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Jubilee’s woes are a tale of how the mighty fall

By Andrew Kipkemboi | October 5th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

What is killing Jubilee? Watching recent happenings in the ruling Jubilee Party has been akin to watching a slow motion car crash. It reminded me of Jim Collins seminal book, How the Mighty Fall.

The former Stanford University professor was writing about corporates and organisations’ decline and inevitable death. Jubilee’s path to what many fear is its imminent death is following the five stages that Prof Collins lists:

Hubris born of success

No sooner had the Justice Willy Mutunga-led Supreme Court affirmed Uhuru Kenyatta’s election as president in the March 2013 polls than the refrain “accept and move on” found its way into the common parlance. The circumstance of the win could have prompted this puffed-up-with-pride response.

Uhuru and Ruto had been indicted by the ICC. In the end, that election became a referendum on the ICC. So a win didn’t just look deserved, it offered the Jubilee followers a chance to thumb their noses at their opponents and the supposed foreign forces out to alter the political equation. 

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Undisciplined pursuit of more

After its first term win in 2013, Jubilee set out to acquire more parties perhaps as a way of neutering competition and tilting the odds to its side.

It seemingly wasn’t going to rest on its laurels. Inviting Tip Tip, Mbus, PNU, UDM, DP and a host of 11 others into the table sounded like a stroke of genius, but it would soon prove the architects wrong as internal strife became pronounced.

Denial of risk and peril

The Uhuru/Raila handshake, though well-intended, has caused unwanted consequences because even though members were quick to applaud the move, they were wary of it; there was denial of risk and peril.

The decision to be taken in the next few days will either leave the party grasping for salvation or catapult it to irrelevance and death - the fourth and fifth stages. It could still redeem itself and survive.

In truth, the feuding is an unnecessary distraction less than two years to what may go down as the country’s watershed election. It takes away the much-needed focus, saps the energy and the concentration needed to rally supporters considering Jubilee’s not-so-glamorous record.

No doubt, Jubilee has made a huge mess of some of the things that matter, including opening up the economy to make movement up the social ladder easy and predictable; creating real jobs; reforms in education and healthcare, promoting clean politics and fighting corruption. An association with the incumbent would have naturally worked against William Ruto.

Ordinarily, any serious party would move heaven and earth to ensure an unbroken – even if bad, record. Jubilee is working hard to trip itself.

And so Jubilee risks going into the next polls a disorganised, whipped underdog. The election-fighting machine of 2013 and 2017 has been reduced to a pitiful, shameful, quarrelsome, whimpering outfit. Jubilee has refused to learn from history. Rather, it lives in it. These shenanigans (and those happening at Jubilee) are possible because what holds our parties together is not ideology or credo. Most or all of our political parties have been built on the shifting sands of political expedience. Backstabbing, gossip and coup plots are the order of the day.

In fact, parties are survival kits, vessels boarded to cross crocodile-infested rivers. Once across, they are discarded. Worse still, the voters are gullible and thus will be accomplices in that charade. And that is our democracy’s loss.

In true democracies, parties are formed to win elections and transform societies. But then, here, it is what it is - the buck stops with President Kenyatta.

The souring relationship of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his then Finance Minister – and supposed heir apparent - Gordon Brown offers sobering lessons to President Kenyatta and his deputy. “In the darker days when I was under fairly much routine attack by Gordon’s people,” he writes in his biography A Journey, “my close supporters would sometimes complain that his supporters were disloyal. I would always respond that they were perfectly entitled to challenge me, to put forward an alternative and say I should go.”

He goes on: “What they shouldn’t do is undermine me… there is nothing disloyal in being open and mounting a challenge… if the criticism is right, the challenge comes out of loyalty to the bigger cause: The party itself and its purpose… what is unacceptable is to chip away, to refuse the open challenge, to corrode… that is disloyal because it weakens the party; it doesn’t change it or redirect it.”

Mr Kipkemboi is an Associate Editor at The Standard. @AndrewKipkemboi

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