidence, said Mr Odinga had originally been scheduled to fly back from the US later in the week but his advisers had asked him to urgently change his schedule to attend to the growing political turbulence that has threatened to tear apart the opposition coalition.
Mr Odinga’s spokesman, Dennis Onyango, said he arrives on Monday morning after a 10-day absence.
The Nasa quartet has continued to come under intense pressure to agree on a flagbearer even as a technical committee continues with its work.
Before meeting his co-principals, Mr Odinga is set to hold talks with his ODM inner circle, which is increasingly toying with the idea of having him go it alone, citing what they consider blackmail from Wiper.
The crucial Tuesday meeting will be followed by a joint rally in Nairobi in a show of solidarity. The Nasa principals, apart from Mr Odinga, will be in Kitengela on Sunday.
This is despite simmering differences that range from the decision to field candidates by affiliate parties in areas partners feel fall within their strongholds. Even more importantly, is who among the four will be the Nasa presidential candidate.
On Saturday, Mr Mudavadi, Mr Wetang’ula downplayed suggestions of a fallout.
“It is hot in Nasa as everyone wants it (presidential ticket). But the heat should not drive us out. Unity is the word here and that is what the people want,” said Mr Mudavadi during the burial of Kenya’s first Education Minister Joseph Otiende in Vihiga county.
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Wiper) said it is important for more “bonding sessions” among the principals to help assuage the growing fears of a fallout.
Mr Musyoka on Tuesday strongly denied reports that he met President Uhuru Kenyatta last weekend in Mombasa to allegedly seal a deal on his departure from Nasa.
“Reports that I met President Uhuru Kenyatta in Mombasa are malicious and need to be condemned by lovers of Nasa,” he told journalists at a news conference.
Both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Musyoka were in separate vote-hunting missions in the coast last week and all his attempts to reassure Nasa supporters that he was not disengaging have hardly convinced them.
“I know bloggers out there are saying I’m keen on going it alone, but that’s far from the truth. I am in Nasa to stay,” he had to repeat this on Thursday after presenting his presidential nomination papers to Wiper’s national election’s board.
But presenting the papers overshadowed his assurances.
In private, some of the traditional allies of the Wiper supremo, who were kept in the dark it, believe it sent the wrong signal at a time the loyalty of their boss was being questioned.
What was the hurry? If he sought my opinion, I would have asked him to place it on ice for now, one of his allies told us.
On Friday, Mr Wetang’ula defended Mr Musyoka. “There is no rift in Nasa as alleged. The fact each one of us is keen on being a flagbearer is not an indicator of a looming fallout but rather a reflection of the ambition we have to unseat President Uhuru Kenyatta,” he said during a meeting in Trans Nzoia.
To try and calm the waters, Mr Musyoka in a separate interview in the current issue of The EastAfrican, maintains presenting nomination papers was not tantamount to setting the stage to divorce Nasa.
“I have said it several times I am in Nasa to stay and my word is my bond. When I received my nomination certificate, it was because it is a constitutional requirement that a presidential candidate must be nominated by a political party. Nasa is not a political party but a coalition and any one of us who gets the ticket will have to run on the ticket of a political party under Nasa. It was the first step of my journey to hopefully bag the Nasa ticket.”
Key politicians in the other three political parties already quietly feel that Wiper is blackmailing them.
The latest trigger was accusations from Wiper that Mr Odinga had detailed Infotrak, a research firm, to skew an opinion poll to depict him as leading the pack by far.
The survey released last week indicates Mr Odinga commands a 68.3 per cent rating with Mr Musyoka following at 13.1 per cent. Mr Mudavadi got 12.3 per cent and Wetang’ula garnered 2.2 per cent.
There have also been suspicions of a Jubilee plot to break Nasa.
ALL IS NOT WELL
The overtures are motivated by the ruling party’s own internal assessment, which points to the fact that a united opposition could pose a serious threat to President Kenyatta’s re-election.
Interviews with multiple Nasa insiders show all is not well especially in Mr Musyoka’s den.
Minority Leader in the National Assembly Francis Nyenze kicked up a storm last week when he said the only way to give Nasa a lifeline was to make Mr Musyoka fly the presidential torch.
“Unless the presidential candidate, the flagbearer, is Kalonzo, I don’t see us moving anywhere,” he said. He further alluded to a 2013 Memorandum of Understanding between Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka in which the ODM leader was to be a one-term President and support his Wiper counterpart this year. Mr Odinga’s allies insist the pact cannot be implemented as the former Prime Minister did not win.
Additional reporting by Philip Bwayo