Opposition parties will announce a joint presidential candidate in February, six months to the polls, and they will set the stage tomorrow at a mass meeting at the Bomas of Kenya.
More than 15,000 leaders and members from at least five affiliate parties are to attend. The leaders of all major opposition parties, those likely to form a National Super Alliance, NASA, will be together for the first time. Kanu is not expected.
Officially, the meeting will chart the way forward after passage of controversial electoral laws the opposition says will be used to rig the August 8 election.
It will decide whether to hold mass street protests, as the opposition had promised in December, against manual backup to electronic voter registration and results transmission.
However, this appears unlikely. The violent and deadly — but effective — anti-IEBC protests alienated many people.
More important, they would conflict with and undermine the national voter registration the opposition desperately needs. It begins next Wednesday and lasts a month.
Unofficially, the mass meeting is intended to cement unity of the increasingly likely NASA. A technical team is completing crafting the leadership structure.
“I can confirm there are plans to unveil the presidential candidate by February,” ODM director of elections Junet Mohamed said in an interview yesterday. This was confirmed by ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, NASA’s main proponent.
Mudavadi expressed optimism the joint opposition will be ready by next month and satisfaction it had “avoided playing into the hands of Jubilee by unveiling our candidate too soon”.
“Those saying it’s February are not speaking from out of the blue. Remember when we talked about it with Tinga [ODM leader Raila Odinga], we alluded to the same date,” Musalia told the Star.
In his first public appearance with Musalia at Storm Resort in Laikipia on December 6, Raila said they were consulting and would forge a formidable super alliance by February.
A broad and united alliance would pose a serious threat to Jubilee and the reelection of President Uhuru Kenyatta and DP William Ruto.
“They will be surprised with the team we will put forward. We are preparing ourselves and I am sure we shall be together by February,” Raila had told the ODM delegates.
Yesterday, Cord management committee co-chairman James Orengo said tomorrow’s Bomas meeting is significant in setting out winning strategies.
“This has been in the work plan for some time but for the first time we will have the leadership of all opposition parties together,” Orengo said.
He said they will appeal to thousands of aspirants to mobilise their bases to register to vote in the IEBC’s final mass listing.
Details of coalition and NASA negotiations, membership of the technical team — and who will be the opposition flag bearer — are closely guarded secrets.
When asked yesterday, Orengo said, “Just watch this space. There’s work in progress.”
There are indications NASA could eventually be adopted as the opposition coalition.
In addition to Cord’s three affiliates — ODM, Wiper and Ford Kenya — Mudavadi’s ANC and Charity Ngilu’s Narc are expected at Bomas.
Chama Cha Uzalendo leader Wavinya Ndeti yesterday told the Star her party would be present.
“Beyond the electoral laws, we will discuss how we can unite and work together as Kenyans with a common interest,” Ndeti said.
There are doubts Isaac Ruto’s Chama Cha Mashinani will be represented.
Gideon Moi’s Kanu is not expected. Its officials have sent mixed signals and contradicted each other on opposition plans.
While secretary general Nick Salat has said Kanu would attend, West Pokot Senator John Lonyangapuo recently said it’s too early for the party to forge an alliance with any coalition.
“We wish those attending well. If we dare attend, we will lose our mediating role. We are neutral for now,” Lonyangapuo said.
The recent namingof Mudavadi as Luhya spokesman by Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli has rattled Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula.
It is not clear whether Wetang’ula, who has dismissed Mudavadi’s elevation, would join a coalition with someone threatening his support in Western Kenya.
In an interview with Citizen TV on Sunday, Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa (Ford Kenya) scoffed at Mudavadi.
“We wonder whether these people are truly with us or on Jubilee’s side. The Cord coalition already has structures in place. Now that Mudavadi has seen the light, we are telling him to join Cord, not the amorphous body called NASA,” he said.
But the opposition’s multiple issues and battle fronts — including sanctioning street protests –– are likely to slow its planning and momentum to unseat Uhuru.
A call for street action would hurt its voter registration drive.
The IEBC plans to register more than six million voters, those who have ID cards.
Pundits predict that as in 2013, the election will be won on the strength of voter registration and turnout.
Some 14.3 million voters were registered in 2013. Slightly more than million voters have registered since.
Cord has filed four separate lawsuits: three against the IEBC and one against debate and approval of the contentious electoral laws amendments passed by the Senate last week. The session was acrimonious.
Some Raila allies say Jubilee is forcing the opposition into a corner — it had pledged never to accept a manual backup system. They say the response must be powerful.
“Fighting all these wars is not the best of things for Cord, especially with elections on the horizon,” said ODM director of political affairs Opiyo Wandayi.
“But we have no choice because circumstances necessitate these actions. We cannot take chances. Our resolve has grown stronger,” he said.