Kenya 2022: Presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s coalition shaken by defections

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Thursday, 12 May 2022 19:44, updated on Wednesday, 29 June 2022 11:53

Kenyan police officers walk to secure the Azimio la Umoja (Declaration of Unity) rally where Opposition leader Raila Odinga unveil his August 2022 Presidential race candidature at the Moi International Sports centre in Kasarani, Nairobi, Kenya 10 December 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Distrust and disunity are plaguing former prime minister Raila Odinga's coalition just three months before Kenya's presidential election after two parties jumped ship to join his main rival, deputy president William Ruto.

Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC) and Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) recently abandoned Raila’s Azimio la Umoja alliance to join the Kenya Kwanza Alliance, which is led by Ruto.

Announcing the exit, MCC leader Alfred Mutua pointed to unequal treatment of political parties in Odinga’s alliance.

“We have not been part of any decision-making processes on issues involving the coalition,” said Mutua, who is also the governor of Machakos County, which is located south-east of Nairobi.

The dealings in Azimio are done in deep secrecy and mistrust.

This is the same reason given by the PAA, led by Amason Kingi, governor of coastal Kilifi County.

He says his party was denied a copy of the Azimio coalition agreement that they signed a month ago. “The dealings in Azimio are done in deep secrecy and mistrust.”

Ruto signed new agreements with the two parties, which he said would provide a big boost to his chances in the 9 August election. “Welcome to the alliance of democrats, the free and the willing,” he told the two governors.

Legal hurdles

The political reshuffling is mired in legal red tape, however.

Kenya’s Political Parties Dispute Tribunal has dismissed the move by the two parties to shift camp, questioning how they could have signed their original agreement with Odinga’s coalition without reading and understanding its content.

You cannot force me into a political marriage.

According to Article 22(1) of the Azimio la Umoja coalition agreement, the exit of any constituent party requires 90-day notice to the coalition council chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Furthermore, no such request can be made within six months of the general election.

Paul Mwangi, the legal representative of Odinga’s coalition, says the two parties are bound by the agreement they signed and legally remain members of the coalition. “The law is very clear,” he says. “You cannot belong to two coalitions.”

However, the MMC’s leader insists he cannot be forced to be in an association that he is not happy with. “You cannot force me into a political marriage,” Mutua says.

Azimio responds

During a campaign in the PAA stronghold of Kilifi on 11 May, Odinga denounced governor Kingi’s decision. “He has betrayed me,” the Azimio leader told his supporters.

On the other hand, Azimio executive director Raphael Tuju insists that though the move by the two parties was unexpected, it is of no consequence because they do not have large followings.

He accuses them of actively negotiating with Ruto’s side all along and seeking the Azimio coalition agreement for benchmarking purposes. “We knew this from our intelligence,” Tuju says. “There was no reason to continue to engage them.”

Kevin Kegoli, a Nairobi-based political analyst, tells The Africa Report that even though the exit of the two parties does not threaten Odinga’s chances, grievances inside the coalition should be addressed to avoid future potential fall-outs.

“All parties, whether small or big, should be treated well in a coalition,” he concluded.

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