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Where it all went wrong for the Jubilee juggernaut

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto address Jubilee supporters at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru during his final rally on August 5, 2017. [File, Standard].

Deputy President William Ruto walked into Jubilee House, the glass edifice at Pangani area built at the end of a cemetery, to engage in lofty party discussion but ended up whiling his time at the kitchen with the rank and file of the political outfit.

Days later, he stormed the building with a group of loyalists and declared that he would henceforth pitch camp there in a final act of defiance that has set him up for disciplinary action in a party he once declared a prototype for other political entities.

The following day, party Secretary General Raphael Tuju made it clear that the National Management Committee would have no more of Ruto’s antics. The organ recommended to the National Executive Committee (NEC) that the DP be stripped off his position as deputy party leader.

This happening to the deputy president of the country, signified that the political misfortunes cannot sink any lower for a party that once sent its members to benchmark with the Chinese Communist Party.

Tower of Babel

Projected as a political behemoth that would swallow up disunity, restore political hygiene in party affairs and promote order, Jubilee has morphed into a Tower of Babel where disorder, disunity and disharmony reigns supreme

Two factions are pulling in different directions; one led by the DP, the other by President Uhuru Kenyatta. A train with two heads pulling in opposite directions.

“We took one and half years to create Jubilee. We had hoped that the party would be there for many years to come. We had a vision for a party that would be owned by the people. This, however, did not happen. This is my greatest regret,” says ex-Cabinet minister Noah Wekesa, a former co-chair of the Jubilee Coordinating Committee.

Wekesa has an idea of where Jubilee lost the plot - the initial tinkering with list of interim officials to hold forte on party affairs until national elections were held in three months at the time.

“The list was discarded and a new one created. It was a chaotic meeting at Bomas. It was like a cattle market. This is where the rain started beating us,” Wekesa said of the wrong footing the party started on.

To create a powerful impression, the party rented and branded the six-floor building in Pangani ahead of its September 8, 2016 launch date. The centre would become the hotbed of political triumphs and heartbreaks in the coming months and years.

On that date, 11 political parties that included the Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA) and Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) were sacrificed at the alter of bigger dreams.

Others were the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP), New Ford Kenya, United Democratic Forum (UDF), National Rainbow Coalition, Ford People, the Republican Congress Party (RC), Tip Tip, the United Party of Kenya (UPK), the Grand National Unity (GNU) and the Party of National Unity (PNU).

The razzmatazz of the launch prevailed for a few months until the party primaries were conducted in 2017. Owing to massive irregularities, and despite the immense confidence building up among party membership which was at variance with the capacity of the party, the results were annulled and new nominations held.

But the wind had already been fouled. From a disbelieving former Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua peeping through the gates to Nairobi Woman Representative aspirant Milly Omanga sitting on the concrete in protest and Starehe MP aspirant Charles Njagua weeping and gnashing his teeth at the sight of his rival Maina Kamanda, everything that could wrong had started going wrong.

The outcome, together with that of the General Election, left bitter but powerful losers and winners who would weigh heavily on the party trajectory, including the split.

“I had misgivings about dissolving URP. Uhuru and Ruto convinced me. The party grew and managed to have elected leaders in 44 counties, with 170 MPs. But today, it is a shell. I regret the decision to collapse parties,” former Majority Leader at the National Assembly Aden Duale says.

When the handshake landed, it found a rather tense situation at Jubilee, one that required a small push to go bust. With support of the handshake partners, one faction threw caution to the wind, and took on the other.

Ruto’s faction preoccupation with the 2022 succession, and the constant daring of the president on reciprocating the political favor accorded to him, toppled the table altogether. And the fall out began.

When the Covid-19 checked in, a perfect opportunity presented itself to carry out the purge in the party. In the exercise dubbed by the president’s allies as “fumigation exercise,” the DP’s loyalists were picked one by one, and flung out of Jubilee House, with abandon.

“If the president will not salvage Jubilee, the 2002 scenarios in Kanu will play out. There will be a mass exodus by leaders who will form a new outfit. I urge the president to rescue it. He can leave a legacy of leading the largest united, cohesive party,” Duale, one of the victims, says.

When Sunday Standard visited the offices last week, the once vibrant party headquarters was a shell of itself, with eerie silence coming from some floors, almost making it chilling to walk around.

One-half of the ground floor, space that was once full of offices, is now a restaurant frequented by a few party staff.

Empty offices

The party has retained the first, second, third and fourth floors with empty offices. The fifth and sixth floor of the building that has been emblazoned in Jubilee colours have since been rented to an IT firm.

Notably, there are no offices for top officials apart from the party leader, secretary general and the treasurer. Yet there are those that remain hopeful that the Jubilee dream will weather its current storm.

National Advisory Council Secretary Hassan Osman describes the emergence of warring factions in the ruling outfit as normal in any political formation.

He, however, allayed fears that the wrangles could kill the party they had planned to grow into a political juggernaut like South Africa’s legendary African National Congress (ANC).

“Jubilee is here to stay. Those who think that a few disgruntled members will ruin the party should be a ready for a surprise. In fact, we are telling those with issues in the running of the party to leave,” said Osman, who was part of the delegation to China. “As they leave others will be joining us in preparation for the 2022 polls. We are in a democratic space where you choose what you think is good for you,” he added.

Former leader of The Independent Party (TIP) Kalembe Ndile claimed that DP Ruto’s “thirst for power” ruined the Jubilee party.

“Ruto is the one who spoiled Jubilee. When we folded our parties, we wanted to help Uhuru. When Ruto started introducing 2022 politics, it was at that point that Jubilee started disintegrating. Instead of helping the president, he started looking at the party as his personal vehicle. Even after folding our parties, we were left out of government,” said Ndile, whose party was among those that folded up to form Jubilee.

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