Former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri fought off suggestions his new party has links to Deputy President William Ruto.
This as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s camp warned him to brace for battle royal in Mt Kenya.
Ruto’s rivals claimed the DP was behind the launch of The Service Party (TSP) as his fallback plan should his quest for Jubilee party’s presidential ticket run into a brick wall.
They claim Ruto, who is increasingly losing control of the ruling party to a rival wing allied to President Kenyatta who has purged his deputy’s allies, was already working on an alternative route to vie for the presidency.
But Ruto’s allies dismissed any links to the new party, saying Kiunjuri had been partyless after he dissolved his GNU party to join Jubilee only to be kicked out.
Whether Kiunjuri’s close association to Ruto will make or break the party remains to be seen, but the former CS says the decision to register his own party was an independent one, and those who were accusing him of acting on behalf of someone else were casting aspersions on him.
“This is an independent party and anyone who says I am not acting on my own is denying that I have had my own party before and it competed with TNA. I have always been underrated,” said Kiunjuri, whose GNU party was among a dozen that dissolved to form Jubilee.
But critics point out at coincidences that raise eyebrows. For starters, the party’s yellow colours mirror the branding of Ruto’s defunct United Republican Party (URP) and which was among parties that collapsed to join Jubilee Party.
The party’s initials - TSK - are being spoofed to mean Tuko Sote Pamoja, a slogan associated to Jubilee Asili that Ruto’s camp has identified with as an alternative after being isolated from Jubilee.
Efforts to register Jubilee Asili as a party were blocked by the Registrar of Political Parties on grounds the name did not meet legal requirements.
Yesterday, Amani National Congress (ANC) deputy party leader and Lugari MP Ayub Savula claimed that Kiunjuri was just acting for Ruto.
Savula claimed to have knowledge that Ruto was planning to run for the presidency using the new outfit due to the ongoing wrangles in Jubilee, as well as a plot to block him from flying the party’s flag in the poll.
“I can tell you that the party belongs to Ruto. We have intelligence that Kiunjuri will be his running mate come 2022,” said Savula.
“It is on the same basis that Uhuru fired him because he has all along been championing the political interests of Ruto at the expense of his mandate as a CS.”
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu also believes that the party has been formed to compete with Jubilee and to try and reduce Uhuru’s influence in the region.
“My personal suspicion is that it is a revival of URP, but I am happy to be wrong. It might be a home for the people who have been complaining that they don’t have a home in Jubilee Party. For that reason it is going to have a problem in Mt Kenya because it is not a pro-Uhuru party,” Wambugu argued.
But Jubilee deputy Secretary General and Soy MP Caleb Kositany as well as his Kimilili counterpart Didmus Barasa said Ruto has no hand in the new party.
“We have nothing to do with TSP. You know he (Kiunjuri) has been partyless after he agreed to dissolve Grand National Union.
Barasa said since Kiunjuri has political ambition, it was within his democratic right to form his own vehicle for the purpose of 2022 polls.
He said the new formation will allow him to negotiate with other parties for coalitions or any other political agreement.
“In this country you need your party to join the negotiation table. He is now qualified to negotiate for coalitions,” said the first term MP.
“We have no links with the party apart from the fact that the party leader is our friend,” he added.
Those like Ngunjiri who are against the formation of the party say the former Agriculture CS’ game plan was evident.
“TSP has the right to be an alternative party because we are in a democratic space, but the end game is still the same. He (Kiunjuri) is trying to do what he did with GNU; he is hoping to form a small party that he can collapse into a bigger one,” said Ngunjiri.
This time it will be different, he said. The GNU experiment was a success because no one knew the force that TNA was.
But the long serving Laikipia East MP is exuding confidence in his party, saying that lack of an alternative voice in Mt Kenya region was evident.
“The more we are grouped together in one party and we elect a president from the region, our voice is suppressed because no one wants to be seen as criticising the president.
“If we had a voice within Mt Kenya region that was independent, the government could have performed better in the region. Even if we had five MPs, we could have awoken them to the fact that the region is not content,” Kiunjuri said.
Part of the discourses where the party will offer an alternative voice is in the Building Bridges Inititiave (BBI), which is restarting after stalling due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Without the restraints of party loyalty, Kiunjuri would be open to launch a full campaign against the initiative.
“If BBI is not going to be friendly to Wanjiku, if it is not going to articulate our issues - what we believe in as a party and what Kenyans believe in - then we shall oppose it as a party,” he said.
That even amid belief that TSP will have a slim chance of success in Mt Kenya.
However, during its launch, Kiunjuri gave the assurance that the party was there to say. He said it would not be dissolved into any other party.
“With the experience we had as coalition partners in Jubilee, there is no way we are going to dissolve our party again,” Kiunjuri reiterated. He agrees with Ngunjiri that the politics is different this time.
Jubilee, he said, was a divided house and everyone could see that it had lost the power it had to create a wave like it did in 2017.
“In 2013, TNA came and there was a wave, but the argument that Jubilee used in the last election was to have one big party. But that big party has mistreated its partners so they are very discontented,” Kiunjuri said.
People thought that when the house is big you can live together in harmony, but that has not been the case, he argued.
Political analyst Herman Manyora believes that the party will be strategic to Ruto, particularly should he be averse to the BBI document.
“Instead of coming to oppose BBI in Central, he will have a party from within the region do it, so it will be very strategic. Ruto could also just join that party later,” said Manyora.