EDITORIAL 7 of 8: An Appeal To Kalonzo Musyoka


EDITORIAL 7 of 8: An Appeal To Kalonzo Musyoka

Mr Vice President,

In contemporary Kenyan history, no one individual holds the record of being running-mate in as many elections as yourself, particularly in instances where you weren’t seeking reelection. That you were running mate to the same individual, Raila Odinga, on the two occasions when your joint ticket sought the presidency, 2013 and 2017, says something about your loyalty and nature as a team player. Earlier on in 2007, you ran for president, coming third after Odinga and Mwai Kibaki, becoming Mwai Kibaki’s vice president in the heat of post-election violence. Then in the recent 2022 presidential race, after folding your own bid and choosing to side with Odinga, you kept your cool and agreed to be third-in-command after Odinga and Martha Karua, even after those in your corner believed you deserved to be running mate in the least.

The above shows that much as some may wish to overlook your significance or downsize your place and play, there’s definitely something you bring to the table, which has kept you valuable in the high stakes numbers game that is our country’s elective politics. But beyond this, your long stay at the highest echelons of Kenyan politics communicates two things. First, at 69, you and those of your generation who came into politics in your twenties in the 1980s have now become the country’s elders. The second takeaway, which is more fundamental, is that as part of the top-three in Azimio La Umoja One Kenya, your sense of level-headedness is needed now more than ever, even as you urge Kenyans to pour into the streets and demand for the lowering of the cost of living, among other political and social demands.

The point is, with your coalition’s leader Raila Odinga having become the de facto face of the people’s protests – making them happen when he says so, much as the protests have since taken on a life of their own as Kenyans exercise their own sense of agency – yourself and others around him and with him must begin thinking beyond the streets (even if the protests will continue), and see how to best pursue the people’s aspirations without either yourselves abandoning the people midway (after cutting a deal with William Ruto), or watching the country descend into chaos as the police bombard protestors whenever you call for protests.

Striking this balance, of remaining politicians but prioritizing your patriotic duty to Kenyans and Kenya sounds like something those of your experience and temperament could help realize. This is because chaos, confusion, deaths, destruction of property and the curtailing of civil liberties are quickly becoming the order of the day as both the government and opposition refuse to back down. Your own political backyard of Machakos County, where protests were hitherto unheard of, has quickly become the venue of some of the most monumental protests witnessed in Kenya, with youths closing the Expressway and the state responding with bullets and buttons. If this is anything to go by, it only means that with the continued call for protests, as it appears is bound to happen, frontlines and epicenters of protest action will keep shifting to more unlikelier locations, putting more lives and property at risk (considering the police’s insistence on shutting down protests regardless of whether they are peaceful or not). 

The task of striking this balance won’t be easy.

Be it by design or by default, the fact that the protests only happen when Odinga says they should means that Azimio La Umoja One Kenya can either be on the side of the people or against the people, depending on which direction it chooses to travel. If today Odinga calls off the protests (for whatever reason) without giving a clear roadmap as to how the people’s demands will be met, then the citizenry will feel shortchanged, the same way they’ll be left in limbo if the protests are continuously called on an ad hoc basis without clear targets, timelines and expectations. For how long are the protests to occur, and is there even a Plan B?

However, if Azimio had a clear idea of what needs to be done and by who, where and by when as regards pursuing the people’s demands for lowering the cost of living and other concerns, then the people will know they have an ally in you, and not just an entity that could be out to exploit the people’s frustrations for selfish gain. Tied to this is the fact that much as protests are permitted by law, the continued treatment of protestors as canon fodder by the police (as evidenced by their unfettered violent aggression towards protestors) may similarly impact Azimio’s standing with the people, because other than calling for protests (which can keep happening), what other routes does Azimio have in seeking answers and solutions to the people’s demands, without selling the people out or deflating their political momentum. 

These are the questions that will keep you up at night, together with your other Azimio principals. Our appeal to you is to consider these questions seriously – what can be done to prevent the people’s deaths at the hands of the police; what can be done to make the state listen and act on the people’s demands; what can be done to make the people’s demands  bigger than Azimio’s shadow or that of its leader Raila Odinga. Answering these questions with speed and fidelity to the people’s demands may not be the easiest of things to do at this moment. But with your political experience and clout, nothing should be impossible around a table where yourself, Odinga, Karua and others sit and put Kenya and Kenyans first, fast. 

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