The big walkout: Uhuru and Kanu begin packing

Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta is the man to watch, for the next twist in the never ending Orange Democratic Party Kenya (ODM-K) power struggles continue.

Our sources say that Kanu is considering pulling out of ODM-K to enter into negotiations with a breakaway group from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in what may emerge as another third force.

It was however not clear if politicians allied to Kanu Secretary General William Ruto will come along in the new move.

In the formative days of ODM-K coalition a sharp split was about to take place in Kanu when Ruto and Uhuru differed over membership of ODM-K. Their arguments spilled over to the National Executive Committee-the chief decision making organ of the party, from where Uhuru agreed to join the coalition thus keeping their faction of the party intact.

However, Uhuru has not played a key role as a presidential aspirant in ODM-K. He has remained in the background, may be hoping that the delegate system favours him or just having exhausted all chances of having a leading role in ODM-K.

A closer look at his activities shows that he has not been criss-crossing the country campaigning, neither is he running an election oriented secretariat like his peers in ODM-K.

Strategists in his 2002 secretariat, say that he has yet to give a go ahead for the launch of his vision, a style being used by all other interested candidates for announcing the bid for the ODM-K nomination for president.

So disinterested is Uhuru according to one of his key officials at the secretariat, “that he has not even been talking about his position in ODM-K. Only last week we were preparing how to meet Kanu leaders in Magarini in preparation for the by-election.”

The Magarini by-election in Coast province next month, we established, could be the first mark of the split as Kanu insists that it would field its own candidate in the area, “since ODM-K was yet to solve the issue of the symbol,” the official said.

Already politicians allied to the Gatundu South legislators have hinted that they are getting uncomfortable and they are ready to reduce ODM-K house into a Liberal Democratic Party affair, should their sentiments not be heard.

Siakago MP, Justin Muturi, considered a key ally of Uhuru, has been hinting that the party was not willing to be part “of a cheerleading team to watch as a section of leaders ascend to power without proper processes being followed.”

Muturi’s sentiments might have been fueled by the high profile given to his perennial political enemy Joseph Nyaga, who is also the Gachoka MP. He is one of those who are seeking the ODM-K’s nomination as a presidential candidate.

“The party should start by reducing the number of presidential candidates, some of them are not credible, they are just seeking higher positions so as to keep their constituency offices,” Muturi was quoted saying.

However, Nyaga’s relations with Langata MP Raila Odinga, the de facto leader of ODM-K, and his support for the aborted London ‘bonding’ trip earned him crucial backing, with Raila hitting back, ‘we will surely reduce the presidential candidates, but not through meetings but by votes.”

Uhuru has not helped calm matters either, he is categorical that wider consultations must be held before deciding on the presidential candidate. In fact during the recent law Society of Kenya (LSK) luncheon, Uhuru was emphatic that ‘some politicians will walk away if the party flag-bearer was mot elected’.

However, reached for comment after the event, Uhuru said that ODM-K would survive the political tide and that despite the expected backlash from his home constituency he would stick to his political strategy, “since time has come to rise above partisan politics that preach ethnicity and hatred.”

“Issue based politics and not our dialects is what will make this country catch up with industrialized nations and galvanise our resources. I want to be counted as a leader who believed in a cause and not one who died fighting for his tribesmen to be in power for the sake of being in power,” Uhuru said.

“No one can deny that the survival of ODM-K is going to be based on how democratic we choose our flag bearer, but Kenyans can be sure we will do our best to keep the promise of great leadership and the promise of a free society as we deliver our flag bearer. The task is on my colleagues and I and we shall rise to the occasion,” Uhuru said.

Pressed to say what would happen if a section of leaders did not keep the promise he was evasive, “lets cross the bridges when we get there, but I can tell you no-one is ready to stay where democracy is preached but not practiced, we have a reputation to safeguard.”

Uhuru Kenyatta’s candidature in ODM-K has not been certain. One time Uhuru appears fully committed to the ODM cause, the next time, he goes quiet and missing from the scene only to reemerge again to declare his commitment to the party.

Having been sidelined in ODM-K he has several options, one of which is to strengthen Kanu and go it alone as the party’s presidential candidate or seek a coalition with other parties that will support his presidential bid or at least give him a clear role in the coalition.

Uhuru garnered 1.8 million votes in the last election and though he was far behind President Kibaki in the race, he was seen to be getting more popular towards the end of the campaigns especially to young voters. Those close to him say that it is just a matter of time for him to realign his team.

And once Kanu is out of ODM-K, the party (ODM-K) will be felt mainly as an LDP affair.

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