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After 2017 polls, Jubilee Party is dying a slow but sure death

By Makau Mutua | March 24th 2019 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

It gives me no pleasure – zilch – to say so, but lately Senator Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen has been bleating like an orphaned goat. That’s what happens when a “gilded age” ends, and reality dawns. By every measure, Mr Murkomen should still be in his political diapers. But thanks to the largesse of Deputy President William Ruto, the poor kid from Elgeyo Marakwet is today a wealthy man with tons of political panache. Once a staunch defender of Jubilee, the middling politician has turned against one of his masters, Jubilee’snumero uno Uhuru Kenyatta. In 2013, I wrote that Jubilee was “nonsense on stilts” that couldn’t take two steps without collapsing in a heap. For Murkomen, that time has come to pass.

It’s not lost on Kenyans that since 2013, Murkomen and his ilk on Mr Ruto’s faction of Jubilee have lived – and talked – as though they were the state, and the state was them. The URP brigade in Jubilee had already banked Mr Kenyatta’s check for 2022. In their minds, Kenyatta had been sold and delivered to Ruto’s corner. Ruto’s plan to State House in 2022 was on what they used to call glide path – an unstoppable and inevitable fact. But I, like other keen observers of Kenya’s shark-infested political waters, was dubious. This certainty was at best naïve and at worst delusional. Even former American President Obama couldn’t guarantee Secretary Hilary Clinton keys to the White House.

In Kenya, like the United States, no one can guarantee you – and deliver – the pinnacle of power. First, it’s undemocratic and assumes a docile and stupid electorate. Secondly, politics is the art of treachery. Third, political interests can and do often change. This is what has happened in Jubilee. Those who are wise, unlike Murkomen, are keeping their own counsel for now. One such “sage” is Majority Leader Aden Duale who seems to have had his mouth sealed shut. Mr Duale, the once loquacious defender of Jubilee and ODM’s Raila Odinga’s bilious foe, knows a dangerous storm when he sees one. The March 9, 2018 handshake between Raila and Kenyatta has excised his vocal cords. He’s gone mute.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist for your noggin to decipher what’s baking. But you do have to be a political scientist to read the tea leaves. Even before the ink dried on the 2017 elections, Ruto’s camp had gone into 2022 campaign high gear. Ruto was everywhere campaigning hard under the guise of “launching development projects.” On Sundays, he was ubiquitous in churches giving away gazillions of cash to the men of cloth. His youth wingers, led by Murkomen and a coterie of vocal Kalenjin politicians, would take off the heads of any naysayer. Then through skullduggery and chicanery, they lassoed many MPs from Mount Kenya. Many Kikuyu-Meru-Embu MPs became Ruto’s lackeys.

An angry Kenyatta looked on unamused. He was being denied a legacy by his lieutenant. That’s when Kamwana went ballistic and dubbed Ruto’s brigade the Tanga Tanga (loitering) group and called a halt to premature 2022 campaigns. He wanted all energies focused on this Big Four Agenda, the pillars of his legacy. But Ruto’s wing in Jubileedefied him. Even the Mount Kenya MPs – who many allege have been compromised by Ruto – gave Kenyatta the lip. The most notorious was Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, himself a creation of Kenyatta. That’s when Kenyatta decided to take matters into his own hands. Kenyatta knew his legacy was dead without a war on corruption.

But the war on corruption has put him at loggerheads with Ruto and his Rift Valley sidekicks. For Kenyatta, the battle has been joined. He can’t turn tail and abandon the war on corruption. That would be tantamount to unilateral surrender – a capitulation that would make him a paper president. He has to go mano-a-mano with Ruto. Take off the gloves. He can’t think about whether Jubilee lives or dies. Only his legacy matters, even if that means putting Jubilee six feet under. That’s exactly what Kamwana appears to have decided. The Kalenjin MPs who threaten Armageddon because of the war on corruption have another thing coming. They can leave Jubilee because it’s already dead.

This is where Raila comes in. He will give Kenyatta the backbone to deal decisively with Ruto. Remember Jubileewasn’t a political party in the real sense of the term. It was a concoction born out of the International Criminal Court. That’s the only thing that brought Kenyatta and Ruto together. They beat the ICC. That’s why Jubilee – after the 2017 elections – is a dead letter. It’s nonsense on stilts.

- Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC.  @makaumutua

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