Ruto's spree to reap from opposing camps, as Azimio leaders cry foul

President-Elect William Ruto and Deputy President-Elect Rigathi Gachagua when they received the leadership of Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP) at the Karen Office, Nairobi led by former Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi. [DPPS Photo]

Less than a month since the declaration of the presidential election results, President-elect William Ruto has quickly rearranged his political camp in a manner few would have imagined.

Ruto, whose win has been contested at the Supreme Court, has engaged in an overdrive gear wooing MPs and parties from rival camps to his side.

While the moves have been called out by his critics, who variously accuse him of plotting to return Kenya to a single-party state by cannibalising the opposition, Ruto has been undeterred, going about it with single-minded determination.

Former Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi and his Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP) are the latest to abandon Azimio la Umoja, opting instead to cast their lot with the Kenya Kwanza brigade.

Kiraitu’s defection follows a similar move by Mandera Senator-elect Ali Roba who led his United Democratic Movement (UDM) in crossing over into Kenya Kwanza barely a week after Ruto had been declared the winner.

Ruto has also lured 10 of the 12 MPs elected as Independents and other individual MPs who have opted to defy their parties and join Kenya Kwanza. The move provides a mouth-watering prospect before the 13th Parliament is finally inaugurated.

Besides seeking to control Parliament, experts believe that Ruto has been in an overdrive to swell his numbers outside Parliament just in case things in the Supreme Court do not go according to his plan.

The shifting alliances are not just controversial but have been criticised for undermining Kenya’s democratic credentials which have been on a steady rise in the last decade.

“The Deputy President is the moving symbol of impunity,” said Jubilee Party Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni, referring to Ruto’s determination to lure rival MPs.

Kioni, who failed to defend his Ndaragwa seat, insisted that the DP is out to subvert the Constitution and warned the MPs joining Ruto that they risk bearing the harshest burden.

“We are all under the obligation to defend the Constitution and we must be ready to do just that. If politicians who accept to be used by the DP do not know what they are doing, it is them who will carry the cross.”

The law provides that any party that enters into a coalition agreement can only opt out after six months. The Azimio agreement was signed in May, meaning constituent parties shall be free in November.

Amason Kingi-led PAA and Alfred Mutua’s MCC were the first to dump Azimio barely a month after signing the coalition agreement witnessed by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

This was followed by UDM and David Ochieng’s MDG after the poll and then last Friday’s Kiraitu’s DEP.

Yesterday, Ugunja MP-elect Opiyo Wandayi termed the recent defections null as they have no basis in law.

“What you are seeing in Karen are outright illegalities. It’s wishful thinking not grounded in any law,” said Wandayi, adding that all parties that signed the Azimio coalition agreement are stuck in there until the end of November.

Under the law, no party can be a member of two coalitions. And that is the reality all parties that have disengaged from Azimio to join Kenya Kwanza find themselves in.

“We shall only recognise an agreement signed after a constituent member shows it disengaged from another coalition through laid down procedures,” said Anne Nderitu, the Registrar of Political Parties, the custodian of political agreements.

Until now, the agreements signed between Kenya Kwanza and other political parties that have run away from Azimio remain on paper, as they have not been deposited at the registrar’s office as required by law.

As the custodian of these agreements, the Registrar has the power to make a declaration on the legality of the agreements deposited in her office although effecting such declarations remains a challenge owing to the political nature of the agreements.

“We shall wait for the official filing of the agreements to determine whether they were entered into legally,” said Nderitu although she could not explain the sanctions her office can mete out to those in violation.

Enforcing the requirements on coalition agreements has its challenges. But individual MPs who have abandoned the political party that sponsored them to Parliament are in a more precarious situation as they could lose their seats should their party expel them.

All the party needs to expel a rogue member during the term of Parliament and notify the Registrar of Political Parties to effect the expulsion.

“Those who associate with our rivals must know that we shall not hesitate to defend our party,” Kioni said.