NAIROBI: President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are not leaving anything to chance with the Jubilee Party they plan to use to seek re-election in 2017 as it emerges that the structure of the new outfit will borrow a lot from Kanu.
To capture the seriousness the two leaders have attached to the formation of the party, they did not divulge the agenda of the Monday morning State House meeting until after the invited leaders had sat down.
An MP from Mount Kenya, who attended the meeting, told The Standard On Sunday that the failure of Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) to pick momentum jolted President Kenyatta and Ruto into action.
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“The two leaders realised they needed to quickly take charge of the process and that is exactly what they are doing. They do not want to repeat the mistake that followed formation of JAP, which left so many MPs confused and disgruntled,” said the MP.
Uhuru and Ruto also did not want it to appear as if the failure of the Jubilee Alliance delegates meeting for the launch of the merger that had been slated for last Friday meant that the initiative, had collapsed.
It was a rude awakening for the President and his deputy last year when their announcement of the merger of The National Alliance (TNA) and United Republican Party (URP) was greeted with defiance by disgruntled MPs, who claimed they were not consulted.
Former Gatanga MP David Murathe, who was appointed vice-chairman of JAP, was left fighting off the protests, saying members were not entitled to know about the merger until the timing was right.
This time round, however, Uhuru and Ruto are taking charge. Tomorrow, Ruto will hold a speedily arranged meeting of 6,000 delegates in his Sugoi home to reinforce the message and whip all leaders to speak with one voice until the 2017 elections.
The strategy is to get the populous Rift Valley region to wholly support Uhuru in 2017, and with an eye on the party retaining power in 2022 under the Deputy President.
Ruto’s meeting will bring together 6,000 elected and opinion leaders and clerics from across the Rift Valley. Also expected to feature is the winding up of URP party.
“We (MPs) have been invited as have 100 people from all constituencies in North, Central and South Rift regions of the former Rift Valley Province,” said Chesumei MP Elijah Lagat.
During the Monday State House meeting, leaders — who included legislators from the two Houses of Parliament, governors and their deputies — said they were unaware of the agenda of the meeting until they were at State House.
“I was privileged to get to know the agenda a few minutes to the meeting,” said Lagat.
Added Nominated MP Amina Abdalla: “We thought the Head of State had invited us to lobby for the new appointees, only for us to be told that Jubilee Party was the only issue that morning”.
During the meeting that started at 9am and ended at noon, co-chairs of the steering committee, Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi and former Natural Resources Minister Dr Noah Wekesa, took about one hour explaining in detail the party structure, party symbol and colours and the organisation of the new political unit.
According to sources, Uhuru told those in attendance that he was worried that tribal parties would continue to divide the country and a strong Jubilee Party would be the legacy he would want to leave for the country.
“A strong party would be good for the country, please let’s support this initiative. Tanzanian President John Mugufuli won because of the strong CCM party, we want to form a party like South Afrcia’s African National Congress (ANC) and United Kingdom’s Conservative Party, which have remained strong for years,” said Uhuru.
Apart from TNA and URP, other parties that form the Jubilee Alliance are the Alliance Party of Kenya, New Ford Kenya, Ford People and the United Democratic Party.
Ruto, who will deputise President Kenyatta in the new party structure, took the meeting through the journey of political parties in Kenya, and had good memories of Kanu.
“In the 2002 general election, Narc had an overwhelming support and would have easily had a strong party that would have brought people together, but the opportunity was lost. Thereafter, tribal parties resurfaced. We want to change that this time round,” said Ruto.
The Deputy President also dispelled the notion that he will be rendered politically weak in the merger.
“I know what I am doing, we want to ensure that this thing works,” he said. National Assembly Majority Leader Adan Duale explained that they had drafted the Political Parties Amendment Bill to create a transitional clause that would allow members of the other parties to join the Jubilee Party without the risk of losing their seats.
Initially, there had been plans to have all the parties dissolve by December 18 to give room for the merger.
But the biggest challenge to achieving this has been the possible constitutional implications that would face the elected leaders, including the President and his deputy, when the parties they were elected on are wound up.
Having noted the legal lacuna that such a move would portend, Narok North MP Moitalel ole Kenta recently filed a case at the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal to halt the merger process, insisting that the process would give room for the Head of state to be impeached.
According to Duale, the amendment clause to be tabled in February would cure the legal loophole that prompted Kenta’s petition and delayed the merger to next March.
Speaking on the party structure, Duale said Uhuru and Ruto would sit at the apex.
“There will also be the offices of the chairman, secretary general and two deputies, an organising secretary, treasurer as well as county party leader at the grassroots,” said Duale.
He added: “We want to strengthen the new party at the counties, because we want to make the party very strong across the country, and having strong point-people at the devolved units”.
The position of county party leader is modeled along the formerly powerful Kanu chairmen, where the party district chairpersons’ positions were very influential.
In the State House meeting, it was agreed that affiliate parties of the ruling coalition will hold a national convention in March where all parties will dissolve and merge into the Jubilee Party of Kenya.
“By end of March, all affiliate parties will have dissolved to pave way for the merger. We will meet at Kasarani after closing all the kiosks (political parties) and open one big supermarket that has space for all and sundry. Party elections will follow in June,” said Duale.
Dr Wekesa said his team had come up with nine sub-committees to ensure that all arising issues are addressed.
“We have two members from our national steering committee co-chairing the sub-committees, and which have to make reports to us,” said Dr Wekesa.