Prime Minister Raila Odinga will soon reshuffle his side of the cabinet following the resignation of Musalia Mudavadi as Local Government minister and ODM Deputy Leader. He is expected to announce his decision when he arrives back this morning from an official tour of the United States.
Mudavadi yesterday formally ditched the ODM for the United Democratic Forum on whose ticket he hopes to ride to State House in March 2013. “I, Musalia Mudavadi, wish to announce that I will be offering myself as a candidate for the office of president of the Republic of Kenya on the ticket of the United Democratic Forum party at the next elections,” he announced yesterday at KICC.
Mudavadi's departure has been long expected and Raila has reportedly been planning how he can retain support in Western Kenya where Mudavadi has until now been his point man. This morning the PM is also expected to announce that he is reconstituting a new-look ODM as he prepares to contest the presidency for the third time. He will not however name his running mate until later this year.
Sources close to the PM said that Raila has been consulting for weeks and it has generally been agreed that Mudavadi's slot should go to an MP in Western Kenya. Among those being touted as possible replacements are Ababu Namwamba (Budalangi), Alfred Khangati (Kanduyi) and Alfred Sambu (Webuye).
Yesterday Mudavadi explained his choice of UDF. “In my consultations, I have reflected a lot and have deliberately avoided considering a party with regional or ethnic brand recognition. I have sought to identify with a party and leaders whose pursuits are consistent with my aspirations for a country governed by the rule of law, committed to uniting all Kenyans, and who are sensitive to the need to end marginalisation and exclusion,” he stated.
His main agenda, he said, would be to unite Kenyans and implement programmes to foster development. His administration would aim to create at least 1.5 million jobs for youth and assist small and medium size enterprises in creating employment. “Sisi tutajenga kuta ambazo zimebomoka,” he said in Kiswahili, meaning that he will rebuild the collapsed walls, in reference to ethnic divisions.
UDF was the brainchild of President Kibaki's private secretary Nick Wanjohi and was originally intended to be a campaign vehicle for Uhuru. With his announcement, Mudavadi is no longer ODM deputy leader or Local Government minister but will stay on as the Deputy Prime Minister and Sabatia MP. “Even as I applied myself to the challenges of making a new home, I have deeply reflected on the positions I hold in the party and in government on behalf of Kenyans,” he said.
Mudavadi said he will remain as DPM since the post was created by the National Accord and the holders can only be removed by resignation, ill-health, parliament, a court of law or the collapse of the coalition government. The decision was immediately criticised by ODM leaders who asked him to relinquish the post of DPM to prove that his bid was not driven by greed.
Mudavadi will begin his presidential campaign with a rally this Sunday at Afraha, Nakuru where he is likely to be joined by G7 leaders including Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. Yesterday several MPs affiliated with the G7 alliance attended Mudavadi's press conference at KICC.
Mudavadi was accompanied by over 20 MPs including Najib Balala who was recently sacked from cabinet, Abdikadir Mohammed, David Koech, George Nyamweya, Ndiritu Muriithi, Bifwoli Wakoli, Fahim Twaha, Katoo ole Metito and Bonni Khalwale.
Also there were George Khaniri, Abu Chiaba, Jeremiah Kioni, Njoroge Baiya, Maison Leshoomo, Charles Kilonzo, Kambi Kazungu, Mohammed Sirat, Chachu Ganya, Chris Okemo, Soita Shitanda, Yusuf Chanzu, Victor Munyaka, Kizito Mugali, Manyala Keya, William Cheptumo, and Kareke Mbiuki.
Curiously, KANU secretary general Nick Salat, who recently engineered the removal of Uhuru as party chairman, also attended along with Mark Too. UDF's symbol is a clasped hand and has the slogan ‘a healthy wealthy nation’. “UDF espouses the principles of internal democracy that I stand for. The new dawn under UDF signals a change in the way we have managed our public affairs. UDF is and will remain a national party and institution. UDF is not a party of particular individuals, community, ethnic group or class of people,” Mudavadi said yesterday.
Party chairman Hassan Omar said Mudavadi accepted a precondition that candidates in the coming elections should not also hold positions in the party. The UDF has a 'political council' consisting of MPs Nyamweya, Muriithi, Khalwale, ole Metito, Kioni, Chiaba, Leshoomo, Khaniri and former cabinet minister Mukhisa Kituyi. Abdikadir, a founding UDF member, compared it to the Brazilian football team because they share the yellow and green colours. “We wanted to change the tone of this country and move away from the politics of destruction to issue-based debates and respectability,” said Abdikadir.