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ANC, Ford Kenya merger runs into strong headwinds

The highly acclaimed merger between Ford Kenya and the Amani National Congress (ANC) is seriously limping even before it leaves the kitchen.

And even though the promoters of the merger, led by former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale, exude confidence, suggesting that it is just a matter of time before the deal is inked, Nation has learnt that none of the two parties has fully discussed the matter despite assurances on the contrary.

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Sources in both parties have revealed that in spite of protracted assurances on the merger, which is supposed to act as an anti-Raila Odinga bulwark in the region, suspicion and mistrust between aides of Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula,

the ego trips between them on who lead the new outfit and with it the flagbearer in 2022 and the historical political differences between the Bukusu and Maragoli, have conspired to undermine the desire by the two leaders to ring fence the Luhya vote from outsiders in the 2022 General Election.

Soon after Mr Odinga dropped he two leaders in the wake of the January 30 swearing in fallout, both Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula expressed their desire to work together to secure the Luhya vote. The impetus for the merger received a boost when ODM senators in a sudden turnaround, fuelled the fire of suspicion in the Nasa coalition when they sacked Mr Wetang’ula as their leader in the House.

Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula established a joint technical committee, co-chaired by Dr Khalwale and ANC’s Barrack Muluka to actualise the merger dream. Two weeks ago, the team submitted its report to the two leaders and the final decision is expected to be taken by the top party organs of the two leaders.

According to the sources, the report of the team was developed from the outcome of the last two general elections, starting in 2013, when Mr Mudavadi contested on a  UDF ticket as its presidential candidate and the 2017 General Election when the two parties, plus ODM, competed for the votes in the five counties where the Luhya vote is dominant.

The team delved in the performance of the two parties in the two general elections and developed different scenarios that detail the advantages to be accrued should the dream to merge be achieved. It was this report that was submitted to the two leaders.

According to the plan, the report of the technical committee should have been discussed and adopted during the meetings of the top organs of the party held last week.

After receiving the report, Mr Mudavadi convened a National Executive Committee (NEC)  meeting in Kisumu, while Mr Wetang’ula and his NEC and Parliamentary Group headed to Elmentaita Hotel, Nakuru, where the decision was to be made on the report.

Mr Mudavadi’s Kisumu meeting was snubbed by all the elected leaders of the party, except one MP, Alfred Agoi, while in Nakuru, Mr Khalwale found himself isolated when he tried to force through the agenda on the dissolution of the party.

During the ANC meeting, delegates who attended warned Mr Mudavadi to deal with Mr Wetang’ula cautiously and even though the report was submitted to the meeting, it was not discussed.

Vice chairman Yare Mohammed loudly laughed off the idea of two Luhya leaders merging saying it was like they were working to get not a national leader but the next Luhya king.

“This must be the joke of the century,” a source quotes Mr Mohammed telling the meeting, saying that the merger was a struggle to get the king of the Luhya community.

“How can two leaders from the same community and two parties that draw their support from one community spend so much time talking about merger? What merger is this?” he asked.

Mr Mohammed said it will make sense for ANC to reach out to politicians and political parties from other regions it if serious in its bid to make Mudavadi president in 2022.

“If it was about ANC and Wiper this would have made sense,” he said while rubbishing the report of the technical committee and the idea of the merger between Mudavadi and Wetang’ula.

“Let’s go outside western region. There is Coast, Eastern and even Central and stop wasting time on this merger that is a still-birth. “

But Mr Mudavadi put up a brave face, exuding confidence that the merger with Ford Kenya is important if the party has to move forward. “Reality on the ground requires that political entities must review their health and formations from time to time,” he told the meeting, assuring the gathering that the merger was for the good of the party.

Back in Nakuru, the story was the same, albeit told in different tones. Whereas Dr Khalwale cut a lonely figure as he pushed for the dissolution of the party, he was condemned by members who accused him of using the forum to advance his personal interests.

So stormy was the meeting, according to the source, that, outmanoeuvred and outshouted, Dr Khalwale stormed out when he failed to convince the meeting to adopt the motion on the dissolution of the party.

The source revealed that Dr Khalwale was forced to walk out after meeting put him on the spot over the party’s performance in Kakamega County in the last year’s General Election.

Dr Khalwale lost in his bid to dislodge Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, while the party won one parliamentary seat in Likuyani and three Ward Rep seats, which was seen as his failure to lead the party.

Deputy Minority Whip in the National Assembly Chris Wamalwa is reported to have dismissed the proposal to dissolve the party arguing it was contrary to the ideals espoused by the founders of the party.

“Ford Kenya is one of the oldest parties in Kenya. It is the mother and father of the multi-party democracy. This is the party of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Masinde Muliro and Kijana Wamalwa. It has a great heritage attached to it. It has so much attached to it and the question of dissolution is out,” Mr Wamalwa is reported to have said.

On Saturday, the Kiminini MP did not reject or confirm the claim, but said the decision on whether to dissolve the party could only be done with the approval of the party members.

“Merger is a process which must be subjected to the people because they own the party,” he said, revealing that the proposal to dissolve is just a conceptual paper that will have to be discussed by the party rank and file.

“What is happening between us and ANC is strategic cooperation. There is a possibility we could dissolve the party but only if leaders are given a greenlight by the owners of the party; the people,” he said.

On Saturday, Dr Khalwale maintained the push to merge the two sides was on course.

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