Is the new One Kenya Alliance a breath of fresh air for Kenyan politics ?

By Victor Abuso

Posted on Tuesday, 6 April 2021 18:54, updated on Wednesday, 7 April 2021 07:59
Kalonzo Musyoka speaking at a press conference announcing the One Kenya Alliance (twitter / @skmusyoka)

Kenya's newest coalition, the One Kenya Alliance brings together seasoned politicians who, for a decade now, have been in opposition. In a country that loves to form alliances and parties ahead of elections, could this new coalition also reintroduce the possibility of two political rivals -- Odinga Raila and William Ruto -- coming together as they did back in 2007?

Kenya’s political stage is starting to unfold following the formation of the One Kenya Alliance ahead of the anticipated general election in August 2022.

The new political outfit that brings together three opposition parties was announced on 25 March 2021 in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. It led to a debate on its future; if indeed it is the new political vehicle to power.

One opposition party is the Wiper Democratic Movement, led by Kalonzo Musyoka. He was the former vice president in the coalition government that ruled between 2008-2013.

Musalia Mudavadi — who vied for the presidency in 2013 and now leads the Amani National Congress (ANC) party — is also part of the new alliance, together with Moses Wetang’ula — leader of the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy –Kenya (FORD-Kenya) party, which was formed in the early 1990s during the rise of multi-party system.

The Kenya National African Union (KANU), which ruled Kenya for almost 40 years, is also represented in the One Kenya Alliance by its chairman Gideon Moi, the son of Kenya’s longest serving President Daniel Arap Moi, now deceased.

Future of the alliance

The formation of this new alliance does not surprise political observers because historically, Kenyan politicians have a tendency of forming parties and coalitions ahead of anticipated elections.

For example, in January 2017, the National Super Alliance (NASA) was formed ahead of the disputed election that was held in August that year.

Surprisingly, the parties that formed the NASA coalition are the same ones that have now come together under the One Kenya Alliance; only this time, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) — which is the largest opposition party in Kenya — led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, is missing from the picture.

In Kenya, coalitions of political parties have led to victory during elections as was evident in 2002 when the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) defeated KANU.

Professor Herman Manyora, from the University of Nairobi, however, believes that the One Kenya Alliance has no clear ideology and appears as a tribal entity and regional grouping of political leaders. “I don’t see this alliance going anywhere, it is difficult to sell to the people,” he says.

Manyora argues that in order for such a political formation to get support, it needs a strong party like the ODM which has a lot of followers along with Odinga, who is currently in the middle of pushing for political reforms through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

The ruling Jubilee Party is also another political outfit that was formed months before the August 2017 election. In September 2017, more than 10 political parties merged to form the Jubilee Party which propelled President Uhuru Kenyatta back to power; even though the results of that election were annulled by the supreme court and a repeat election held but boycotted by NASA.

What does One Kenya Alliance believe ?

Two things define this new formation: unifying the country and ending political hatred.

Kalonzo, one of the top leaders of the new political outfit, says this alliance has come at the right time to unite the country. “We are ready to give Kenyans a breath of fresh air that they have been longing for, we are ready,” he said during a press conference in Nairobi.

ANC leader Mudavadi told reporters that the new political outfit gives Kenyans a political alternative and hope for a better country.

However, Florence Kiwuwa, who resides in Nairobi, says she is not convinced and that the alliance is another attempt to get voters’ attention. “We are tired of such lies from our politicians, they have nothing new to help improve our lives,” she says.

John Doughlas, who hails from western Kenya — home region of one of the leaders of this new formation — believes that the alliance should not be underestimated. “Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi have shown in the past to be trustable leaders, I trust them and support the One Kenya Alliance, we need unity,” he says.

Challenges facing the One Kenya Alliance

First, the leaders of this outfit need to have a common understanding with regards to who will be the presidential candidate when election time comes. All of them, at various political meetings, have expressed an interest in running for the top seat.

Two of them once contested for the presidency and lost, but two have not vied for the position. Kalonzo was one of the presidential candidates during the bitterly contested election in 2007 and he emerged third while Mudavadi made a stab at it in 2017 and was also ranked third.

Some political observers such as Professor Makau Mutua, law dean at the State University of New York (SUNY) argue that if Raila and Ruto come together, they will lose to the One Kenya Alliance.

So, who will be the candidate for this alliance? Only time will tell.

That aside, will the alliance gain the confidence of voters, considering that it is new, and the parties that formed the union are not strong in terms of representation in both the national assembly and senate?

The parties that formed this alliance do not have a national outlook as most of their representatives come from their tribal and regional base. In the national assembly, the Wiper Democratic Movement has 25 MPs out of 349 and in the Senate it has three senators out of 67. The other parties in the alliance are represented as follows:

  • ANC: 14 (National Assembly), 3 (Senate)
  • Ford-Kenya: 12 (National Assembly), 1 (Senate)
  • KANU: 10 (National Assembly), 3 (Senate)

Unfortunately, some Kenyans now believe that the new alliance is a political project formed by outgoing President Kenyatta, who is looking for a successor after his relationship with his deputy William Ruto turned sour.

“This alliance must be a project by Uhuru Kenyatta, he wants one of them to be president,” Lary Wanyama, a supporter of One Kenya Alliance, tells The Africa Report.

The new alliance has also reintroduced the possibility of two political rivals — Raila and Ruto — forging an alliance as they did back in 2007. In March 2021, Ruto dismissed the new alliance terming it as a tribal and regional grouping that has no vision for the country.

Some political observers such as Professor Makau Mutua, law dean at the State University of New York (SUNY) however argue that if Raila and Ruto come together, they will lose to the One Kenya Alliance.

Bottom line

With the restrictions to movement in Kenya and ban of political meetings due to the surge of Covid-19 virus, leaders of the new alliance might face an uphill task in popularising their new political outfit.

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options