As the 2017 General Election draws nearer, confusion and wrangling within President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election vehicle, the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP), continues to intensify.
Already, a lobby group, #JAP Reloaded, has kicked off campaigns targeting registration of 7 million voters in Mt Kenya region.
Their counterparts in The National Alliance (TNA) party are also accusing the grassroots JAP leadership of holding posts unlawfully. JAP was created through the union of Uhuru’s TNA, Deputy President William Ruto’s United Republican Party and other affiliated parties.
Last weekend, #JAP Reloaded held campaigns in Nyeri Town and its environs, where chairman and popular Kikuyu musician Kamande wa Kioi and the lobby’s director, Wambugu Nyamu, accused the party headquarters of frustrating grassroots leaders. “Our intention is to ensure seven million voters are registered in Mt Kenya region. We are also aiming at getting members by acclamation, before we get JAP membership cards,” said Nyamu.
The interim officials have been pointing fingers at the national office over delayed release of party registration cards.
Nyamu was categorical that the President should probe the offices along King’ara Road in Nairobi and take action against the officials.
“They pledged that registration of members would kick off this week, but we have not received any communication. The Nyeri office received 837 registration cards and requested 5,000 more, which are yet to be provided. The national office is in deep slumber and it is the high time President Kenyatta took action. Otherwise, we will be caught off guard during the next elections,” he said.
In addition, interim officials have questioned the national office’s decision to recruit county party coordinators, terming the recruitment political. Nyamu and #JAP Reloaded national coordinator Ephantus Githae have said the decision to recruit coordinators is meant to widen the wedge between interim officials and friendly parties that are yet to dissolve. But JAP interim vice chairman David Murathe dismissed the claims. “Anybody is free to popularise the party although leadership structures are not yet in place,” Murathe said in a text message.
TNA officials led by chairman Thuo Mathenge and coordinator Phillip Githua have been vocal in opposing JAP officials, whom they say are self-imposed.
On Wednesday, Mathenge led TNA and URP officials in forming a JAP interim committee. Mathenge declared that TNA and URP would work to create unity, a decision which was seen to sideline other like-minded parties, among them Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua’s Grand National Union (GNU).
Mathenge announced he was elected JAP chairman in the county, while local URP chairperson Hellen Wambui was tapped for the vice chairperson slot.
The move by the two parties was seen as orchestrated to lock out interim JAP members and Gachagua, who is seen as a political giant.
Immediately after his arrival from the United Kingdom where he had been admitted to hospital, Gachagua announced that he would dissolve GNU in 2017 and contest for governorship on a JAP ticket, a declaration that was not received well by TNA officials. “I will heed President Kenyatta’s call to dissolve all parties, ... I am telling my opponents that we will meet at the JAP ballot,” said Gachagua.
Afterwards, Githua said Gachagua was riding on JAP’s entry in the political arena to revive his fame, adding that the governor should first resign from GNU for him to be accommodated in the party formed in January.
At the same time, queries have been raised over the region’s elected leaders’ failure to involve themselves in JAP affairs.
None of the MPs from Central, apart from Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, have been active in the party. Fears of losing their seats if they appear to have abandoned their mother parties still abound.
Kieni MP Kanini Kega has said JAP does not have any leadership structures in the grassroots, and accused those claiming to be popularising the party of being busy bodies eyeing funding from the headquarters.
“They are just busy bodies positioning themselves because they know JAP is the way to go in 2017,” Kega said.
He said MPs and other elected leaders will take over interim positions once leadership structures are laid out. Some leaders who lost in the 2013 General Election are also said to have flocked to the new political outfit to reposition themselves ahead of 2017, which is likely to put off the incumbents.
But Githae has insisted that JAP is not a briefcase party where some leaders are seen as kingmakers, saying the leadership is not grooming any leaders.