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The Blame Game: Who failed Uhuru Kenyatta?

By Moses Nyamori | May 21st 2021
Police officers ejecting Murang'a senator Irungu Kang'ata, after chaos erupted in Juja By-election at Mang'u High School tallying center on 18 May, 2021. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

A series of legal and political blunders by the ruling Jubilee administration have put President Uhuru Kenyatta’s advisors in a tight spot.

The president has taken a beating lately, with recent loses in by-elections held across the country and a string of setbacks from the courts, a factor that put in sharp focus Attorney General Paul Kihara, the government’s legal advisor.

Others on the spotlight for the legal and political mistakes are chief advisor on political affairs Nancy Gitau, Jubilee Party secretary general Raphael Tuju, vice chair David Murathe and Njee Muturi, the Deputy Chief of Staff Legal, Constitutional and Legislative Affairs.

But this is not all, Kenyatta’s Handshake partner and ODM leader Raila Odinga has also accused the government of using the police in the Bonchari, Juja and Rurii ward by-elections.

Just last week, a five-judge bench declared the push to amend the 2010 Constitution through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) null and void.

The judgement came weeks after the High Court declared the position of Chief Administrative Officers (CAS) that was initiated in 2018, unconstitutional.

The ruling by Judge Antony Mrima also directed fresh vetting of 10 Cabinet Secretaries re-appointed by the president after his re-election.

Attempt to kick out nominated senators Mary Seneta, Falhada Dekow Iman, Naomi Waqo, Victor Prengei and Millicent Omanga who are allied to Deputy President William Ruto, was also declared illegal by the Political Parties Dispute Tribunal. 

Fighting the people

In Parliament, the president has not had an easy ride too, especially on the appointment of Mwende Mwinzi as Kenya’s ambassador to South Korea. MPs had demanded that she first renounces her dual citizenship of Kenya and the US.

It was also not easy during the purge on Ruto allies and the standoff in the Senate on the revenue sharing formula.

The Jubilee defeat in Juja parliamentary and Rurii ward mini-polls added to previous loses in Gaturi ward in Murang’a, London ward in Nakuru and Lake-view ward in Naivasha. These seats were won by parties associated with the DP, UDA and the Peoples’ Empowerment Party (PEP).

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said it was time the president overhauled his team to avert further setbacks.  “One cannot be faulted for thinking some people in the president’s circle are not sabotaging him knowingly or unknowingly,” he said.

“From BBI, to by-elections, it seems the government is fighting the people, it’s partners and itself, a very untidy situation bearing in mind we are a year to the next elections. An overhaul is due. Managing the president is a national duty. Anyone who cannot see this should be given a desk to push paper,” he added.

Yesterday, Tuju said he takes full responsibility for the losses in by-elections, adding that the president was not involved in picking the candidates.

The Jubilee Party secretary general said in politics, you either win or lose and people should be ready to accept the outcome of elections. “When it comes to the by-elections, the president is not involved. It is done at the party headquarters,” said Tuju.

“The candidate is the biggest loser and the party is also a loser because we have lost a seat in Parliament, and to that extent, I take responsibility as the secretary general but I must not be a grumpy loser,”

He added that the loss in Juja could be as a result of a protest by voters over the party’s decision to pick Susan Njeri, the widow of the late MP Francis Waititu.

“There could be a combination of factors leading to our candidate losing, including maybe some people were not satisfied with our choice of candidate or people protested because she was from the family of the late MP.”

The CS without portfolio said in an election you do not field candidates with an attitude that you must win at all costs.

“We have to establish a culture in this country that to lose is okay. When we win it does not raise eyebrows but when we lose, they question why. Anywhere in the world, midterm elections are tough,” Tuju said.

But Cotu boss Francis Atwoli said it was unfair to blame the advisors, saying the problem could be at implementation level. He blamed the loss in recent by-elections to poor planning.

“You can advise and it be followed or not, so you cannot blame the advisors. There are advisors and those who implement them. But it is too early for the opponents of Uhuru to start celebrating. They will be deceiving themselves,” said Atwoli.

He noted that Jubilee made a mistake by tasking Kiambu Governor James Nyoro with spearheading the campaigns without involving the local leaders in Juja.

“For instance, elections are in Juja and you take Nyoro from Kikuyu to be in charge. The planners should involve politicians and not friends. If you look at Bonchari, ODM used local leaders to spearhead the campaigns. You don’t do things haphazardly,” he added.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said people should not just look at instances where the president has failed.

He noted Kenyatta won in the push to amend the Constitution. “He got the signatures he needed, got overwhelming endorsement from MCAs and Parliament and the decision from the High Court is being challenged and he will overcome,” he said.

He added that what happened in Rurii and Juja was as result of mismanaged party nominations and campaigns.

“We made mistakes, and our competitors took advantage. Politics is like a war. It’s made of many engagements. You lose some, you win some. The ultimate winner is the one who wins more, especially the last one. The president is winning more,” he said.

The president is reported to be unhappy with his team, especially after the Juja by-election won by George Koimburi of the little known PEP.

Murang’a Senator Irungu Kangáta claimed that individuals who are honest in their advice to the president have been kicked out. “When I told them the truth, they misadvised him to have me fired instead of listening to my argument,” he said.  

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