Kenya: Hurdles Standing in the Way of Uhuru, Raila 2022 Coalition Deal

President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre) in a show of unity with Deputy President William Ruto (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga, during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on November 27, 2019 (file photo).

The pre-election coalition between Jubilee and ODM faces legal and political hurdles that its architects must overcome to craft a formidable force they hope will win next year's elections.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, by seeking to transform the truce with his main rival in the disputed 2017 presidential vote, Mr Raila Odinga, into a coalition between their parties, has played the first card in his 2022 succession plan, and occasioned a backlash from allies who believe it signals the ODM leader is his preferred successor.

On Sunday, Mr Odinga's camp sought to deflect the criticism and to project the unfolding coalition making as a possible return of the Grand Coalition Government.

"People don't seem to remember that both Wiper and Kanu already have working relationships with Jubilee. It's now ODM that is working on one. That means the country is staring at a possibility of a return of a Grand Coalition Government in 2022 should what is being formed win," Mr Odinga's spokesperson, Dennis Onyango, told the Nation. Mr Odinga holds that the 2008 Grand Coalition Government, in which he was named Prime Minister to end post-election violence that followed the disputed re-election of President Kibaki, is credited for stabilising the county, economic growth and rapid infrastructure development.

But as negotiators for both sides craft the pre-election coalition agreement, they will have to address the legal dilemma of ODM being in another coalition, National Super Alliance (Nasa).

Legal challenges

Wiper vice-chairman Mutula Kilonzo Jnr, a member of the Nasa steering committee, pointed out legal challenges in the planned coalition.

"No party can form another coalition until they disband their existing coalition agreement," Mr Kilonzo said.

He argued that while the cooperation agreement between Wiper and Jubilee cannot prevent any arrangement between ODM and Jubilee, "ODM must first leave Nasa."

Asked about his party leader Kalonzo Musyoka's position on the latest development, he responded: "The Political Parties Act allows post-coalition agreements. This will only be an issue if ODM gives notice to leave that Nasa coalition."

Nasa leaders Mr Kalonzo, Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Moses Wetang'ula (Ford Kenya) have vowed to resist attempts by Mr Odinga or ODM to vie for the presidency on Nasa's ticket, but ODM seems to have pre-empted the threat by taking steps that could lead to its quitting Nasa.

The President's camp also has to navigate the divisions in the ruling party, where a faction allied to the DP could try to frustrate the coalition making given such an agreement requires approval by respective party organs.

Although most of the DP's allies have been purged from Jubilee positions, the fact that the party has not convened its National Executive Committee for long, which is partly blamed on the wrangles, is a pointer to the crisis.

Party organs functional

However, Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju downplayed these concerns, saying the party's organs are functional and will work with the ODM team to form the coalition that will be in the best interest of the country.

"We don't want to involve ourselves in cheap debates of personalities. The President and former Prime Minister are interested in securing the future of this country. We want to have an atmosphere for development, peaceful elections in 2022 and have an administration where no Kenyan feels excluded," Mr Tuju said.

Negotiations between ODM and Jubilee are also constrained by the uncertainty surrounding the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which sought to amend the Constitution to expand the Executive by creating new posts of Prime Minister and two deputies.

A pre-election coalition agreement details how the parties share the top posts and the new posts were anticipated to accommodate other key leaders who miss out on the presidential ticket.

This means that for now, the parties will have to focus on the presidential flag-bearer and the running mate, another problematic area for coalitions.

Given President Kenyatta had brought together pro-BBI leaders, who included the Nasa leaders and Kanu chairman Gideon Moi, the Jubilee-ODM talks will further escalate the tensions with the One Kenya Alliance quartet of Kalonzo, Mudavadi, Gideon and Wetang'ula, that also wants the Head of State's backing.

Collapse of BBI team

The move might lead to disintegration of the BBI team, which also includes Governors Kivutha Kibwana and Alfred Mutua.

If these tensions are not resolved, they might complicate the President's game plan for next year's poll for which his rebel deputy, William Ruto, has hit the campaign trail and is growing bolder in his offensive.

The DP has particularly made inroads in Mt Kenya where his vocal supporters have routinely taken on the president who has now taken the gamble to break away from his deputy to do a deal with the opposition leader.

"The Central region may refuse to be herded together, used as a bargaining chip in the run up to 2022. Worse, once a political party loses its luster, it is unlikely to recover- that is Jubilee. As few by-elections have shown, Kenyan voters are now wiser," argued University of Nairobi don Prof XN Iraki.

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