Jubilee plot to weaken Raila causes split in TNA and URP

Determined to hold onto power, the governing Jubilee coalition has gone on the offensive in an attempt get a piece of the pie of Cord’s strongholds in Nyanza, Western and Coast.

However, the division of labour between The National Alliance (TNA) and United Republican Party (URP) is bearing a different kind of fruit, one that could form the basis for a split in the alliance that has been dismissed by the Opposition as a union of strange bedfellows. After President Uhuru Kenyatta’s  recent visits to South Nyanza and Deputy President William Ruto’s forays in Western Kenya, the Jubilee strategy of wresting some control from the Opposition strongholds has become clearer to its rivals. The strategy, according to Cord and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leadership, is to “annihilate” Raila Odinga, but the plot does not seem to be bearing the right fruits and as quick as the strategists hoped.

To expedite the strategy of weakening Raila, according to Cord leaders, Jubilee has ended up exposing its own vulnerabilities with TNA and URP now forced to read from different scripts.

Cord Minority Leader in the National Assembly, Jakoyo Midiwo, told The Standard on Saturday that Jubilee’s plot to upbraid Cord by projecting Raila as anti-development is well-rehearsed, but its execution has undermined the governing coalition more than the Opposition. Over the past three months, the clamour for Nyanza to “be in government” hit fever pitch when a section of elected leaders piled pressure on Raila to hand over the mantel of leadership to the younger generation, but the push ran out of steam following resistance from the grassroots.

Raila’s weakness

According to political analyst Larry Gumbe, Jubilee seemed to be making in-roads because a majority of the MPs are hirelings of the governing coalition.

“The Cord MPs are people with dubious backgrounds. Most of them were sponsored by Cord’s rivals and are now finding  the going tough. What Jubilee should have done is get its message to the grassroots instead of dealing with political mercenaries in Nairobi. The strategy was to weaken Raila who represents the leftist leaning in Kenyan politics. When he decided to expand his political base, he teamed with people who stand for nothing. They are now the majority and are ready to cut deals with whoever is in power,” explains Prof Gumbe, a former chairman of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy.

Charm offensive

Jubilee has also been targeting the Coast, but the government’s fight with religious fundamentalism in the region, according Senator Omar, may have widened the gulf between it and the locals further. The Senator is in agreement that the focus on Cord strongholds has left Jubilee exposed in areas that until recently were safe bets for the ruling coalition. Ever since last year’s bungled primaries and this year’s February 28 fiasco during party elections at Kasarani, ODM has been hopping from one crisis to another. Midiwo agrees that the pressure Jubilee is exerting on Cord, especially ODM strongholds, is backfiring into inter-party (within Jubilee) bickering.

“When you are taking a bull to the slaughterhouse, do not show it the knife. Development has been the catch phrase and we are ready to call the bluff. Which Executive uses harambees to spur development. When we voted for devolution, it was to provide a road map. If the Executive supported calls for more funds to be released to the counties, the impact would have been greater,” he adds.

President Kenyatta and his deputy have been on a charm offensive in Cord strongholds, targeting Jubilee-friendly opposition MPs and  governors. As a result, Nyanza has hosted perhaps the highest number of fundraisers — for churches and schools — this year. Recently, the President toured Kibera to launch a clean-up programme in one of the country’s largest informal settlements. The tour in an area that was represented by Raila for more than 20 years is interpreted as a deliberate attempt to mock the Opposition, while enhancing Jubilee’s standing as development-focused. Shortly after, the President hosted Gor Mahia, whose patron is Raila, at State House and gave the team Sh3 million for winning the Kenyan Premier League, in addition to promising the team sponsorship for the next season. But Senator Omar views the gesture as having nothing more than a “nuisance value.”

“People have not changed their affiliations and they are not going to shift. It is window-dressing and a deliberate attempt to create perceptions that the ground is shifting.

Is the ground shifting?

Looking at the country wholesomely, the security issue and the inequitable distribution of resources still portrays Jubilee as poor managers. The land issue at the Coast has alienated Jubilee even further. The strategy to beat up Muslims and pastoralists into submission in the hope that by 2017 these people would have changed allegiances is not working in their favour,” says Omar, terming the approach as scorched earth and counterproductive.

“Division of labour” between the President and his deputy also brings to the fore discomfort TNA and URP face in the regions Jubilee designates — electorally — as ‘hostile’ in their push to cut back the support Opposition parties enjoy.

Since August, Nyanza and Coast have been in the news after Cord read the riot act to its MPs who had publicly announced their willingness “to work with” Jubilee after the coalition stripped Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro of his Minority Chief Whip position. The coalition has also de-whipped Lunga Lunga MP Khatib Mwashetani, Kwale County Woman Representative Zainab Chidzuga and Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama.

In addition, the party has been grappling with the loyalty of Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, whom it accuses of warming up to Jubilee.

Related Topics

Jubilee ODM URP