Raila rules out zoning in Azimio after allies’ concerns

Written by on 8 April 2022

Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate Raila Odinga yesterday ruled out zoning of the country in favour of big parties in a crisis meeting that was called to address concerns that were threatening to tear apart the nascent coalition.

The meeting came a day after a caucus within Azimio called Mwanzo Mpya issued demands they wanted to address or else they would leave the alliance. The group was led by Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua.

Failure by Azimio leaders President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila to address fears of planned zoning of the country in favour of the big parties – Jubilee, ODM and Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper – has been threatening to split the alliance for a while.  

Azimio spokesman Makau Mutua confirmed the meeting in a press statement last evening, saying issues raised by the caucus had been discussed and addressed. 

He said they had agreed not to zone the country, putting to rest, for now, an emotive issue that was fanning divisions in Azimio.

“There will be no zoning of the country for any political party,” Makau said.

Zoning has become a hot potato within Azimio, threatening to split the nascent alliance that Raila is banking on to succeed President Kenyatta in the August 9 General Election.

It is also a challenge that the Kenya Kwanza Alliance led by Deputy President William Ruto is struggling to deal with.

In coalitions bringing together many parties, zoning means reserving sections of the country for specific outfits to field candidates without facing competition from co-partners.

Peripheral following

In the Azimio-One Kenya alliance, the fringe parties, which enjoy peripheral following confined to a specific area, have felt threatened by the attempted zoning of the country among the larger parties for fear of being swallowed by them.

Governor Mutua’s group which brings together a number of aggrieved fringe parties including his Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC), Narc-Kenya, Muungano, Narc and DAP-K had warned they were not going to entertain mistreatment, expressing readiness to explore other political options.

Dr Mutua, who had earlier confirmed receiving a call from Raila inviting him to the meeting while addressing MCC aspirants at KICC, said they will not accede to any attempts to zone the country among Jubilee, ODM and Wiper parties, the main outfits forming the three-legged Azimio partnership.

“There is an attempt to run nominations through zoning. Our candidates are already prepared to compete and zoning has no place in the current arrangement,” said the governor.

He said it was injurious to their ambitions to grow parties that had for months asked aspirants to join them promising to issue direct tickets for the August polls.

“Our candidates have already registered their candidature with our parties and they have an equal right to be on the ballot,” he noted.

Supremacy battle

DAP-Kenya, which is associated with Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, is locked in a fierce supremacy battle with Raila’s ODM in the Western region. The party has been a leading voice on the issue and recently warned against attempts to zone the country.

Yesterday’s meeting was also used to cool down tempers over discrimination claims within the coalition.  

The small parties said they had not been assured of their positions, adding that only three outfits had been formally considered as forming the alliance. 

“There is an indication the leadership of Azimio is made up of three parties only: Jubilee, ODM and Wiper. This leaves out the other founding parties,” they protested on Wednesday. 

Makau said the issue of inclusivity had been addressed and that the coalition’s top decision-making organ will now be expanded to 11 members to accommodate smaller outfits. He also said they will not allow caucusing within the mammoth alliance which brings together 26 parties in an attempt to forestall similar occurrences happening in the future.

“The talks touched on inclusivity, equity and consultation, all aimed at guiding and anchoring our coalition party ahead of the upcoming August polls,” said Makau.

The question on who will deputise Raila has cropped up on many occasions since the alliance was formally unveiled last month but recently Wiper leader Kalonzo appeared to lay claim to the position making other partners eyeing the position jittery. 

On Tuesday, Kalonzo appeared to confirm he will be picked as Raila’s partner as it was in the 2013 and 2017 elections.

“I have said I will support Raila. And for those who know me, I will not backtrack; I will campaign for him like never before. This other matter about who is running mate should not worry you. There are some things that are obvious,” he said. 

Earlier indications were that the President was interested in picking the person to deputise the Azimio candidate. It was thought he would pick someone from Mt Kenya to appease the vote-rich region to vote for Raila.

Makau yesterday ruled out such a plan, saying the matter will not be settled by an individual but by all partners in the alliance.

“The matter of the running mate will be decided in consultation with partner constituent parties at the appropriate time,” he said.

Other Azimio bigwigs include Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua, her Narc counterpart Charity Ngilu, Muungano Party leader Kivutha Kibwana, Democratic Action Party-Kenya official Eseli Simiyu, Kisii Governor James Ongwae, prominent lawyer Paul Mwangi and media owner SK Macharia attended the meeting.

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