Uhuru's end game in Jubilee wars as critics warn of tarnished legacy


Former President Uhuru Kenyatta who is also the Jubilee Party leader at the National Delegates Convention at Nairobi's Ngong Racecourse on May 22, 2023. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s renewed battle for Jubilee Party’s soul has raised queries on his end game in the event he succeeds in retaining it from friends-turned-foes.

Observers are equally curious about what the former president’s intentions are even as he fights for the party he founded.

The former president, who had remained silent despite the push and chides from Kenya Kwanza allied leaders, has declared that it will not be business as usual and he will protect his party from government overtures.

Some leaders believe even if Uhuru retains control of Jubilee, it will be of no political consequence. There are those who believe retaining the party will strengthen it and give him influence, especially in Mt Kenya region.

Former Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu believes Uhuru is fighting for Jubilee leadership to protect his personal interests even as he seeks to neutralise criticism from government mandarins.

“From Uhuru’s point of view, he said he handed over power peacefully and remained silent despite threats and insults but he had been forced to take a U-turn by the same detractors. This implies that he wants to use the party for self-defence at the expense of its future,” Wambugu said.

The ex-MP was referring to Uhuru’s remarks during the Jubilee National Delegates Conference when he said, “I wanted to resign from politics to focus on other things. I thought the NDC would be my time to down my tools. Those were my previous thoughts before others decided to force things.”

Wambugu believes Uhuru’s move was ill-informed because even if he was to succeed, he would not form or serve in government and could not influence and deliver the policy to the administration.

“He has no idea about the way forward for Jubilee. He needs to retire because he is making us look bad, especially those that fought on his behalf in his tenure as president,” he said.

The former MP said Jubilee was suffering an identity crisis on whom and where to belong and proposed that instead of convening the NDC at Ngong Racecourse, Nairobi, on Monday, a discourse from the grassroots level could have been the priority.

“Instead of spearheading the NDC at a time when we are so much divided, meetings ought to have been conducted in the 47 counties for members to declare what they want for their party, Uhuru failed to rally us together when he had the opportunity and now it’s too late,” he said.

However, former Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi differed with Wambugu saying on the tussle between Uhuru and President William Ruto, the latter could be fanning and sponsoring the former President’s ouster so that Jubilee does not give him a headache in the 2027 General Election.

“Jubilee party had initiated grassroots meetings quietly and this was a major threat to this administration. Remember through Jubilee our candidate Raila Odinga garnered close to a million votes. Given the high cost of living, members of the public have started realizing what Uhuru was cautioning them about,” the former MP said.

Ngugi disclosed that there were efforts to reinvigorate Jubilee to make it a regional party, a move he noted was a serious threat to President Ruto's United Democratic Alliance (UDA) which scooped majority seats in the Mt Kenya region.

According to Prof Gitile Naituli, who teaches management and leadership at the Multimedia University of Kenya, the whirlwinds in Jubilee will only strengthen it, deal a political blow to Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua in Mt Kenya region succession politics and give Uhuru much-needed influence.

“This is if he succeeds in holding the grip of the party because when it is the opposite, he will be left with egg on his face but given that he has the muscles to command authority from delegates compared to his rivals, he will ultimately emerge victorious,” Naituli said.

He explained that the political war was fertiliser to resuscitate the former ruling party which lost to the newly formed UDA in last year’s General Election.

“This will mean Gachagua will be relegated to fight for his political survival in Mt Kenya region as he wrestles with Uhuru at a time when he is supposed to be making friends outside Mt Kenya region for future political ambitions like his boss did when he was the Deputy President,” Naituli observed.

The don noted that Uhuru had no horse in the race and no dog in the fight, unlike Gachagua who needs to deliver votes from Mt Kenya region to President Ruto’s baskets and probably his wish to succeed him after his term expires.

However, former Murang’a ODM senatorial aspirant Pius Kinuthia feels, the ongoing tussle between Uhuru and his political mentees was an embarrassment to the office of the former Head of State while it was giving political mileage to Nominated MP Sabina Chege and Eala MP Kanini Kega.

“It was Uhuru who mentored Kega and Chege into politics and they must be celebrating that they are fighting him since it is earning them political relevance, should they win they will be deemed a hero and heroines and will deliver the party to Ruto,” he said.

Mr Kinuthia believes should Uhuru either lose or win, it will make no difference since they will not be able to expel the rebels from their positions in Parliament and “so it is a losing battle for Uhuru.”

However, an MP who spoke on condition of anonymity disclosed that should they succeed in snatching Jubilee from Uhuru, they could have Gachagua as its party leader in the preparation for the 2032 presidential elections to prevent a repeat of the 2022 scenario where Ruto hurriedly registered a new party after being chased away from the Jubilee.

“Given the political history of our country on the relationship between a president and his deputy, we need to be calculative and that is why we want a party that we can enter into a coalition with Ruto in 2027 with Gachagua as a party leader,” the MP said.

According to the legislator, unseating Uhuru will be the surest way to crown the DP as the regional political leader and ensure he will not be thrown under the bus in 2032 by those who will be close to power then.

However, Esau Kioni, who was a security advisor to President Mwai Kibaki said Uhuru will end up being frustrated and advised him to quit politics.

Kioni said those close to Uhuru are taking advantage of him to resuscitate their political careers.