President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election bid has kicked off in earnest after he assembled a team to merge affiliate parties under the Jubilee coalition into the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP), the political vehicle on which he and Deputy William Ruto will contest the 2017 election.
He has given the team until the end of December to dissolve the affiliate parties, opening up two months of heightened political activity in the ruling coalition.
The move is a clear indication that Uhuru and Ruto will not wait until the eleventh hour to cobble up a re-election outfit like their predecessor Mwai Kibaki did when he hurriedly set up PNU only three months to the 2007 elections.
Under the merger, close to ten political parties under the ruling coalition are expected to close shop and join JAP
Uhuru appears to have moved towards consolidating his base in earnest, in what is seen as an early re-election bid strategy, despite some leaders in the affiliate parties resisting the move.
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Two weeks ago Uhuru met with the leadership of some affiliate parties and appointed Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi, a seasoned politician with experience in political party operations, and former minister Noah Wekesa as co-chairmen to spearhead the merger.
Political party leaders who attended the meeting at State House included Kiraitu of Alliance Party of Kenya (APK), Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa (New Ford Kenya), Mumias East MP Benjamin Jomo Washiali (United Democratic Forum) and former assistant minister Mwangi Kiunjuri, who is the Grand National Unity (GNU) party leader.
Deputy President Ruto was also present at the strategy meeting.
During the forum a 15-member special committee was formed, whose members include Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki and his National Assembly counterpart Aden Duale and their deputies, Kericho Senator Charles Keter and Taveta MP Naomi Shaaban.
The team appears to have hit the ground running, convening with the broader leadership of affiliate parties last Friday to discuss the merger framework.
Party officials who attended the ‘confidential’ meeting included those from TNA, URP, GNU, APK, NFK, Ford People and UDF.
“These are the parties that have so far agreed to dissolve their outfits and join JAP. We are still in talks with many others because we have a deadline to beat. Kiraitu and Wekesa have been given the mandate to spearhead the process, but under close supervision from both the President and his Deputy,” revealed a source.
He declined to be named since the meeting had resolved not to disclose the proceedings to the media until Uhuru and Ruto were briefed in a meeting planned for Tuesday.
He said they were also discussing the implications of certain individuals within the said affiliate parties who have publicly opposed the merger plans, notably, Governors Isaac Ruto (Bomet) who has opposed the dissolving of URP and Council of Governors Chairman Peter Munya (Meru), who has challenged Kiraitu’s move to close APK.
“The merger is not compulsory. They have options to join us after their term in office or go to any other political party or even contest as independent candidates. This is what the law says,” he said.
After Friday’s meeting, Kiraitu was economical with words on the merger, insisting that they were discussing the myriad issues facing the country, including the Kabartojo prayer rally for Ruto over the ICC case scheduled for today.
He however said there were informal talks on the merger, saying his APK outfit had agreed on folding up to join JAP.
Last week, Kiraitu, Kindiki and Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti had led the political leadership of Mt Kenya East, bringing together the counties of Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Meru, in a major declaration dubbed the “Nkubu Declaration” where they agreed on collapsing all political parties in the region and join JAP.