Nominations nightmare in Jubilee merger giving other parties a lifeline
By Kiprotich Chepkoit
| August 9th 2016
One year to the next general election, and the battle for vote-rich Rift Valley is already shaping up.
Deputy President William Ruto has been forced to deal with a resurgent KANU under Baringo Senator Gideon Moi and leaders opposed to the merger of parties affiliated to Jubilee.
The opposition to the intended dissolution of United Republican Party (URP) has given rise to Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM), which is associated with Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto. Political pundits in the region say the combination of KANU and CCM could be detrimental to the DP’s political grip of the region.
Gideon has been popularising the party in the region, which has sent shock-waves to the DP’s camp. This may explain why the DP has made numerous trips to the region.
So real is the threat that the deputy president has been in Baringo county six times in the last few months with some visits happening on consecutive weekends. In the last one month, he has visited the county three times.
“In all the visits, you realise the DP is targeting KANU and hitting it hard. He knows the ground is shifting and he has to do something as we head to the next general election,” said Walter Chesang, a historian.
The historian says a rejuvenated Kanu is determined to counter the Jubilee wave in Rift Valley and reap from the likely fallout next year, thus the reason the DP has been making forays especially in Baringo, Bomet and Narok counties.
In his last visit to Baringo two weeks ago against the backdrop of protests from residents that he was playing empty politics with the region and taking development to other parts of the country, Ruto promised to visit the region this month with President Uhuru Kenyatta to inspect development projects.
“He realises he needs to shore up support for the President, which residents have no issue with for they have said they will vote in President Uhuru but want to be left to choose their other leaders freely,” Mr Chesang adds.
Philip Chebunet, a political scientist and lecturer at Kabianga University, says the DP has everything to worry about with the Kanu onslaught and the launch of CCM.
“The two political parties could give the DP sleepless nights ahead of his planned 2022 presidential bid,” Dr Chebunet says.
“Governor Ruto has been in the political arena for a long time and is not someone you can ignore when it comes to political competition. The Mashinani party could completely thwart Deputy President Ruto’s influence in the larger Rift Valley region,” he said.
“He won a ward seat and even made the DP sweat during the Kericho senatorial by-election,” he adds.
Chebunet further cautions the deputy president against dissolving URP, saying the move is likely to pave an avenue for Rift Valley voters to either join Kanu or the Mashinani party en masse.
“Dissolving URP will be adding a problem to an already existing one. This will pave way for the Mashinani party to carry the day in 2017 given that people would view JP as an intrusion to the region,” he says.
Author and political analyst Bill Rutto, however, sees the political landscape ahead of the general election as complex.
“The DP is a dominant force at the moment. The entry of JP as one large mega party complicates things because it will not accommodate everyone and there are bound to be those who will jump ship,” Mr Rutto says.
He says for one to be nominated as the party’s flag-bearer, he or she has to catch the eye of the ‘boss’, which will be very difficult.
“Even people who are confident with the arrangement will realise it will not be easy getting nomination and its impact will be felt as we move closer to the elections,” he says.
Governor Ruto says the decision to form Mashinani Party was well informed considering that DP Ruto had refused to listen to other leaders and instead chosen to fight them.
“Everyone knows that I was very instrumental in the support of URP and the eventual formation of the Jubilee coalition, which won the 2013 General Election. But I think the DP has not been able to reciprocate to the general Kalenjin community what he might have promised when he mobilised and marshalled them to support President Uhuru Kenyatta in the advent of elections,” he says.
Ruto adds: “Despite the DP being so vocal in national politics, he seems to have broken ranks with his former true friends, choosing to dine with the elitists at State House. He also seems to be rising vertically rather than horizontally- together with his people; and probably assuming that he’s still the kingpin of the Kalenjin people forever.”
The governor also accuses the DP of fighting elected leaders and plotting to have those who appear not to toe his line voted out in the 2017 General Election.
Kuresoi South MP Zakayo Cheruiyot, who attended the launch of Mashinani party in Siongiroi, Bomet County, faults the deputy president for spearheading the dissolution of URP. Mr Cheruiyot, who was a key architect in URP’s formation, says it is wrong for the deputy president to insist that they (Kalenjin) dissolve URP and join the yet to be launched Jubilee Party.
“I still feel the move is ill-advised. Although political realignments are signs of a maturing democratic political system, forcing people to join another party amounts to stifling the democratic space,” the lawmaker says.
But close allies of the deputy president hold a different view to the alignment in the region.
“The DP is keen to see that all of us from South, Central and North Rift speak in one voice, especially now the next elections are approaching,” said Buret MP Leonard Sang.
He added: “The plan is for all of us to unite behind the DP and Jubilee government. Ruto will take over from President Uhuru Kenyatta, therefore, we will be better off approaching the elections as a united community rather than divided.”
Ainamoi MP Benjamin Langat said even those who were initially opposed to the collapse of URP have now accepted to work with DP Ruto. Langat said: “The coming together of all the Rift Valley leaders is a good sign that as a community we are united behind the DP.”
Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said the communities in Rift Valley have agreed to unite with other communities under one party to eradicate tribalism and negative ethnicity and those “charting a different political path away from the DP are writing their own political obituaries”.
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