Uhuru gets nod from Jubilee to serve as party boss after polls

President Uhuru Kenyatta during a previous graduation ceremony of the uniformed forces. [PSCU, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta plans to keep an active political life after retirement and is refining the vehicle that will carry his aspirations post his presidency.

The president yesterday met Jubilee elected leaders at State House, and elaborated his intention to secure the legacy he has built over his tenure.

At the heart of his plan is revamping Jubilee, a behemoth that catapulted him to State House five years ago but has become a shell since his fallout with Deputy President William Ruto.

After the meeting, Uhuru received an endorsement to serve as Jubilee’s party leader beyond the August 9 General Election. Uhuru, who spelt his vision to make Jubilee stronger, was also mandated to lead negotiations with what insiders termed “like-minded parties”, with which Jubilee will form coalitions, indicative of the active role he will play in this year’s election.

This will be a departure from the norm, where former presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki retreated from the limelight when their tenures came to a close. The ruling party will not field a presidential candidate, but Uhuru appears to prefer ODM leader Raila Odinga’s candidature, a position that has earned him rebuke from Ruto and his allies.

Already, Jubilee has shed its past by abandoning its old logo of clasped hands in greetings and replaced it with one of a red dove encircled by white in a background of red.

The party has also shed off the black hands against a background of yellow which had been borrowed from Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP).

Significant effort has gone into rebranding Jubilee, even as the party seeks to recruit new members. Jubilee plans to hold a National Delegates Convention – the first ever – on February 25 and 26.

Strengthen party

That will follow a meeting of the National Management Committee slated for next week. Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju yesterday said the meeting would deliberate the president’s resolve to strengthen the party.

“Many have been saying Jubilee has been quiet. Jubilee has been working and we will tell Kenyans that we have been working,” the president is reported to have told the meeting, which was also attended by party officials.

Jubilee’s NDC could signal Uhuru re-immersing himself into active politics and is expected to campaign for Raila’s presidential bid.

“The Jubilee Party will seek to get into a coalition with like-minded parties and to support a presidential candidate with whom we share common ideals, who will treat us with respect, and with whom we can form the next government as an ‘Anchor Partner’, to continue with the work done during the last 10 years,” said Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu.

Jubilee Coalition Joint Parliamentary Group Secretary Adan Keynan termed the State House Meeting “fruitful and result-oriented” ahead of the August 9 polls.

“We will rebrand, reorganise and rejuvenate the party, targeting majority seats for governors, in Parliament and a major stake in the national government after the polls. The upcoming NDC will kickstart our journey to coalition formation with strategic like-minded partners,” he said.

“The essence of branding is to capture a new image and aspirations of the party,” said Tuju.

The president’s assignment could see him play a role in clipping Ruto’s forays in Mt Kenya where TNA was the dominant party in 2013.

“Jubilee will be the party to beat in Mt Kenya. We will also have the most elected representatives,” Kieni MP Kanini Kega said.

The absence of a clear-cut successor from the region has granted the president to step in and is regarded as such by Mt Kenya remnants of his party.

But the emergence of new parties in Central Kenya could threaten Jubilee’s intentions. This could replicate in other regions where Jubilee won elective positions, such as the Northern region, which has the UPYA party, and Western, with the emergence of the Democratic Action Party-Kenya.

Wambugu said the party would form regional and special interest caucuses that would ensure the interests of regions are represented.

Ruto’s cut-off from Jubilee will also be formalised at the NDC when Jubilee names a new deputy party leader, as part of a cleanup of officials who have defected from the party.

“The law mandates anyone seeking election through a party to join the said party by March 26, meaning that they must resign. We will replace them and rebuild Jubilee,” said Kega.

Ruto’s replacement as deputy party leader would have no impact on his position as deputy president.

“Anyone can move to court to seek interpretation, but we will not waste time on people who left,” he said.

But Kega said that Ruto did not feature in yesterday’s agenda, an assertion backed by Tuju.

“There is no point of pursuing people who have already left. There is no value in that because everyone has already moved on,” Tuju said.