By Titus Too and Fred Kibor
KENYA: The marriage between Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA) and William Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) is running into headwinds.
The first obstacle to rear its head even before the December 4 deadline for signing party alliance deals was how to manage competition between the TNA and URP in the Rift Valley.
This followed a row between sections of politicians who wanted Rift Valley to be an exclusive URP zone and those who feel the region should be open to all parties especially TNA.
Those fronting for URP had suggested during negotiations with TNA that Mr Kenyatta’s party should not field candidates in Rift Valley.
Politicians planning to vie for seats on TNA are now up in arms, creating a new headache for Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto.
It was proposed that TNA should not present candidates for the various elective seats in URP zones and vice versa.
But just a day after Mr Ruto met elders from the North and South Rift to chart the way forward on the coalition, TNA aspirants in the region said they would not accept any directive to back down for their URP allies.
The aspirants said democracy should be respected in the elections by allowing respective candidates to contest through parties of their choice irrespective of their regions.
“As we enter into this coalition, we want to caution drafters of the final agreement on the issue of regional zoning,” they said in a statement read by Hezekiah Kosgei.
Mr Kosgei who is a TNA parliamentary aspirant for Soy constituency in Uasin Gishu County said detractors of TNA/URP coalition might take advantage of the zoning to portray the merger as tribal.
Freedom to choose
“We are believers of the supremacy of democracy and thus believe that each individual should be given the freedom to choose,” he said.
He added: “All candidates in the Republic should vie on the party ticket of their choice without subjecting them to the age old draconian mind-set of zoning,” he said.
Other aspirants planning to run on TNA ticket who have come out to oppose the proposed zoning are Magdalene Sang, an aspirant for Uasin Gishu governor seat, Reuben Koech, a parliamentary aspirant for Turbo and Daniel Matata, a parliamentary aspirant for Kapsaret constituency.
Others are Mr Cornelius Ketter, Simon Chepsiror, Linus Chemitan and Tanui Barngetuny who have appealed to all parties to listen to the voices of the people.
The aspirants said Uhuru/Ruto team would deliver victory and usher in a new chapter in the leadership of the country but the same should not stifle freedom.
In a statement, the aspirants said: “We know that some are desirous of having some regions left exclusively for either party in the coalition, but honestly, this will be undemocratic and will portray the parties as tribal as opposed to being national.”
They said that as much as the coalition wants to win, it is also prudent it ensures the agreements do not infringe on the basic tenets of individual human rights.
The aspirants also lauded the unconditional withdrawal of a case that was challenging eligibility of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to run in the next General Election.
In Elgeyo/Marakwet County, a section of politicians criticised proposals of regional zoning in the pre-election merger saying it would amount to curtailing their freedom and democracy.
Accomplish its mission
Cooperatives Development assistant Minister Jebii Kilimo who will be defending her Marakwet East Constituency seat on a TNA ticket and Elgeyo/Marakwet senator aspirant Julius Cheptilil have also come out to protest the zoning talk.
She says there should be no zoning of regions if the alliance expects to accomplish its mission of taking power next year.
Kill the coalition
Mr Cheptilil, who is seeking senator seat on a TNA ticket, says Mr Kenyatta should incorporate other Kalenjin leaders in Rift Valley without necessarily engaging the URP party leader solely.
He says TNA and URP parties should market themselves across the country and field candidates for various elective seats adding that zoning would amount to tribalism that may ultimately kill the coalition.
During the elders meeting at the same grounds where Mr Ruto was made Kalenjin elder in 2007, the URP leader sought the Kalenjin community’s blessing for the political direction he had taken.
“We have come here to humbly request you to allow us to form the next Government with our partners in TNA,” said Mr Ruto.
He told the elders to help rope in the community into supporting his pact with Mr Kenyatta saying it was the best out of the other alliances on the table.
Mr Ruto disclosed that they had agreed to share the 22 cabinet slots on a 50-50 basis.
“They will take 11 and we will have 11 as well as other offices. So I strongly believe we have a good deal,” he said.
Mr Ruto also said they decided to come together because they would win in round one to avoid a runoff which he described as slippery.
“We will not be around to participate in the run off if it gets to that because of our cases. But since we have the numbers, we will clinch this in round one,” he said.