As a new party on the political landscape, the United Democratic Forum Party has been welcomed to the realities of politics through baptism by fire. When it participated in its first elections, the party mandarins must have thought it would be smooth sailing.
It was not to be. On the face of it, its performance appears dismal, but as a first attempt, perhaps it was quite decent.
The party should take heart in the fact that this was a trial run in many aspects. First, there was the debate about whether to take part in the by-elections at all. This was because some in the party hierarchy were not convinced that the party was prepared to take a plunge.
Reason prevailed when it was agreed that there was need to determine the ability of the party to organise an election in far-flung areas and to find out the people's willingness to embrace the party.
To a large extent this may have been achieved. From the results across the board it is clear that the party can be transformed quickly into a winning outfit. Take its performance in Kangema, the heartland of Uhuru Kenyatta's TNA. By all accounts UDF recorded a decent performance, in second place. This was certainly a very credible performance. Like in other by-elections, the party was outclassed in terms of resources.
UDF is moving away from that kind of politics - money-influenced elections. Thus far, the party needs to reach out to the people through strong grass root structures which can handle the intricacies of elections.
What is more interesting is the focus on the loss of Bukura and what that means to Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi. Some people have prematurely concluded that the loss means that Mudavadi cannot carry Western province in his presidential bid.
But to those who understand the region, the result in Bukura was down to local clan and leadership issues and had nothing to do with the popularity of UDF or its flag bearer, Mudavadi.
Loosing Bukura does not mean that either the UDF Party or Mudavadi is unpopular. It presents the party with the opportunity to address the challenges which made it lose the civic seat in order to position itself well for the coming general elections. It must quickly forget the bad feeling of losing Bukura and other by-elections and embark on consolidating its support on the ground to become the party of choice in the fight for power.
The outcome of the by-elections is an important lesson for the party and its leaders who must go back to the drawing board to analyse the results and take corrective measures to move forward. So far, the party's visibility has evolved around the personality and stature of Musalia since he joined it in May.
He must be commended for bringing the party to the level of recognition it enjoys today. The tremendous good will the party now enjoys across the country should be translated into support. Party members and supporters should not lose sight of the bigger picture - the fight for a mandate to form the next government. This will not be easy unless it outlines clear policies as well as select people of integrity as candidates to challenge for elective positions across the country. The by-elections results should be seen as a wake up call towards the attainment of this goal.
What should UDF do? For a start, it should stop crying foul. There is plenty of work to be done in establishing structures which will be instrumental in the organisation of grass root support base for the party and its leaders.
Current co-ordinators on the ground have been useful in the early operations for the new party. The party now needs to harmonise them with seasoned operatives to enable them manage the murky world of politics. After all, a successful political party is one which can manage chaos around it and transform them into positive results.
UDF has a voice - a fresh voice which tells a new story for the country. That story promises hope and reconciliation to heal a bleeding nation. The country is tired of lip service every electoral season. That is why UDF stands for a break with the past. Not just for the sake of it, but to usher Kenya into a new dawn of unity and prosperity for all.
This is what Kenyans would like to see the next government do for this country. Precious time should not be wasted on reflections about the by-elections. Instead, party leaders should plunge into what needs to be done to galvanise the electorate to secure victory for change in this country.
Ambassador Boaz K. Mbaya Executive Director, Centre for Policy Analysis.