William Ruto now pushes fringe parties to join UDA

Deputy President William Ruto at a past rally. [Muriithi Mugo, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto walks a tight rope as he pushes for small political parties to fold up and join United Democratic Alliance (UDA) because that move could work against him as his opponents embrace other outfits.

Ruto’s party is growing bigger, with new allies trooping in by the day.

His support from without UDA, too, is expanding. With that comes the burden of expectations from those in his party and would-be outsiders as both sides jostle for his approval.

In rallies across the country, Ruto has insisted that those who want to support him must join UDA. His apparent plan is to turn the outfit into a behemoth, perhaps similar to what Jubilee was. 

The DP has ruled out forming a coalition with other parties before next year’s General Election, saying that unity could only be achieved under one roof.

“These small parties are vehicles used by their leaders to bargain for positions. Politics of ethnicity benefits only a few leaders with positions and privilege, whoever wants to work with us must fold their outfit and join UDA,” said Ruto said in Kwale County.

“I have established a national political party to bring all Kenyans together regardless of ethnicity or social status.”

But his push has faced resistance from allies keen to have their parties intact for the 2022 General Election.

Ruto warned of a scheme to form small tribal parties by his competitors.

“The attempt to divide the people of Kenya into tribal and regional parties is an attempt to divide the country by people who have no agenda to sell to the people,” he said. 

He claimed that the scheme would be defeated by Kenyans who were interested in policies and programmes that would transform their lives. 

His push for the folding up of small parties has not been received well by the political parties’ leaders some of whom are his allies.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria ruled out folding up his party to join UDA.

“It was my desire; it was my wish that I continue working with William Ruto and I hope that opportunity presents itself at some point but he has clearly said that if you want to work with him you have to join the “only” national party which is UDA,” Kuria said.

“If you ask me, I will still claim the silverware of PEP because it was the party I was leading… I’m not boarding, in terms of folding parties I’m not boarding.”

Ruto’s opponent ODM leader Raila Odinga, through his Azimio la Umoja, plans to unveil a coalition that will open doors for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party and other smaller parties to work together.

Pundits say the DP’s push for fringe parties to join UDA can boomerang on him ahead of the elections. Having marketed UDA across Mt Kenya and Rift Valley, the party on Friday gazetted names of officials.

Apart from UDA and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee, there are about 10 political parties that are active in Mt Kenya alone, and the DP is keen to have them fold up.

TSP party leader Mwangi Kiunjuri. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

They include Martha Karua’s Narc Kenya, The Service Party (TSP) led by former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, Gatundu South MP’s Chama Cha Kazi, former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo’s Tujibebe Party and Murang’a Governor Mwangi Wa Iria’s Usawa Party.

Others are the Party of National Unity (PNU), the Democratic Party that was recently acquired by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and the recently unveiled Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP) led by Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi. 

In Rift Valley, apart from Kanu, there is Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) led by former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto and the recently unveiled Kenya United Party (KUP), fronted by West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo after he ditched Kanu. 

The DP’s insistence on fringe parties joining UDA is also slowly estranging him from his allies like Kiunjuri, Kiraitu and Kuria.

The TSP leader said calls to dissolve parties and embrace a six-piece voting pattern will weaken leaders in Mt Kenya.

Kiunjuri said that Mt Kenya leaders will be firm in their resolve to protect their political vehicles. “It will be dangerous if we all get into one vehicle. Don’t say you were frustrated when you are also trying to frustrate others,” he said. 

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