Renewed political activity in former ruling party Kanu has upped stakes in the 2022 succession matrix, with all indications that the party is keen to solidify its support base ahead of the elections.
Tomorrow, Kanu will launch its online mass recruitment drive, just two weeks after it put in place a management team to shake up dormant branches and boost its influence across the country.
The team has also been mandated to receive defectors into the party.
And in the Rift Valley, a region previously considered a bastion of Deputy President William Ruto, the party is slowly shoring support for Chairman Gideon Moi.
Kanu and Isaac Ruto’s Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) have deployed their troops to the South Rift counties to rally the region behind President Uhuru Kenyatta and to try and tame the influence of the DP ahead of the next general election.
Lieutenants of the two politicians have hit the ground running to solidify the regions, with results already being manifested in Kericho and Nakuru counties where former allies of the deputy president have jumped ship.
In Nakuru County, Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria (Jubilee) and his Nakuru Town West counterpart Samuel Arama (Jubilee) have denounced the DP and pledged to support the president.
Similar activities have been witnessed in other places such as Kiambu where last week, the party began mass recruitment of members.
These activities point to an emboldened Jogoo party just three months after it formalised its cooperation agreements with the ruling Jubilee Party.
In parliament, the party is fighting for political space, asking its Jubilee coalition partner for a share of committee leadership positions.
Party Secretary-General Nick Salat told The Standard that going forward, the party will operate on a different level.
“You will see a lot of changes in the way Kanu operates from now to 2022. We now have a stake in government and we are ready to help Mr Kenyatta deliver in his legacy,” Mr Salat said.
The Standard has also learned that the party has brought together a group of influential politicians, businessmen, and other friends to support its 2022 bid.
Some of these people who have been brought on board played a prominent role in giving former President Moi a hero’s send-off early this year.
And in places such as Nairobi and Kiambu, the party is already branding its offices, an indication that the party wants to shore up its grassroots support.
“We are prepared. And we are going to each and every county. In Nairobi and Kiambu, we are already rebranding our offices. We expect the chairman to come and open the offices. The chairman will move around all counties and open all 47 branch offices,” said George Wainaina, who sits in the party’s advisory council as Secretary for Public Policy, Economic Affairs and Devolution.
The council comprises among others Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli, who serves as Secretary for Labour and Industrial Relations.
It has also established a women congress chaired by Elizabeth Kimkung and a youth congress.
The party’s changing fortunes in the Rift Valley appear to have given it momentum as Senator Moi and DP Ruto have for long had a protracted battle to control the Rift Valley vote.
The turn of events in the past two months shows that the former ruling party is fast emerging as the key beneficiary of the fight between President Kenyatta and his deputy.
Arama and Gikaria told The Standard yesterday that they made a decision to “complete the journey with President Kenyatta,” saying it was no longer prudent to continue supporting Ruto’s 2022 bid.
“The entire country is behind President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga and our constituents want us to join them in uniting Kenya. Why should we think otherwise,” posed Arama.
Gikaria says he has severed links with the DP and that his willingness to support Kenyatta’s development agenda was informed by the need to have a united country.
“None has manipulated or coerced me to change my political stand. My support for Uhuru is by choice and not forced as some people are claiming,” he said.
A number of elected leaders who have been backing Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid are quietly shifting their political allegiance.
Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, a close ally of President Kenyatta, says the decision by the leaders to support the president will speed up his reform agenda.
“People in the Rift Valley are ready to join the rest of the country in building a united Kenya. They do not want to be left behind in forming the next government after President Kenyatta retires,” he says, adding that Kanu will be ‘a cog in a bigger machine” that drives the country’s development agenda… Our campaign starts here in Rift Valley,” he said.
For long, Gideon has been the target of political suitors, including Raila, who has shown willingness to work with Kanu.
The senator, who took over the political baton following the death of his father in February, has employed every trick in the book to survive the Jubilee onslaught in the Rift Valley spearheaded by his political nemesis Ruto.
The changes at the Senate leadership that saw Ruto’s ally Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen replaced by his West Pokot counterpart Samuel Poghisio as majority leader has emboldened Kanu in the region.
The strong ties between Moi and Kenyatta families, which date back to the 1960s, has also played to the senator’s advantage, with the president appearing to be tactically bringing him into his succession plans.
In Kericho County, a section of the Kipsigis and Talai clan elders backed the political party’s cooperation with Kenyatta’s Jubilee.
The group of elders formerly aligned to the deputy president seem to have changed tune and are now backing the president.
Although they never referred to the deputy president throughout their statement that backed Kenyatta’s purge in the ruling party, it was evident that they were ready to chart a different political path away from the DP.
Christopher Koyoki, a Talai clan member from Nandi County, insists that they were firmly behind Kenyatta’s efforts to clean up Jubilee Party.
“The only way the president can manage to push through and fulfill the Jubilee manifesto is to sweep the house of all the elements against his vision,” he said.
Asked whether they still back Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid, Koyoki said it was hypocritical for a section of politicians to cry wolf now yet the president had previously issued them with a warning shot.
“The president has been asking the errant Jubilee leaders to toe the line for a long time. The time to talk has come to an end. It’s time for the president to act,” he said.
The group said it was opposed to Ruto’s attempt to lead a splinter troop to form the Jubilee Asili movement.
“The president proved his powers and political acumen by managing to broker ties with the opposition. Where then does the DP think he is going by forming a splinter Jubilee party? What is his problem?” he said.
Kipsigis Elders Council Secretary Edwin Kimetto says they will rally the region to support the BBI, which they believe will culminate into a referendum.
Salat says the decision made by the elders reflects the general feeling of Rift Valley residents.
For CCM party, its officials from both the North and South Rift regions led by Nakuru County Chair Peter Koros recently met to strategise on how to popularise the party ahead of the coming general election.
“A political party is formed with a view of being part of the government, forming the next government or influencing government policies. Our eyes are set on President Kenyatta's succession,” says Koros.
The meeting, which had the blessings of the party leader and Secretary-General Kiprop Bundotich ‘Buzeki’, set ground for the outfit to now engage other parties in shaping the region’s political direction in 2022.
“This is a tough journey that we have begun working closely with Jubilee and Kanu to have all the Rift Valley votes go to one basket. CCM will play a key role in the next general election,” said Koros.
The cooperation of Kanu and CCM parties is set to pose a major political threat to Ruto, who is eyeing the presidency by rallying Rift supporters behind him.
But Ruto’s allies in the region have downplayed the Kanu-CCM influence in the region.
Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika says although Ruto’s allies in the region have been silent following the purge in the National Assembly and the Senate, the deputy president still has control of the region politically.
“There are no tides turning in the Rift Valley region. Yes, Kanu and CCM may have been emboldened by the happenings in Jubilee Party, but Ruto still has the support of the people and the ground is intact,” she argued.