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Unrest in major parties as Uhuru Kenyatta succession nears

POLITICS
By Jacob Ng’etich | May 26th 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta (C) his deputy William Ruto (L) and Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga during the launch of Building Bridges Initiative report at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on November 27, 2019. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

As the race to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta gathers pace, tectonic movements have caused unrest in the major political parties. The President leaves office in about 13 months.

The President’s ruling Jubilee Party (JP), Deputy President William Ruto’s allied United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and Raila Odinga’s ODM are all suffering internal strife.

The President retires next August and this has triggered upheavals in the parties. Coupled with the gubernatorial seats up for grabs, allies of Uhuru, Ruto and Raila are going jugular on each other for control of the political outfits.

The JP is still smarting from loss of three by-elections in Juja (Kiambu) and Bonchari (Kisii) constituencies and Rurii ward in Nyandarua County, insiders are now blaming each other and calling for re-look of party strategies.

In JP, MPs allied to Jubilee are now threatening to take control of the party and return it to the people. “After the loss in the by-elections we have been meeting as MPs of the party to take stock, because we are stakeholders of the party. We are now going to take control of the party and reach out to the people. Moving forward we are going to see a stronger presence of MPs in the running of the party,” said Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri  Wambugu. 

Notably, some MPs allied to Uhuru’s Jubilee wing are said to be concerned. “We are waiting to see how things go. Those in support of the Uhuru’s Jubilee wing are studying political developments keenly. Some decisions from our top party officials are sometimes hurting us as leaders,” said an MP from Kiambu. 

After conceding defeat in Juja, where she campaigning for the JP candidate, Kiambu Women Representative Gathoni Wamuchomba said she would now take leave to reflect on the way forward. In Juja, JP candidate Susan Njeri lost to People’s Empowerment Party’s (PEP) George Koimburi.

Some MPs have targeted National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya, Kiambu Governor James Nyoro and Nyandarua’s Francis Kimemia for the lackluster performance in the mini polls.

As soon as the results were out, the MPs allied to Uhuru called on Kimunya to make good his threat to relinquish the Majority Leader’s seat.

In Rurii, UDA candidate Francis Githaiga won the seat against Jubilee’s Peter Thinji in a contest where Kimunya had vowed to resign if they lost. In a video that went viral, Kimunya said: “I am the Jubilee Majority Leader, this is our home and outsiders should not decide for us. Let us win this Rurii Ward by-election by 99 per cent so those outsiders (UDA) trying to come here can be taught a lesson. Nyandarua is our home. If we lose in Rurii, I should just resign?”

At Ruto’s doorsteps, in UDA, is a battle for the soul of the revamped political outfit that the DP plans to use for his first stab at the presidency.

The jostling in Ruto allied party is two-pronged, including those at the national level, interested to be his running mate in 2022 and at a lower level the infighting for gubernatorial seats across the counties.

Call truce

The scramble in UDA is so intense that Ruto had a meeting with his allies at the weekend to avert a situation where the party and a sister outfit by Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria would have battled in Kiambaa Constituency by-election. “We had a meeting and called a truce. The interests are so high. There are those who want to be running-mates, some want to be governors and each wants attention over the other. It is just a case of raw ambitions synonymous with politicians,” said an MP close to DP.

He added: “There is no bad blood, it’s just politics and everyone is trying to put their best foot forward.” 

“Met with Raymond Kuria with his team from Kiambaa Constituency who have graciously agreed to vacate their political ambitions in the forthcoming by-election to support and work with John Njuguna Wanjiku, the Hustler Nation candidate, for the sake of unity and prosperity,” Ruto tweeted.

Ruto allies, former CS Mwangi Kiunjuri, Kuria, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua are some of the names that pop up as possible running mates alongside that of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and former minister Martha Karua. The woes in UDA mirrors those in ODM, where groupings are battling. In one set is a group led by veteran politician and Siaya Senator James Orengo while the other is allied to party chair John Mbadi and National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed.

While Raila has been enjoying his sabbatical, the two factions came out shoving at each other after disagreeing on the passage of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill in Parliament.

Though there is a lull, insiders say the senator is still leading a group of lawyer MPs from Nyanza, who oppose the ‘faulty’ BBI Bill.

But at the heart of the fights in ODM is partly local politics as top politicians including Orengo, Mbadi, Wandayi, Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga eye gubernatorial seats.

Also aiding the nudge is a forward looking succession of the party leader who at the age of 76, has in the recent past, slowed his political activities after recuperating from Covid-19 infection.

In one group is Orengo, though silent is some MPs including Otiende Amollo (Rarieda), Suba South MP Millie Odhiambo and Ruaraka’s TJ Kajwang’, who were keen have amendments, arguing that Parliament cannot play a ‘flower girl’ role in the constitutional review. 

Those opposed to Orengo including Mbadi, Junet Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi and Raila spokesperson Dennis Onyango have questioned the senator’s allegiance to Raila.

Last month Raila’s spokesperson dived into the quagmire and labelled Orengo’s wing as ‘demagogues’ in a Facebook post. “The demagogues have had their years, indeed decades, discussing politics in flawless English and legal jargon on the floor and public rallies. It is time for a different path,” posted Mr Onyango.

Onyango said the former presidents had served Kenya without their flawless English and that President Uhuru Kenyatta had never shared his ideologies or university faculty, or university years, yet he was approaching his tenth year in power.

“There is a pattern to all this. Enough with English, faculty and demagoguery,” Onyango said.

Onyango’s statement carried the weight of many other MPs who shared in his opinion. On Monday, Orengo accused his critics of riding on the party successes without knowing how they came about. “When the party is in turmoil everyone looks for me asking for my whereabouts, but during other days they undermine my capability,” said Orengo.

“I remember after 2017 General Election during the swearing in of Raila at Uhuru Park only a handful of us were at the forefront. I can only recall our ‘chief justice’ that day Ruaraka MP TJ Kajwang. When we want people who are strong and can fight for the party they are nowhere to be seen,” he said.

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