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Merger of parties only serves vested interests

By Makau Mutua | May 22nd 2016 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Jubilee Party, which TNA’s Uhuru Kenyatta and URP’s William Ruto are desperate to sell to their respective backyards, is misbegotten. The two Jubilee honchos have offered no compelling rationale – beyond their own personal ambitions – why anyone else with a functioning noggin would join JP.

JP is horribly misbegotten – pure and simple. Even Jubilee before it was defensible on the theory of the tyranny of numbers. Not JP – I can’t see beyond the bridge of my nose make sense of it. But this is what’s so shocking – both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto are convinced they are totally right, and their underlings utterly wrong. That’s why they are determined to ram JP down the throats of their lieutenants.

Kenyan politicians are a lazy bunch, except when it comes to stealing. In Kenya’s history, there has only been four serious political parties with a rational for existence – Kanu, Kadu, KPU, and SDP. The rest – even Mwai Kibaki’s Democratic Party – was a tribal party born out of pique. ODM would qualify for a left of center party except it’s peopled by too many tribal opportunists. PNU, TNA, URP, Jubilee, and even CORD are all anchored in the tribe. None of them has a clear ideological raison d’etre for existence. Their leaders are hungry for power, but to what end no one knows. The Kenyan political party is devoid of idealism. There’s nothing to excite you unless you are a tribal bigot.

Which brings me to JP. To be sure, JP is a crude reincarnation of Jubilee and the ill-fated JAP. But it is shabby, malevolent, and a throw-back to the era of one-party culture. Those who are fronting it sound like Kanu orphans who miss the once-dominant party-state. Except Kanu in its early years was a nationalist party. By the time NARC killed Kanu in 2002, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s party was an empty husk. It has been an uphill task trying to recreate Kanu. That’s because times have changed. Even Tanzania’s CCM and South Africa’s ANC – two of the most storied parties in Africa – may not survive absent radical rethinking and serious conceptual reformulation.

Back to JP. As far as I can tell, there are two clearly stated goals for JP’s formation. The first, which Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto have repeated times without number, is that JP will be a national party because it will swallow up all the ethnic-based outfits like TNA, URP and their marginal parties. There’s only one problem with such reasoning. Creating one big tent and forcing all tribal barons into it doesn’t create a national party. The state of being “national” is a question of consciousness, not amalgamation, or forced cohabitation. That’s why Kanu failed in the project of nation building – it quickly devolved into a cultish ethnically-driven political monopoly soon after independence.

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Mr Kenyatta wants to use JP to bind the Rift Valley and other voters for his re-election. The carrot that Mr Kenyatta has offered Mr Ruto is that JP is his best bet of being reciprocated by Central Kenya voters in 2022. Mr Ruto – even if he thinks otherwise – seems to have bought Mr Kenyatta’s logic line, hook, and the proverbial sinker. Mr Ruto doesn’t have any other options. Even if he bolts Jubilee and lines up behind CORD’s Raila Odinga in 2017, it’s unlikely that the CORD brigade would back him for State House in 2022. So for now, Mr Ruto has decided to cast his lot with the politician he knows rather than the one he doesn’t.

The problem with yoking a party to the ambition of one individual is that one fingernail can’t kill a flea. The teaming masses of political hawks in URP and TNA don’t see why their political fortunes should be sacrificed for the sake of an individual. A JP monolith will kill many URP and TNA political careers. That’s because two rats can’t co-exist in the same hole. The point is that tribal barons want to keep their tribal political outfits to bargain for the spoils of power. That’s why URP and TNA politicos have resisted disbanding themselves and putting their eggs in one unpredictable JP basket. Even within CORD, there’s no hurry to dissolve constituent parties. It’s suicidal for tribal barons.

Finally, TNA and URP politicians – beyond Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto – don’t want to plan past the 2017 elections. They don’t want to be bound for 2022. They regard any attempt to sell their support for 2022 as foolhardy. Their view – which is completely rational – is that no one should be forced to declare who they will support for President in 2022 even before they’ve voted in 2017. I agree – such a diktat has no place in a democracy.


Jubilee CORD uhuru kenyatta
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