Sunday, September 14, 2008



Sunday, September 14, 2008
Story by: James Kutai
Sunday Times

KANU National Chairman Uhuru Kenyatta is a man in serious political quandary. As combatants in President Mwai Kibaki’s succession wars stake out their claim in preparation for 2012 election, Uhuru is increasingly losing grip on the party that reigned supreme for close to four decades in the Kenyans political landscape.

The deputy Prime Minister’s biggest challenge is how and whether to accommodate the current political realities on the ground or hang on to the notion that the oldest party remains a political giant that can stand on its own even in the face of the emerging coalition building politics.

In what ranked as one of the most coldly calculated and shocking political maneuvers in the run up to 2007 elections, Uhuru, then the Leader of Official Opposition in Parliament, beat a hasty retreat and threw his hat with President Mwai Kibaki under the ambit of Party of National Unity (PNU) - a move that was backed by a resolution passed at the former ruling party’s National Governing Council (NGC).

The scion of Kenya’s Founding Father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta made a history of sorts by being the first opposition chief in this part of the world to forego the ambition of unseating the incumbent and doing the strange somersault that sparked off controversy and heated debate in political circles.

There is a growing consensus within Kanu ranks that further consultations are necessary to expressly compel the national chairman to redefine the former ruling party’s position within Kibaki’s PNU. Uhuru’s critics accuse him of feigning studious silence on the fateof Kanu, even as leaders to parties that constituted the umbrella PNU defend identities of their respective political vehicles.

Kanu’s profile, according to its stalwarts, has severely been eroded due to its top leadership’s dereliction and inexplicably lackadaisical attitude in defining its identity and stand in the wake of calls and efforts by President Kibaki that PNU affiliates dissolve to form one monolithic and veritable political movement. Key PNU affiliates notably Ford Kenya, Safina, Democratic Party of Kenya and Narc Kenya among others have vociferously resisted overt and covert overtures to dissolve.

Their leadership has spurned leadership positions offered under the umbrella’s banner. Uhuru on the other hand has kept skeptics guessing on whether he intends to quit the former ruling party altogether or will maintain a stranglehold on it while sticking his neck out dangerously within the PNU.

It is against this background that former MPs and Cabinet ministers from Rift Valley met in Nakuru and endorsed a resolution to de-link Kanu from the PNU. Under the patronage of former Baringo Central Member of Parliament Gideon Moi and his Bomet counterpart Nick Salat, the former ruling party’s stalwarts expressed concern that Kanu was no longer fighting for its interests under the PNU banner.

The meeting convened at a Nakuru hotel and termed by Salat as ‘a Provincial Delegates Conference held in compliance with Kanu’s constitution’ was attended by former Cabinet Ministers Julius Sunkuli, Paul Sang, former Assistant Ministers Willy Kamuren, Joseph Lotodo and Joseph Kimkung and former legislators Zipporah Kittonyi and Francis Ewaton.

In the resolutions that were read by the younger Moi and Salat, the party stalwarts were of the opinion that the pre-election Coalition between Kanu and PNU had been overtaken by events and that the former ruling party stood to lose significantly as it was slowly being edged out of the country’s political epicenter and failure by its leaders (read Uhuru) to fight for its interests was unacceptable. Said Salat: “Kanu has to de-link itself from PNU in order to reclaim its rightful role in the country’s political arena.

We went to PNU for purposes of election but now it is time for our party started aggressively fighting for its stake in national politics.” The former Bomet lawmaker conceded that the decision by Kanu to enter into a Pre-election pact with President Kibaki’s PNU proved to be costly as majority of former ruling party candidates in Rift Valley lost out to Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). “Most of us lost our seats not because we were unpopular but due to our failure to clarify to the region’s electorate our association with PNU. It is time for a fresh start,” he added.

Consciously aware that his viability has always depended on him having a firm hold on the former ruling party, Uhuru has maintained that he is in Kanu to stay, but hastened to add that he had no intentions of reneging pre-election pact that dragged the party into the PNU flagship.

Tellingly, political heavyweights who supported Kanu’s marriage to PNU in the likes of Ezekiel Barng’etuny and Wilson Leitich have been visibly vocal in the recent past challenging Uhuru to clarify the grand old party’s position in PNU. In an apparently well choreographed move, their calls have been followed in quick succession with demands from a section of the party’s delegates in Rift Valley, Nairobi, Coast and Western provinces that the Kanu leadership convenes a National Governing Council meeting to re-assess its relationship with PNU on grounds that the former had progressively been sidelined. More In