Rival factions rock parties as succession politics turn ugly

From left: Ford-Kenya leader Moses Wetang'ula, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka and ANC's Musalia Mudavadi after a rally in Bomet, in 2017. [File, Standard]

Internal feuds are threatening to tear apart political parties as rival factions battle for control ahead of 2022 General Election.

Battle lines have been drawn in Jubilee Party, ODM, ANC, Wiper and Ford-Kenya in what could spoil the political arithmetic of the parties’ leadership.

Recent changes to Jubilee’s National Executive Council (NEC) and National Management Committee, and Deputy President William Ruto’s claims that some powerful individuals within President Uhuru Kenyatta’s circles were planning to rig him out in the polls, have laid bare the battle to control parties.

In ODM, the leaders are split over a renewed push to kick out some top officials from the party’s secretariat after a damning internal task-force report implicated them in alleged involvement in bungling nominations. 

Resolution to quit

Wiper’s resolution to quit the National Super Alliance and sign a coalition agreement with Jubilee has also triggered internal rebellion after some of the members set to lose their leadership positions objected to it.

Last month, Wiper NEC resolved that a special National Delegates Conference be convened soon to ratify the resolution and pave way for the signing of the post-election coalition agreement.

But Senate Minority Whip Mr Mutula Kilonzo Jnr, who is a member of the NEC, denied knowledge of the resolutions, signaling simmering rebellion against the deal by some of the legislators set to lose their positions.

“I will wait to see what they said. No discussions have been held to the best of my knowledge,” Mr Kilonzo Jnr, who is Wiper’s vice-chairman, told Sunday Standard after the July 21 meeting.

Ford-Kenya leader and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula is battling to maintain his grip on the party following an attempted coup plotted by the secretary general Mr Eseli Simiyu and Kanduyi MP Mr Wafula Wamunyinyi.

The Ford-Kenya leadership dispute is now before the High Court after Mr Wetang’ula challenged the coup by Mr Wamunyinyi and Mr Eseli, who installed themselves as party leader and secretary general respectively.

On the other hand, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, whose party secretary general Barrack Muluka resigned a few days ago, is fighting a petition seeking to have elections for officials. The party suffered a blow after Eliud Owalo, who had been picked to replace Mr Muluka, also quit.

The party is under pressure to conduct elections for officials after their five-year term expired. Angela Gathoni, a founder member, wrote to the Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu, accusing Mudavadi of failing to give notice for party elections despite his term in office coming to an end.

ANC deputy party leader Mr Ayub Savula and Mr Moses Oburu, a member of its newly created organ, Amani Council, dismissed the latest developments as inconsequential.

Mr Oburu said every party was in a rush to have a credible team of officials to push its agenda ahead of the next poll.

“What is happening is normal. Every party is basically trying to position itself by putting in place the right brains to provide the much needed political impetus in readiness for the succession battle.

Some leaders yesterday described the tug of war for control of the parties as “normal and expected” ahead of the 2022 succession politics while others blamed the feud on lack of democracy and ideology.

Mr Wetang’ula said wrangles in political outfits were being instigated by individuals keen on having unstable political environment to allow for manipulation during elections.

He said the skewed sharing of political parties funds was part of the larger scheme to ensure the outfits remain weak with no proper structures. It is only Jubilee and ODM that benefit from the billions of shillings from the exchequer due to their popularity.

“Some parties are having problems because of their internal weak systems. Others are having wrangles instigated by outsiders who finance dissent in stable political parties,” said the Ford Kenya leader.

Wetang’ula said it was a mockery and an affront on democracy for medium political parties to be denied funding.

Jubilee Secretary General Mr Raphael Tuju and Jubilee National Advisory Council Secretary Hassan Osman described the upheavals as normal, saying politics is an “aggressive sport”.

“Political parties are about politics and how to be in control. It is an aggressive sport because it is always about how to elbow each other out for positions. It would be strange if politicians sat somewhere and agreed on everything peacefully,” said Mr Tuju.

Mr Osman said the country would witness more wrangles in parties ahead of the elections, as politics is about being in the right camp and not about ideologies.

Jubilee deputy secretary general Mr Caleb Kositany (Soy), however blamed wrangles on dictatorship in parties, claiming some officials want to run the outfits like personal enterprises.

“Some people just don’t want to believe in democracy. They need to prepare because I can tell you 2022 will be a different election. People will be elected irrespective of sponsor party,” said Mr Kositany.

Yesterday, a senior ODM official talked of demands by some members to have the secretariat, headed by Executive Director Mr Oduor Ong’wen, overhauled.

“The reforms will only be complete if the entire secretariat is overhauled. The report implicated them badly. It is in the interest of the party to have them out so that we can restore confidence of our members in the party,” said the official, who is also an MP.

Informed by the push to end bungled party primaries, ODM leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday kicked off a purge targeting key party organs.

Election board disbanded

The party disbanded the National Elections Board and Party National Disciplinary Committee, and constituted them afresh in changes that saw Senator Judith Pareno and Lawyer Fred Athuok replaced.

ODM deputy leader and Kakamega Governor Mr Wycliffe Oparanya are some of the leaders who have publicly called for overhaul of the team.

But party chair Mr John Mbadi and Secretary General Mr Edwin Sifuna yesterday downplayed reports of a push to have Mr Ong’wen and his team out.

“The report highlighted issues to do with the secretariat and financial discipline. We created the secretariat management board, which I chair. We are not targeting individuals in the proposed new establishment,” said Mr Mbadi.

He disclosed that the board had come up with a new organ, which will be presented before the Central Management Committee for adoption.

Mbadi said the National Executive Council would have a say on who gets nomination to represent special interests in the County Assembly and Parliament.