Is Kalonzo Musyoka under siege? This is the question political observers are asking as the former Kenyan Vice President faces a revolt from within and without  his Wiper Democratic Movement.

In recent weeks, Musyoka has been spending a lot of time fire-fighting his enemies in what is a litmus test for a man who has had a fairly easy ride during his 30-year political career. Any serious opposition he faced before, specifically from iron-lady Charity Ngilu, was relatively pedestrian compared to what confronts him now.

This time around, even those who had stood by him, such as Dr. Alfred Mutua, the youthful Governor of Machakos and MPs Robert Mbui and Patrick Makau, seem to have abandoned him. Others, like David Musila, his party chairman, are no longer quick to come to his defence when he faces verbal attacks from political neophytes.

The main bone of contention is Musyoka’s continued association with CORD, the Coalition of Reforms and Democracy led by Raila Odinga. Musyoka’s name has also been dragged into a tiff that pits his closest ally, Senator Johnstone Muthama, on one hand, and Governor Mutua, on the other. The two are engaged in a bitter leadership war for the control of Machakos county. Musyoka’s failure in reconciling them points to his waning influence in Ukambani.

But it is his association with Raila that is at the centre of his problems. Both Raila and Kalonzo – together with the third CORD partner, Moses Wetangula – have declared they will go for the presidency in the 2017 elections. My view is that political arithmetic does not give Musyoka or Wetangula an iota of a chance to the big house on the hill.

It is wildly unimaginable that the Luo community that has been so determined to get Raila to State House will ditch the former Prime Minister for one of the two partners. We are already seeing that obstinacy in the ongoing scramble for  party posts where a section of ODM’s Luo leadership is ganging up to oppose “outsiders” from taking up leadership positions.

Thus, some Kamba leaders feel Raila is only taking Musyoka for a ride, and his intention is only to get Kamba votes in the next elections. This analysis is not inaccurate given Raila’s loss of support in his erstwhile stronghold of Rift Valley. There hasn’t been any time before in his quest for the presidency that Raila has to fight so hard for votes.

In the meantime, those who want Musyoka to leave CORD think he would be better off in Jubilee. But let me remind them that Jubilee is full. The coalition has no vacancy for someone of Kalonzo’s ambition. Uhuru has already said the next 20 years are reserved for him and Ruto. Musyoka’s only option is  to stick with Raila, but even this option is fraught with difficulties.

In 2007, Musyoka faced a similar dilemma of deciding what to do as defeat loomed in the presidential race. Some of us in ODM-K had to convince him to accept the vice presidency in Kibaki’s government and not be left in the cold for another five years. Things are different this time around. That is why if Musyoka listens to hardliners in Wiper and moves away from Raila, his political obituary would be as good as sealed. At least in CORD he stands a chance of becoming a deputy president if Raila wins.

Another of Musyoka’s problems relates to the fact that he has no platform. He is neither a member of the cabinet nor a member of parliament. Other than at churches and at funeral events, he has no avenue he can effectively use to pronounce his ideas. His position as leader of Wiper is also overshadowed by Raila’s presence as supreme leader of CORD. That reduces the former cabinet minister of many ministries to a cheer leader, not a flag bearer.

So what chances does Musyoka have to become the president of Kenya? None!

And that is my say.


Recent austerity proposals, including President Uhuru Kenyatta’s latest order for an external audit of the public service, underscores the level of desperation reached by the government on how best to maximise on available financial resources in a country that spends far too much on salaries and allowances and far less on development.

Since taking over last March, the Jubilee government has been looking for the right formula to deal with a skyrocketing wage bill caused by the introduction of the devolved government, and trying to figure out what to do with the large number of civil servants drawing salaries from public coffers.

Uhuru has now ordered an audit to find how many people are genuinely on the payroll and how many are illegally drawing an estimated 1.8 billion shillings annually. According to the President, eight ministries may be dishing out 70 million shillings in irregular salaries a year to people who are no longer in service. He figures that if the audit is extended to the rest of the government, the savings could be huge.

The problem of ghost workers is not new. Over the years, both the central government and local authorities have unearthed rackets that have  revealed humongous wastage in salary payments to deceased persons, retirees and deserters – money that could be channelled to pay salaries of doctors, nurses and educators, and to deal with the challenges of poverty and unemployment.

Not too long ago, the Deputy President William Ruto hinted that up to 100,000 civil servants may be retired and/or retrenched to cut down on the wage bill now accounting for 74 percent of the government budget. That proposal was opposed by a section of trade unionists even when they know the wage bill has doubled from 241 billion in the 2008/09 to 458 billion shillings last year. For a country that suffers from widespread unemployment, poverty, educational and health challenges, a figure such as this is unacceptable.

Recently, the government also announced sweeping measures to restrict first class air travel to only a small class of officials, and stopped officials from holding meetings in expensive, private hotels. That is commendable.

While the problem of ghost workers has been with us for years, in the past no action was taken to punish those involved in such cartels. Results of audits were announced with much fanfare but no follow-up was made. That should not be the case now. I hope that this time around the Jubilee government will not only shame those caught defrauding the government but will prosecute them in courts of law.

However, for best results, we must cast our net beyond the central government. The misuse of money in county governments borders on a scandal of monumental proportions. There is no prudence whatsoever in the way public resources are used in the devolved governments.

Governors are splurging on everything, from taking unnecessary overseas travels to buying mansions such as the 140-million shilling residence of the Governor of Kilifi. Such careless use of public money should be curbed and those involved censored.

The Controller of Budget has severally raised a red flag, and this week she came out openly to complain about extravagance in the counties. What was shocking, however, was her admission that the loses could not be determined and “we don’t know whether we are losing money or not.”

The bottom line is, we cannot have two types of laws governing the same people. If we are clamping down on civil servants in central government we must do the same with the honchos in counties. An urgent private sector audit similar to the one ordered by the President must be carried out in the counties to avoid further hemorrhaging of tax-payers’ money.

If we don’t do that, we should not expect desired results from piecemeal initiatives.

And that is my say.

Vibes coming out of Orange House in Nairobi show fireworks are flying everywhere as the Orange Democratic Party (ODM) gets ready for its much awaited national elections next month.

Already, the intense heat has claimed its first two casualties: Anyang Nyong’o, who had planned to defend his Secretary General’s position; and Kenneth Marende, former Speaker of the National Assembly, who had shown interest in the national chairmanship. Both pulled out this week giving foggy reasons as to why the bowed out.

My own views is that Nyong’o and Marende bolted from the contest because they could not take the toast from a rejuvenated cadre of young politicians clamouring for generational change and thought it wise to bow out, rather than wait for the tsunami to swallow them up. What they have done is what the party chairman Henry Kosgey and firebrand Franklin Bett did last year in the wake of a URP volcano in the Rift Valley. That’s what I call strategic thinking.

Although Nyong’o and Marende have vowed to stay in the party as ordinary members, the fact that they will not be there to steer the ship towards the 2017 general elections means the party boss Raila Odinga will have to rely more on greenhorns than on seasoned hands. This will make it difficult for him as he prepares to take a fourth stab at the presidency in 2017.

The scramble for positions shows the forthcoming party elections (if that is what you want to call them) will be bruising, cut-throat and divisive for an organisation that is still licking wounds from last year’s election defeat and which, in recent months, has suffered humiliation in key by-elections.

The Executive Director, Megerer Langat, admitted recently that the party faces a number of challenges, and mentioned the difficulty of fairly distributing the 26 party executive seats and the dilemma of achieving gender parity requirements. What he didn’t say was that ODM has real hurdles to overcome before the next polls, hurdles that will decide whether the party continues as a national party or as an organisation confined to one or two regions.

We are already seeing, for example, that leaders from Nyanza, the ODM home ground, are unwilling to cede territory to other areas, and are crowding candidates in almost all key positions ostensibly to shut others out. This could alienate candidates from the rest of Kenya.

It is also obvious that candidates are being hand-picked in advance to fill the various positions, something that is likely to make the exercise at Kasarani stadium a sham and not as “free and fair’ as party leaders want us to believe.

By sanctioning the elections, Raila took a big gamble at a time when the party is at its weakest point. Most of us had expected that after last year’s loss, ODM would take time to re-examine itself and devise winning strategies for the future. Instead, party officials have been spending a lot of time throwing weak punches at the Jubilee government on this and that. In the process, ODM is losing than winning new members.

If I were Raila, I would spend less time in Nyanza and more in places like the Coast, Kisii, Western and the Northern regions where support for the party appears to be waning fast. Without these areas and having lost the Rift Valley, the road to State House in the years to come appears riddled with uncertainties for the once popular party.

What we have seen too is that the Coalition of Reforms and Democracy (Cord), of which ODM is the major partner, has completely failed to hold itself as a watchdog of government in Parliament. The exit of Raila and Kalonzo Musyoka from parliamentary politics was a big loss to the party and gave the government side a carte blanche to over-run the opposition.

For the sake of democracy and to stop the country from drifting into a quasi-one party State, ODM should use the delegates’ conference to come up with a strategy that will strengthen the organisation by absorbing the Nyongo’s and the Marende’s into some sort of Pentagon that will advise Young Turks on how  bread is baked.

Otherwise, we may be back to the old days of one-party command –  as the Jubilee coalition gets bigger and stronger.

And that is my say.

Was the armed attack on Moses Wetangula last Thursday an assassination attempt, a normal case of thuggery, or a well-executed plot to win sympathy for the Bungoma Senator’s presidential bid? More still, was there an attack at all or was the incident part of a propaganda campaign by the opposition Coalition of Reforms and Democracy (Cord)?

These questions sound corky and insensitive but they are relevant.

Wetangula claimed he was ambushed by unknown people as he made his way home along Mbagathi Road in Nairobi at about 11 pm. His car came under a hail of bullets which fortunately missed their target but left grazed marks on  the roof of the car and a very panicky legislator.

Within minutes of the incident, the Senator was already describing the attack as “an attempt on my life”. The following day, James Orengo, another senior party official added more fuel by calling it, “an act of assassination.” The remarks fired party supporters who flooded social media outlets with posts that supported the assassination theory. All this was happening when investigations had not even begun.

That Kenya has had a good share of political assassinations in the past 50 years cannot be gainsaid. Leaders have been killed in broad day light, badly mutilated bodies have been discovered in forests, and some leaders have even met deaths in very questionable road accidents. However, this does not justify a tag of “an assassination attempt” every time an incident of this nature happens.

What I find implausible is the motive held by Wetangula. He wants us to believe he was attacked because of his recent criticisms against the government over the alleged railway corruption “scandal.”

Wetangula was not the first leader to talk about the scandal nor the only critic of the government on the  matter. Several leaders have commented on the same, and at least one, MP Alfred Keter, continues to make some very vitriolic remarks. I have not heard Keter complaining of any threats to his life, or that he has been involved in a similar incident.

The Senator completely ruined his case when he attempted to explain the damage on his car to the media and police. What we saw on television were not bullet holes but scratches and scrapes that could have been caused by anything including “an advertisement board” that police believe Wetangula’s car knocked.

Reports show Wetangula has been asking for extra security for weeks and that the government has simply ignored him. Did he want to use this incident to pile up pressure on the government to get his demands met? I don’t know.

What I know is that Wetangula is not a heavy weight even in Cord if you are to compare him with party leader Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka. The fact that his two more formidable colleagues have declared interest in the 2017 presidential elections means the Ford-Kenya leader stands no chance of advancing further than where he has reached as Senator for Bungoma.

Therefore, allegations that the government had a hand in the incident rests on quick-sand. The government has no reason to plot his assassination, and Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are not so politically vulnerable as to engage in such dirty tricks. The so-called tyranny of numbers favours them. The support of the people who voted them into office in 2013 is still intact.

My submission is that the attack was not, and could not have been an assassination attempt. It was simply an act of thuggery in a city trying hard to shrug off its “Nairobbery” tag of the 1980s.

Due to high costs of living and burgeoning unemployment, many cities in the world are facing increased criminal activities. Nairobi is not an exception. A lot more could be done here to guarantee the security of Kenyans and that is a challenge the government must meet.

In the meantime, we must lower the level of political speculations and leave security matters to security agencies.

And that is my say.

The New Year has started with new (and old) challenges for the Jubilee government of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto.

Having navigated through everything in 2013 – from strikes by doctors and nurses to protests by journalists to the heinous terrorist attack at Westgate to internal squabbles, the Coalition has a full diary in 2014. This is the year in which Uhuru and Ruto must show Kenyans that they are worthy of the acrimonious election victory over Raila Odinga’s CORD, and that they are determined to barrel through with promises made in their manifesto.

So far, the scorecard shows a driven committment on the part of our leaders towards the country’s socio-economic development, but nine months is too short a period to judge the performance of any government.

For the coming year, Uhuru has already set up his agenda. He has talked of pumping billions of shillings into the power sector to reduce the cost of electricity. That is a good move, but he should also have explained how the government plans to end in the immediate future constant power outages that are costing the country millions of shillings every year. Power cuts have become so frequent and so unpredictable that companies are forced to invest heavily on generators, and families are compelled to dig deeper into their pockets to find alternative back-up sources, apart from all the other inconveniences.

In his New Year message, Uhuru also reiterated his commitment to improving education and health services and to providing clean water to a larger population of the country. These promises have been made before by previous administrations. We are waiting to see whether or not this government will accomplish that task.

Then there is the ICC matter. Jubilee supporters must be hoping against hope that prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will not go ahead with the trial on the basis of the reasons she gave a few weeks ago. She admitted the prosecution lacked enough evidence to satisfy the high standards required at the trial after the withdrawal of some of her key witnesses. Experts agree that Bensouda’s case is as dead as a dodo. Nevertheless, she is putting up a brave face, so let’s wait and see what will happen in the next three months.

Jubilee supporters are also hoping that the collapse of the Uhuru case would influence the dismissal of the Ruto/Joshua arap Sang trial. So far, the performance of prosecution witnesses in this case has been dismal and some of them have lied and contradicted themselves.

This year, Kenyans would also want to see the end of wrangles in the devolved governments that saw county representatives boycott work last year. A new crisis over the recruitment of county assembly staff has cropped up so Kenyans would want to see these two issues resolved soon.

Kenyans are also looking forward to the actualisation of the much talked about standard gauge railway project from Mombasa to Malaba on the Kenya/Uganda border; and the Lamu Port Southern Sudan Ethiopia transport system (Lapsset), perhaps two of the most important infrastructural projects. To avoid doubt and speculation, the government must also come clean on accusations that corruption may have played a part in the tendering process of the railway project.

I predict we will see a continuation of labour strifes in 2014. Already teachers are threatening to down tools over issues of teacher promotions. Doctors and other medical staff who recently went on a strike that yielded no results will certainly press ahead with their demands for better pay and conditions of service under a devolved arrangement.  We are also not done with media protests and further instability in our institutions of higher learning. These are challenges the government will face this year.

I am also not convinced that the government has done enough to stem the worsening insecurity situation in the country Instead, those entrusted with security matters seem to have run out of ideas. Piecemeal actions such as the nyumba kumi concept; expulsion of individual officers and verbal warnings will not do. What is needed is a complete overhaul of the police service to include comprehensive retraining programmes; re-tooling and genuinely re-branding of the service. It is not just enough to change names from Police Commissioner to Inspector General and Police Department to Police Service. Much more is required.

Another challenge facing Uhuru’s government this year will be the removal of an estimated 360,000 Somali refugees from camps in the north. Although an agreement has been reached with the UN to close down the camps and move all the Somali refugees home, there is no timetable as to when that exercise will begin and end. Also, the resettlement is a voluntary one which means those who refuse to cross over could choose to stay put. I know this is in line with international humanitarian protocols, but giving the refugees a choice will not realise the desired results.  There must be a parallel push to get the government in Mogadishu to take full responsibility for its citizens, now that the situation in the country has somehow improved.

As for the continuing murmurs about government appointments I support the President. Election losers (like me) and older people (like me) are Kenyans. They have equal rights like everyone else. They are educated, experienced and capable of continuing to contribute fully to the country’s development. No country has cut off a section of its population on account of political performance or age, and Kenya should not be the first one to do so.

And that is my say.