For the third time in ten days, Deputy President William Ruto camped at the Jubilee Party offices yesterday, hosting MPs and sending a clear signal that he is shifting his political activities to the headquarters.
On the day President Uhuru Kenyatta was delivering a keynote speech at the 6th BPI France Inno Generation 2020 business forum at Accor Arena in France, Ruto hosted MPs for three hours between 11 am and 2 pm.
With the main offices locked, the DP turned the boardroom on the fourth floor into his private workroom until his departure at 4.30 pm.
Coincidentally, at the Serena Hotel, a group of 47 Jubilee MPs and senators allied to President Kenyatta held a second lunch meeting in two weeks to plot how to tame the DP and cement the President's legacy.
"We are happy that we met our deputy party leader. He has gone back to address other party matters. This is our party and we will be frequent members here as we reinvigorate the party," Meru Senator Mithika Linturi told journalist outside the party offices.
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Ruto's visits are seen as part of a wider plan to regain control over a party that has slipped from his grip in the last few months.
Call for party elections
He was at the headquarters on Tuesday and Wednesday last week in a failed bid to unveil a Jubilee aspirant for the Msambweni by-elections.
Some of the MPs who accompanied the DP called for party elections that were scheduled for earlier this year before being postponed.
"The party belongs to its members who are in every corner of the country. With the elections, we will have bona fide officials to run the aspiration of the party. We will do this during the party elections," said Kandara MP Alice Wahome.
MPs present included Ben Washiali (Mumias East), Kangogo Bowen (Marakwet East), Mululu Injendi (Malava) and Hillary Kosgei (Kipkelion West). They were accompanied by Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika and her nominated counterpart Millicent Omanga.
Jubilee Vice Chair David Murathe, however, dismissed Ruto's activities and said he was misdirecting his energies. A fierce critic of the DP, Murathe claimed that his Jubilee activities were a waste of time 'because the horse had long bolted'.
"The DP should be interrogating matters of State in the absence of his boss. He is the principal assistant to the President and now that he is away on official duty in France, the DP should be in charge as has been the case in the past instead of holding clandestine meetings,” Murathe said.
He accused the DP of abdicating his responsibilities by skipping State functions to dish out goodies to youth, women and persons with disabilities.
Murathe said the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) will 'put the DP in his place and restore Kenya on its rightful path'. "That is why we are proposing in the BBI that when the president goes, the deputy goes after serving the same terms. This guy (Ruto) from 2013 to 2017 ran half of the government; he had the powerful ministries."
He listed the dockets of Infrastructure, National Treasury, Agriculture and Energy.
"What hasn’t he done in eight years that he will do when elected president? He was actually left as acting president when the President travelled in his first term. It is unheard of,” Murathe said.
At Serena, Uhuru's allies agreed to push for the completion of projects. They said this would help improve Jubilee's image and ratings to the advantage of the President.
"We are in agreement that we need to deliver on the promises we made to our people to meet their expectations. That will be one way of consolidating President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy,” said Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu.
Although Mr Ngunjiri said they did not discuss Ruto, another source who declined to be named said the DP featured prominently in the meeting with the leaders concerned that he was dividing the central Kenya voting bloc, against Uhuru's wishes.
The MP said Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata was vocal on the need to contain this wave, citing past cases where similar efforts were made to contain the growing popularity of politicians who threatened to split the region.
"He recalled the threat brought by the Ngilu wave in the region in 1997, the risks of dividing the bloc posed by having two candidates from the region in Uhuru and Kibaki in 2002, and also Musalia Mudavadi in 2012, which could have placed Uhuru’s candidature in 2013 in jeopardy,” the source said.
Reached for comment, Kang’ata said his address was centred on Uhuru’s development achievements for the region.
"It is a fact that Uhuru is the best president for our region. His development record outshines previous presidents' combined efforts in terms of infrastructure and water projects," the Murang'a Senator said.
The meeting allegedly resolved that Kieleweke MPs would stop engaging the DP in public spats, which he was latching on to boost his popularity.
"We only had two issues that were canvassed as we had lunch; the importance of unity and working together as a region, and to make sure projects initiated are completed,” Kieni MP Kanini Kega told The Standard.
During their first meeting at Thika Greens a week ago, succession politics surrounding the 2022 General Election took centre stage.
Wambugu yesterday confirmed that the Serena meeting saw them follow-up on tasks they had given each other in Thika.
He disclosed that members had resolved to be meeting once every two weeks to take stock of emerging issues. "We are unanimous in pushing for the development agenda of the region and to ensure that President Uhuru’s legacy is consolidated."
He said they had also resolved to ignore the DP. "His latest actions show he is desperately seeking attention because things are not working in his favour."
A senior party official also revealed plans to replace Soy MP Caleb Kositany as the deputy secretary-general.
"Once the party leader convenes a meeting, the National Management Committee will endorse his removal and the same will happen at the National Executive Council. Kositany should enjoy while it lasts because the fanfare will soon be over,” he said.