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The making of 'super UDA' as William Ruto sets sight on 2027

 President William Ruto (center), his deputy Rigathi Gachagua, Prime Cabinet Minister Musalia Mudavadi and other leaders arriving for the Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary group meeting in Naivasha on September 16, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph,Standard]

Kenyans could soon contend with another mega outfit like Jubilee Party as President William Ruto's United Democratic Alliance (UDA) pushes for the formation of a bigger political tent.

On Thursday, President Ruto held a Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group meeting at State House, Nairobi, where attendees say he floated the idea of merging the 14 parties making up the coalition into either UDA or Kenya Kwanza.

And more political activity could be seen from next week as the provision in the Azimio agreement that declares a constituent political party may not withdraw from the coalition within three months after the General Election lapses.

Some of the parties happy that the three-month period is lapsing are Mandera Senator Ali Roba's United Democratic Movement (UDM) which had already challenged its membership of Azimio la Umoja in court.

In November, the pre-election pacts lapse and the parties will be free to join whichever coalition. The days after Ruto's election and waiting for the Supreme Court to settle the matter, was a solidifying period.

Ruto's Kenya Kwanza coalition and his UDA party have formed the government. Some of the parties that have entered into post-election coalitions include Grand Dream Development Party, Chama cha Mashinani, Democratic Party and National Agenda Party.

If Jubilee Party was a big tent, President Ruto is building an even bigger party. Ruto ran for office with the support of a multi-ethnic coalition that brought together at least 13 other political parties besides his own UDA.

And as he has crafted his government, Ruto has rewarded party leaders with positions in his government; positions which require them to relinquish leadership of their political parties.

Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi has been sworn into office as the Prime Cabinet Secretary. But for the position, Mudavadi has had to let go of the party he founded and led for the last eight years.

Lamu Governor Issa Timamy will be the leader in an acting capacity. Earlier this month, Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria's Chama Cha Kazi party issued a 21-day notice to the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) of its intent to dissolve and join UDA.

With Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC) leader Alfred Mutua also appointed to the Cabinet, it is expected that the former Machakos governor will also fold his party to become part of UDA.

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The Constitution restrains any appointed State officer from holding office in a political party. The dissolution could also affect the fate of parties such as Ford Kenya whose leader Moses Wetang'ula was elected Speaker of the National Assembly. Ford Kenya's history dates as far back as 30 years. Also expected to see some changes at the top or the wind up of the party altogether is Pamoja African Alliance whose leader Amason Kingi is now Speaker of the Senate.

Should that happen, like Chama Cha Kazi, members of the party will be deemed UDA members.

Yesterday, the Registrar of Political Parties issued a notice to notify the public that National Agenda Party, Democratic Party, Chama cha Mashinani and Grand Dream Development Party had entered into a post-election coalition deal with Kenya Kwanza. UDM has also signed a pact with Ruto's coalition. With CCK merged with UDA, the focus now turns to other parties in the coalition such as the Communist Party of Kenya, The Service Party, Tujibebe Wakenya Party, the Farmers Party, the Devolution Party, the Economic Freedom Party and Umoja na Maendeleo Party.

Ruto goes back to a position he held during the early days of the race for State House that anyone who wanted to associate with him or his government should be part of his party. President Ruto then actively campaigned for the dissolution of smaller parties into UDA.

UDM Secretary General David Ohito said the party did not have any plan to dissolve into UDA but was focused on the post-election pact it had signed with Kenya Kwanza. Ohito said UDM was an important political instrument for the people of Northern Kenya, its key support base and an area that had been marginalised for a long time.

"We are here for the long haul. We have a five-year plan that we are already implementing and even intend to participate in the upcoming by-elections. The backyard of this party has been without a party of its own and we do not intend to deny them the chance to have one," Ohito said yesterday.

He added that parties that felt it was necessary to dissolve and join UDA were within their right to do so but UDM at the moment felt the best decision would be to remain a coalition partner. Pamoja Africa Alliance chairperson Ibrahim Mutwafy said there was no formal discussion about merging the parties. He said PAA had heard rumours about such intention.

"There has been nothing on the table regarding that. We will cross that bridge when we are there; the party will discuss. We have organs in the party that will discuss the merits and the demerits and make that decision," he said.

Mutwafy said it was premature for the party to think about whether it would merge with UDA or not without a formal proposal.

Political analyst Gilbert Ochieng argued that Ruto needed his coalition to speak with one voice, even as it grows every day with the inclusion of new members so that his administration would run smoothly. "To adequately drive the government agenda, you require parliament to approve budget, motions and other approvals that can be obstacles in delivery of government agenda," Ochieng said.

He added that this was not a new idea and had been seen in other countries with big-tent political parties such as South Africa and China. Jubilee had tried the same antics and had even dispatched a delegation of its leaders to China after the 2017 general election but nothing seem to have come out of these efforts for the party soon became a shell of the giant it intended to be.

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