The latest leadership changes in the Jubilee Party have exposed Deputy President William Ruto as one living in denial of his frosty relations with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Jubilee has proposed to replace Fatuma Shukri, Pamela Mutua and Veronica Maina, who have since taken up government jobs, in the National Management Committee (NMC).
It has nominated Lucy Nyawira Macharia, Marete Marangu, Walter Nyambati, Jane Nampaso and James Waweru to take their place.
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The details were contained in a gazette notice from the Registrar of Political Parties, Anne Nderitu, dated April 6.
Dr Ruto, alongside dozens of his parliamentary allies, has written to Ms Nderitu opposing the changes and arguing that they had not been sanctioned by party organs.
The DP, who is the deputy party leader, has insisted that his boss is not privy to the new appointments.
But the president’s allies have openly declared that Mr Kenyatta sanctioned the changes, and so far, the party leader has not contradicted this position.
The latest indication that the Jubilee house is crumbling adds to mounting incidents that demonstrate the strained relationship between the president and his deputy.
Uhuru’s deal with ODM party leader Raila Odinga, the Building Bridges Initiative, the war on corruption that Ruto has protested is a witch hunt, and the president’s discomfort with his deputy’s premature presidential campaign are among the issues that have driven a wedge between the two Jubilee leaders.
While Ruto has denied that the president was involved in the new Jubilee leadership lineup, Vice Chair David Murathe and Secretary General Raphael Tuju have insisted that the party leader endorsed the changes in line with the party’s constitution.
It was the closest confirmation that the drama in Jubilee is not the handiwork of a few individuals and that the cast is being directed from elsewhere.
In his defence of Uhuru, the DP portrayed the picture of a man burying his head in the sand as his house burns.
“The President and party leader of JP did not and cannot be party to any fraudulent and illegal changes to officials of our party. This is the work of political rejects, conmen and fraudsters (whose) party allegiance is already elsewhere,” the DP wrote in a tweet in the wake of the changes.
Yesterday, in separate interviews with The Standard, Mr Murathe and Mr Tuju insisted that they were right and the DP was wrong.
Murathe said the president was aware of the changes, while Tuju said he is in regular communication with Uhuru and that the changes were done in line with the party constitution.
“The president, who is the party leader, is aware. The secretary general is not a mad man to write a letter to the Registrar of Political Parties without reference to the boss,” said Murathe.
He added: “Uhuru has a voice in all that is happening. What the DP is panicking about is not the leadership of the party, but his 2022 (presidential) ambition.
“The president does not need the National Executive Committee to make changes to the party leadership anywhere, including in Parliament where he is targeting next. So what the DP is trying to do is to stop the president.”
Tuju, on the other hand, said as Jubilee’s secretary general, he keeps the president updated and that the changes were made based on the party’s constitution.
“I have access to the instruments of communication of the party. We do communicate with the party leader but I cannot discuss the mode of our communication,” said Tuju.
“The changes that were made were done in line with the party constitution’s transitional clause. None of the party officials can operate outside the constitution.”
The president is yet to come out openly to comment on the matter or reprimand the Jubilee Party officials despite the DP’s reservations.
Cases of the DP denying a souring relationship with his boss abound.
He has been conspicuously missing from the president’s press briefings on the coronavirus pandemic, arguably the greatest emergency in recent history.
The DP was not at the National Security Council meeting that made critical decisions at the onset of the pandemic.
He later appeared at a press conference in his Karen official residence days later, saying he was part of the decisions made by the government on the health crisis.
Mid last year, there were reports that the president had avoided the DP at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on his return from a trip to Zambia.
The DP denied the reports in a tweet, terming them propaganda against the ruling party.
“Jubilee is built on rock-solid philosophy and beliefs that no amount of scheming and propaganda can undermine,” he tweeted.
Yesterday, Soy MP Caleb Kositany rejected perceptions that Ruto is living in denial.
“If there were any issues, the president would speak. He would be the last person to do crooked things in a ruling party,” said Mr Kositany, an ally of the DP.
“Of course there are issues, but the issue is not the president but the people who want to destroy the party. I’m sure the president will come out to speak at the right time.”
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said the DP was fighting a losing battle, also reiterating that the changes to the NMC were in accordance with the party’s constitution.
[Additional reporting by Wainaina Ndung’u]