Exactly 18 days shy of celebrating its second birthday, the Jubilee Party is teetering on the brink of political precipice as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession takes baby steps.
A demand for automatic presidential ticket for Deputy President William Ruto, a President worried about his legacy, a handshake and divided loyalists, this is the summary of the state of the Jubilee behemoth that once bestrode the country.
Beneath the veneer of the imposing Jubilee House in Nairobi’s Pangani area is the story of push and pull, sucker punches and backbiting pitting two camps allied to the two leaders.
While one group is pushing for the assurance that the political pact entered between President Kenyatta and Ruto will lead to automatic and smooth succession involving the two in 2022, the other group wants politics shelved “until the opportune time.”
In what is threatening to consign another Kenyan political ‘special purpose’ vehicle into the dustbin of history, a full revolt appears to have erupted, only two years since it was forged through a merger of more than 10 allied parties.
Whereas the merger was touted as the start of a new formidable party that would dominate politics for the next two decades at least, things appear to have broken down to a public spat between key allies of the two Jubilee point men.
The party is nevertheless maintaining a facade of tranquility with Secretary General Raphael Tuju and vice chairman David Murathe affirming its vibrancy. “When you hear voices from members, it means the party is alive,” said Tuju.
“Jubilee is growing stronger and stronger under the able leadership of our party leader who is also the President of the republic. Please, do not be cheated.... the ship is steady,” Murathe added.
He said asserting discipline within the party ranks should not be mistaken for divisions. Nairobi Senator Johnstone Sakaja admitted there was panic within the party but only among those opposed to the President’s agenda.
“There are no factions. We are all in support of the Big Four as it is a springboard for the 2022 elections. There are no debts, political or otherwise,” Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei agreed.
But Sakaja concedes that lack of meetings and constant communications from the party might have led to anxiety. He said a planned retreat will iron out the issues.
Rift Valley leaders have, however, vowed to skip any party meeting called by the secretariat. “We’ll only attend a retreat called by Uhuru or Ruto. Anyone else has no authority to call us to a meeting. The secretariat’s role is to organise stationery and refreshments in such meetings,” Cherargei said.
It is an ironic turn for a party that only two years ago was singing same song; 10 years for Uhuru and 10 for Ruto.
But now, the line has been drawn and allies of the President waste no time to announce that their priority is achievement of the Big Four Agenda and nothing else.
On the other end, the Ruto cheerleaders leave no illusion that they have started his 2022 campaigns to fortify his supposed head start.
The current turmoil is a culmination of turf wars pitting politicians and some members of the secretariat as well as powerful individuals who have been pulling the strings from behind the scene.
So bad is the situation, an insider revealed to Sunday Standard, that the party offered little support to Charles Kamuren, its victorious candidate for the recent Baringo South by-election.
Unlike other polls where considerable resources have been spent to marshal support, Kamuren is said to have been left to scrape through to victory.
“Things have been this bad. Were it not for the Deputy President, Kamuren would have found the going tough. The party secretariat was not willing to commit resources to recapture the seat,” said a source at the secretariat.
Call for elections
Calls for party elections by allies of Deputy President have not gone down well after Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria triggered the debate in a subtle push-back against Murathe.
“Time has come for Jubilee Party to open up space for political participation. Party elections are long overdue,” Kuria said in a social media post.
The issue of election has become a hot potato that has seen furious words being exchanged among political operatives and leaders as the President and his deputy watch from the sidelines.
Outspoken Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu told off those agitating for elections, saying the party constitution was clear on how it is run and the procedures to be followed in case of polls.
“The party constitution is very elaborate on how things should run. It states that interim officials should not hold office for more than three years. We are only in the first year,” Ngunjiri said.
But Cherargei says party elections must be held as per the provisions of the Political Parties Act. “As Kenya’s biggest party, we are funded by the taxpayer. For Jubilee to grow, it must be run by strategic people elected by the delegates,” Cherargei says.