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Bid to make UDA monolith party as Ruto flexes political muscle

 President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua take a stroll at Sagana State Lodge, Nyeri, on August 8, 2023. [PCS]

From raiding the opposition to signing post-election pacts with political parties and independent lawmakers, President William Ruto has been on the offensive with eyes on the 2027 re-election bid and indications showing he plans to create a political behemoth for his second term.

Talks of merging affiliate parties within the larger Kenya Kwanza Alliance to form one party sufficed shortly after he was declared winner of the contested August 9, 2022, presidential election.

Buoyed by UDA's majority status in Parliament, county assemblies, and the Council of Governors, Ruto and his Deputy Rigathi Gathagua conceptualised a dream of a single national party that would transcend ethnicity and regions.

The President sought to merge all the 18 parties within Kenya Kwanza including Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi's Amani National Congress (ANC), Speaker Moses Wetangula's Ford Kenya, Senate Speaker Amason Kingi's Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) and Attorney General Justin Muturi's Democratic Party.

Others targeted are Mandera Senator Ali Roba's United Democratic Movement (UDM), Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri's The Service Party (TSP), former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo's Tujibebe Wakenya Party, National Agenda Party of Kenya, the Grand Dream Development Party, Chama Cha Mashinani, the Communist Party of Kenya, the Farmers Party, the Devolution Party of Kenya the Economic Freedom Party and the Umoja na Maendeleo Party.

And as a precursor to the merger, UDA has embarked on an extensive grassroots drive to further popularise it.

The President's plans for a one-party government were however dealt a blow by constricted party leaders who urged him to focus on providing solutions to Kenyans' problems.

Dr Ruto would however not relent and proceeded to the next phase of raiding the opposition; he engineered a systematic approach to weaken Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party from within and without Parliament. In Parliament, he wooed disgruntled members while outside he raided Azimio strongholds dangling development projects.

The Head of State raided the opposition by hosting ODM lawmakers at State House; Gideon Ochanda (Bondo), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Mark Nyamita (Uriri), Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Shakeel Shabir (Kisumu East, Independent) Felix Odiwuor alias Jalang'o (Lang'ata), Paul Abuor (Rongo), John Owino (Awendo) and Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda.

The move rattled the opposition as it came right before a scheduled Azimio Parliamentary Group meeting and at a time when opposition leader Raila Odinga had declared he did not recognise Ruto as the President.

 Then-UDA presidential candidate William Ruto during Kenya Kwanza rally at Nyayo Stadium, August 6, 2022. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The President would also raid the former ruling Jubilee Party which was grappling with infighting shortly after a section of leaders went for a meeting at State House.

One faction of the former President Uhuru Kenyatta-led Jubilee made their way to State House, while another joined Azimio leader Raila for a rally at Kamukunji grounds where they castigated the excesses of the Ruto administration.

The Jubilee faction led by Eala MP Kanini Kega would emerge and sought to disrupt status quo by conducting a coup on another group led by Jubilee Party Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni and Vice Chair David Murathe.

What has followed has been numerous cases with each side seeking to be recognised as the bonafide office bearers.

The opposition has accused Ruto of trying to kill political parties and in effect multi-party democracy.

"What he (Ruto) is trying to do is to get the super majority so that he can flip the Constitution without the knowledge of Kenyans... We shall not let anyone play around with constituent parties of Azimio. Leave political parties alone," said Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua during Jubilee NDC in May.

Political pundits now argue that Ruto is seemingly walking in the footsteps of his political mentor and former President Daniel arap Moi who together with first President Jomo Kenyatta, ran Kanu - the monolithic party of Independence.

And having grown up in that political system, they say, the President is keen on replicating the same by consolidating his authority and isolating the opposition.

 President William Ruto. He has reportedly conceptualised a dream of a single national party. [Samson Wire, Standard]

"All of this is to prepare himself for the 2027 elections and ensure he is re-elected. He would be unwise if he didn't. The public should be worried if Ruto wasn't doing all these things because then it would mean he wasn't a serious political player," says governance expert Prof Macharia Munene.

Munene also noted that Ruto's move to 'stifle' multi-party democracy was a political tool employed by his predecessors but one that might not work.

Eldas MP Adan Keynan believes Ruto is not out to kill multi-party democracy and has consequently moved to defend Jubilee lawmaker's decision work with the Kenya Kwanza regime.

He affirmed Jubilee's bid to exit Azimio citing frustrations and being been sidelined. "We were not party to the arrangement that led to the formation of that coalition, it was done by the leaders then. we were duped... Jubilee is the second-largest party in the opposition. We should have gotten either the minority leader, the minority whip, or the deputy minority leader but all those positions were taken by the ODM party," said Keynan during a TV interview yesterday.

Lawyer Bobby Mkangi argues the government and opposition should compete on technical mandates and not engage in rhetoric that "makes it seem like the election is in a week.""What the government does should be in fulfilment of their campaign promises, with the opposition calling them out where they go wrong and state it by giving suggestions. They should excuse us from direct campaigning," said Mkangi.

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