The fierce competition stoked by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession appears to have taken a tall on major parties. The parties’ leaders have been left fighting to quell rebellions that threaten their presidential bids in the next elections.
A year into Uhuru’s final term, a strong political wave of rebellion and defiance has rocked the country’s main formations, but the party leaders have dismissed the onslaughts as being spearheaded by money-hungry politicians.
Some of the factors that have influenced the internal power struggles include youthful leaders seeking to wrestle power from the old guard, second term governors angling for national political stage once they retire from county offices, leaders courting new alliances to make up for lost support bases and settling of old political scores.
The President himself has had to angrily rebuke defiance prompted by the succession politics within the Jubilee Party, which have pitted factions against each other, especially on Deputy President William Ruto’s candidature.
ODM Party leader Raila Odinga is battling to retain the support of the Coast region after some of his MPs switched allegiance to back Dr Ruto’s presidential bid and a key ally in Western Kenya said he could not back the former Prime Minister for his fifth bid for high office.
ODM MPs Aisha Jumwa (Malindi) and Suleiman Dori have openly campaigned for Ruto, citing the handshake between Uhuru and Raila that they argue blurred Government and Opposition competition.
Raila is also facing an acid test after his deputy and the newly-elected Council of Governors Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya - who also nurses presidential ambitions as he serves his second term - said it was time he backed a presidential candidate from Western Kenya. Raila has not indicated whether he will give the contest another stab.
Meanwhile, Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka is staring at a possible political coup staged by the three Ukambani governors in a bid to control the region’s politics ahead of the next General Election. Two of the governors are seeking to get into the national politics after serving their second and final terms in the counties.
Kalonzo yesterday downplayed the magnitude of the political realignment being shaped by Governors Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) and Alfred Mutua (Machakos) — second term governors eyeing the presidency — and Kitui’s Charity Ngilu, his perennial political rival.
“There are no wrangles in Wiper and Ukambani,” said Kalonzo. “I don’t want to comment on what they have been saying because I know the people will deal with them at the right time.”
Mutua yesterday sustained the onslaught on Kalonzo, saying: “We cant run away from the succession issue. The person leading the Kamba community is not known for being pro-development. There needs to be a change of guard, as it does not make sense for him to remain a kingpin for poor people.”
In Amani National Congress (ANC), Musalia Mudavadi is fighting to contain his handful MPs following a fallout with the Secretary General and nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi, and pronouncement by MPs Titus Khamala (Lurambi) and Justus Murunga (Matungu) that they will back Ruto.
Yesterday, Mudavadi said any member was free to quit if they felt constrained in the outfit, as it would not entertain violation of its rules.
“Every ANC member is free to hold and voice an opinion. Beyond that, any member is free to quit and join another party if they feel constrained. What we cannot allow is indiscriminate violation of the party constitution and Political Parties Act,” said Mudavadi.
He said some of the rebels were money-hungry politicians paid to organise political functions and label them “development projects” in schemes by his opponents.
“What’s causing atrophy in parties is the hunger for easy money. The hustler mentality in our politics is defined by handouts being dangled under guise of securing development. I also suspect many MPs have over-committed themselves and are easy victims and targets of this buy-out politics,” claimed the NASA founder.
But Mr Osotsi countered Mudavadi saying the party was facing rebellion because it had been hijacked by people who valued individual interests.
“For instance, there was no election when I was replaced as the party’s secretary general. Some few people sat in a bar and decided to pick a new official without engaging party members. This kind of decision, not backed by the party Constitution, makes members to rebel,” said Osotsi.
ODM national chairman John Mbadi also dismissed some of the politicians staging rebellion in their parties as “victims of financial inducement.”
“Let us not make “tumbo politics” be a national discourse because we know these are people with no ideologies but are after money,” said Mr Mbadi.
In Ford-Kenya, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula is leading a waning outfit after his deputy and former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale declared he would back Ruto for the top seat.
This implies that should the party fail to kick him out he will campaign against his boss, who has also indicated plans to contest for the seat.
But Dr Khalwale yesterday remained bullish about his decision to back Ruto, stating that Mr Wetang’ula stood no chance of winning the presidency.
“The threshold put by the Constitution for one to be a president is so high that it’s interesting when a party leader makes irresponsible statements that he will go it alone. I pray that my party Ford-Kenya will agree with me on my decision to support the DP. I am a deputy party leader, not a deputy party follower,” a defiant Khalwale said.The party Secretary General Eseli Simiyu (Tongaren) accused Jubilee of sponsoring discord in various parties in its bid to form a political behemoth like the Chinese Communist.
Mr Eseli claimed the wrangles in the Jubilee Party were being stage-managed to hoodwink the country that the problem was widespread in all political parties.
“They want to create a one-party state. So what you see is Jubilee fermenting dissident by using development as a blackmail tool. The reported wrangles in Jubilee are pure smokescreen to hoodwink the country when in real sense they want to kill all political parties,” Eseli alleged.
Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju said the perceived wrangles in the ruling coalition was a confirmation of freedom of expression in the party.
“As far as Jubilee is concerned, we are fine and our members are just expressing their views,” Mr Tuju said.
He assured those who had been agitating for party elections that they were putting systems in place to conduct a credible process. “People just talk about party elections, but they should know that if they are not done well anybody can challenge the outcome,” he said.
Recently, former Jubilee interim Vice Chairman David Murathe declared that he would block Ruto from succeeding Uhuru. Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri has also said the DP will not be the party’s automatic candidate. But Ruto’s lieutenants have not been silent either, with some interpreting Uhuru’s anti-corruption drive as an assault on the DP, his allies and bastions of power and resources.
Kalonzo’s lieutenants MPs Daniel Maanzo (Makueni), Ben Momanyi (Borabu), Gideon Mulyungi (Mwingi Central) and former Kathiani MP Wavinya Ndeti have dismissed the three governors — who on Sunday announced formation of a movement to deal with poverty in the region that has traditionally backed Kalonzo — as political novices.
“All of them rode on Kalonzo’s popularity to be elected, but the citizens of the three counties are not entirely with them. It seems they are now intimidating the MCAs to dance to their tunes. We shall deal with them,” said Mr Maanzo.
Kenya African National Union (Kanu), although not facing internal feuds, is not spared. Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat admitted that the party had several vacancies to be filled in its hierarchy, especially the National Executive Council, the Women’s and the Youth leagues.
Mr Salat said for the party to reclaim its glory and increase its members, they must have grassroots polls and strengthen the party in readiness for the 2022 contest. “We are not facing any issues of indiscipline or rebellion, but we have our challenges, which we must address in readiness for the 2022 polls,” said Salat.
He added: “We must prepare ourselves better than before. To do that, we need to find a way of oiling our system. We need a well-oiled machinery to compete favourably in 2022.”