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Irony of Jubilee break away party fighting from opposition trenches

By Judah Ben-Hur | Jan 23rd 2022 | 4 min read

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Deputy President William Ruto during the 57th Jamhuri Day national celebrations at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi. [DPPS, Standard]

The United Democratic Alliance (UDA) is redefining politics in Kenya and has entrenched itself as the Opposition and adapted some of the tactics ODM has refined in the last 15 years.

Such a scenario had not been envisaged where a breakaway of the ruling party, led by the Deputy President would fight the opposition for partnering with the Jubilee government.

In its metamorphosis, UDA has aggressively adopted the tactics which five years ago were the stock in trade of ODM of haranguing the Government, State officers and security agents for oppressing the masses. All through 2021, UDA has on numerous occasions accused law enforcers of disrupting political meetings organised by their members in different parts of the country.

Although some security agents have complained tongue in cheek that government stock of tear gas was lying idle in police stores, some of the canisters have been spent not in chasing ODM, but UDA MPs and their followers. When the UDA bloggers are not taunting security agents and scandalising government officers in the cyberspace, UDA MPs have been causing ruckus in parliament to frustrate government bills. When that fails they stage mass walkouts and have been absconding State functions including non political events such as national prayers.

The party which was started in 2020 has also perfected the art of writing hard-hitting letters and statements to various authorities, and foreign envoys while at the same time acting like a magnet to prominent people who ran afoul of the Government. UDA's template in its many protest letters now include some highly regarded foreign envoys as well as the International Criminal Court.

However, political analyst Herman Manyora and Director and Associate Research Professor of Development Studies at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Nairobi, Prof Winnie Mitula think it will be wrong to look at UDA as the Opposition party.

Just noisemakers

“An Opposition party keeps the Government in check through exposing underhand dealings such as the Eurobond scandal. It (the Opposition) cannot be reduced to noise-making,” said Mr Manyora.

The analyst sees Deputy President William Ruto’s attack on the Government and the ODM chief as a response to his unofficial, unceremonious expulsion from the Government.

Prof Mitula said: “The Opposition should push a certain agenda, create a national debate and not talk about what they will do once they get to the Government when they are still in government.”

Following last week’s chaos that saw police clash with rowdy youth during Rutos’ rally at Jacaranda grounds in Embakasi East, Nairobi, UDA accused the police of deliberately failing to take action to quell the chaos. However, Police spokesperson Bruno Shioso termed UDA’s accusations as baseless and that all incidents of violence against the party stated in the letter have not been reported to the police.

“The allegations form a sustained and regrettable streak of unfounded, outrageous, and provocative allegations by the leadership of the party,” read the statement by Shiosho.

When asked whether the party has any evidence of ODM’s involvement in the chaos, UDA chairman Muthama retorted, “it was not us who organised the chaos and we know it is ODM.”

On Tuesday, the party directed its frustrations to the President over what they called “State-sponsored violence” against UDA members and demanded that he offers assurance that, “Kenyan lives will be protected under the law and instruments of State and security apparatus will not be deployed in a partisan manner.”

The letter was also copied to the African Union Commission, The delegation of the European Union, the British High Commission and the Chief Prosecutor- International Criminal Court (ICC).

Following the folding of the ICC case against Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta explicitly stated that no other Kenyan would ever be sent to the court.

“I will not allow any other Kenyan to be tried in a foreign court. As a country, we have closed the ICC chapter,” Uhuru vowed in 2016.

However, UDA’s move to petition international bodies is contradiction to Ruto’s stance five years ago when he and Uhuru steered the country as if the presidency was collegial.

Of UDA's missive to Uhuru, Prof Mitula said. “I found the letter out of order, some things need to be dealt with independently by exhausting all our local systems. When something doesn’t suit our politicians, it’s not okay, when it suits them, it’s okay.”

“Invoking the ICC is reckless when Kenyans agreed that no one is to be sent to the courts. For Ruto to write a letter to ICC, it seems he is feeling the heat of politics,” said Manyora.

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna yesterday said: “We are competing with a person who knows he is losing. Ruto is setting the stage to dispute the election result. That is why he is writing to the African Union, ICC and other bodies.”

With or without the Opposition, the Kenya succession race is fast heating up just months before the deadline of party nominations on April 22 and the elections on August 9.

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