Former President Mwai Kibaki’s political party is raring to come to the rescue of victims of the anticipated cut-throat battle for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party nomination tickets.
Party of National Unity (PNU) incoming leader and chairman of Council of Governors (CoG) Peter Munya has told The Standard on Sunday that the party would give political refuge to aspirants who will be elbowed out of the race by “the limited chances in Jubilee Party”.
The party, on whose ticket Kibaki romped into victory in the 2007 presidential elections, has refused to lose its identity in a mass merger to form Jubilee Party. It has, however, resolved to support Uhuru’s re-election bid while fielding candidates in all other elective positions. A faction within the party is however adamant that it is folding up to join the new bigger political movement.
In an incisive interview on his political future, the place of PNU in the Jubilee merger and an onslaught against governors in 2017, Munya said PNU will use an existing pre-election agreement with Uhuru’s The National Alliance (TNA) to cash in on the Jubilee fall out.
“We will take advantage of the fall out to offer leaders opportunity to compete at the ballot. Politics is about seizing advantages. Jubilee has rolled back the democratic clock and reduced the Kenya’s political space against our wishes and advice. We are offering that space.”
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“They are killing democracy, we are opening it up. So to those who are disenfranchised, those who will be locked out of Jubilee by its tyranny and to those who want space to express and pursue their rights, we say that as PNU, we are ready and willing to embrace you,” Munya said.
In the interview, Munya said it is clear from the “forceful process of folding up parties”, generic word-for-word notices to merge the parties and provisions of the new party constitution that Jubilee does not intent to undertake meaningful nominations for interested candidates.
“They have created a powerful NEC which will override the National Elections Board decisions where it determines that a candidate does not represent the interests of the party. To put it in plain terms, only renowned party loyalists will get the nomination tickets. The fact of the matter is that with the new JP, we are back to those days when one had to prove he is party-damu to get a ticket,” he said.
In the interview, Munya says everybody he knows in Jubilee “appears dazed, unsure and unaware of what this is all about”. He also says although the party leadership has been threatening all parties under its whim to either fold up or be locked out, the party constitution allows pre and post-election coalitions.
Munya also reiterated his resolve to run against Deputy President William Ruto in the 2022 presidential election. He said his presidential ambition is the main reason his nemesis in Meru County, Senator Kiraitu Murungi, is pounding him politically.
“They do not seem to appreciate that we do not join politics to make anyone comfortable. And so, yes, if the DP is indeed running in 2022, I will most certainly and God-willing, be his competitor. Between now and then, he is free to sell his vision as I sell mine”.
Below is the full interview.
QUESTION: Of all the available parties, why did you settle for PNU?
ANSWER: I looked at all options available to me. As a matter of fact, I was approached by many parties. In my consideration, I thought the legacy of PNU captures the imagination of the dreams I have for this country. It’s a progressive party with a rich legacy. Besides, it’s a party with a national character, acceptable across the country – not a single community – and a party whose contribution in society is still fresh in the minds of Kenyans. I think it’s much more prudent to build onto that rather than purport to reinvent the wheel.
Q: Is the relationship with your APK ‘mbus’ party beyond redemption?
A: Totally! My Senator who is also the party leader and a cabal of a few other leaders are determined to fold it up without consulting or getting the mandate to do so from the people. It’s really sad but that’s how low we have sunk our democratic ideals to a point where it now looks normal to do such things.
Q: You could not have rescued APK from within by fighting against the move to the very end?
A: It was not strategic for me to do so. I did not think it would create a good image of me. I thought it was much wiser to let go and part ways amicably. Ultimately, this move will come to haunt its own promoters and it’s much better to leave it to time.
Q: The perception is that when a ‘big fish’ joins a small party they have bought it. For how much did you buy PNU?
A: I did not buy the party. I was approached by people who thought I could add value to the party. Before my coming, they had been struggling to resist the planned merger into Jubilee. It’s possible that they thought I could add gravitas to that resistance and also inject other values into the party.
Q: And so PNU is not merging? Is that a statement of fact or conjecture?
A: PNU is not merging as far as I know. The National Executive Council (NEC) has already met and rejected merger. There is also a planned National Delegates Convention (NDC) and National Governing Council (NGC) meeting on September 9 to conclusively dispense with that matter. The meeting will also elect new party leadership and also endorse NEC’s resolve to support the candidacy of President Uhuru Kenyatta through his new vehicle Jubilee Party. The entire party leadership is united in its resolve except for one interim official who has been giving contrary views.
Q: You are also running for the party leader position on the same day?
A: Yes I am. So far I haven’t heard of any other person running for the party leader position.
Q: I thought former President Mwai Kibaki is still the party leader. Did he resign?
A: The former President is still the registered party leader to the best of my knowledge. I highly doubt he would be interested in the position any more especially considering that we are trying to give the party a fresh impetus.
Q: You are not violating any law by crossing over into a new party and assuming its leadership when you are still a member of another party?
A: The amendments to the Political Parties Act effected by the Jubilee coalition to safeguard their merger interests protect me. I am not in breach of any law.
Q: So you are taking advantage of what was meant to shield those crossing over into the new party?
A: Absolutely! They were doing it for themselves. They didn’t appear to know that you cannot have a law for yourself. Law is a neutral game. We had actually told them that you cannot merge by force and probably that is why they created this window to protect fundamental rights and freedoms. They were actually running the risk of violating the Constitution.
Q: What’s your view about the new Jubilee Party?
A: I do not know much about it. I am reading more of it in the press than I am hearing firsthand accounts. Everybody in it appears dazed, unsure and unaware of what it is all about. They have been threatening us all through that unless we fold up we will be locked out and yet I saw from their party constitution that they are allowing pre and post-election coalitions. They have finally acknowledged the practical reality of our politics.
Q: Given that the party provides for pre-election coalition, will you be seeking such a partnership with them?
A: We would wish to be part of the coalition because we are supporting their candidate. But other than that, it’s really up to them whether they will accept that. Our position is clear that we will not field a presidential candidate and that we will field candidates in all the other elective positions across the country.
Q: That means you are a competitor to JP. Are you an opportunist waiting to cash in on the expected fallout after or before the nominations?
A: Yes, we will take advantage of the fallout to offer leaders opportunity to compete on the ballot. Politics is about seizing advantages. Jubilee has rolled back the political clock and reduced the democratic space against our wishes and against our advice. We are offering that space. They are killing democracy, we are opening it up. So to those who are disenfranchised, those who will be locked out of Jubilee by its tyranny and to those who want space to express and pursue their rights, as PNU we say here we are.
Q: You have also declared that you will run for the presidency in 2022. Is this the party you hope to use?
A: This (PNU) is it. This is the party of the future.
Q: If you are running for the presidency in 2022, that makes you a direct competitor of Deputy President William Ruto, right?
A: I will be running for presidency in 2022 if God allows. I will be running against everyone who will run, including the DP. This is probably the reason the entire Jubilee brigade led by their hatchet-man in Meru, Senator Kiraitu Murungi, are against me. They do not seem to appreciate that we do not join politics to make anyone comfortable. And so, yes, if the DP is indeed running in 2022, I will most certainly and God-willing, be his competitor. Between now and then, he is free to sell his vision as I sell mine.
Q: Are you forgetting that under the Jubilee game plan there is no political break until 2032?
A: Well, unless we are not going to have elections in between. This country cannot be ruled by decrees. Those making those statements are also not aware that Kenyans do not allow themselves to be taken for granted. Kanu used to say they will rule for 100 years. I do not think people who are saying those things have any clue. They are probably drunk with power or are too comfortable in their present positions. They seem to think that lady-luck will be smiling on them all the way to 2032.
Q: What is the vision of PNU? What will you do differently as a party which you haven’t done in the past and which others haven’t done?
A: The key plank of our manifesto is to enhance devolution as the key to long term stability and development. Our desire is to pursue unity of the state by strengthening and empowering the counties through inclusive approaches and policies. We don’t believe in the old and beaten theory of suppressing diversity. This is the same reason we are opposed to the forced merger of parties. It’s really an old thinking and we have no time for it. All our social, economic and political policies will ride on this vision of diversity and inclusion. The other key plank of PNU is entrenchment of the rule of law. We have seen a big erosion of this even after we made enormous strides as a country post 2010. The truth is that we have seen a forceful resurgence of the old order of yesteryears in the last few years. We have either not innovatively been implementing our reforms or we underestimated the capacity of old interests to stall things. PNU, as a key mover of these reforms, wants to re-look into the reform agenda with a view to recovering it and implementing it to logical conclusion.
Q: How will you do so when the party is also stuck in that sordid past in the minds of Kenyans? It is actually possible that is why it was shoved aside?
A: We are taking all this in our consideration as we rebrand the party. Parties are not static. Times change and challenges also change. For relevance sake you got to rebrand and in order to enable yourself confront contemporary challenges. If you don’t you will die. Failure to live up to the times is what cost independence parties and is what is costing the ANC in South Africa right now. For us, we are rebranding and we are not looking at branding in terms of change of colours or name. We are re-looking our values, our ethos and our manifesto.
Q: The Meru gubernatorial race is already drawing fireworks. Is it all lost in terms of reconciling you and Senator Kiraitu Murungi? Can’t you agree between yourselves?
A: We really do not have to agree. The electorate will decide. We had some agreement within our party during the last election; a gentleman’s agreement where we divided our interests regionally so that I was identified to run for governor and he was identified to run for senator. The voters still had to endorse this arrangement through the ballot. We have since parted ways and he has elected to run against me, which is fine. We will meet on the ballot.
Q: Can you beat Kiraitu on the ballot? He cuts the image of a strong political force, regionally and nationally.
A: I have no doubt that I will beat him. My record speaks for itself. Besides, I represent change and the future. He represents the past. His best days are behind him.
Q: You do not think riding on PNU in a region that is predominantly Jubilee will disadvantage you?
A: In life, what looks like a disadvantage easily turns out into an advantage once flipped. A good political player is the one who turns disadvantages into advantages. I have already flipped this. You will also appreciate that Meru people are very independent people. They do not like sponsored candidates. If anything, you are likely to face serious backlash if you come out as one who is propped by outsiders. They take it that you are being imposed on them.
Q: Don’t you think your position as chairman of Council of Governors has predisposed you to political disadvantage?
A: The CoG position is a powerful position in terms of moving things but it more or less naturally puts one in a coalition path with the national government. It is certainly not for weak people. The pressure is enormous especially from those who do not understand its role. I do not think it will disadvantage me in my political journey. I think the people of Meru appreciate that this is a higher calling to serve the people of Kenya. Initially, this understanding was not strong but we went round and talked to our people. And they are now proud of me.