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Cracks widen in Jubilee as Ruto makes inroads into the coalition

President William Ruto with DP Rigathi Gachagua at State House, Nairobi, after a meeting with Jubilee MPs led by Sabina Chege and Kanini Kega on January 23, 2023. [PCS, Standard]

President William Ruto's meeting with some Jubilee Party leaders has exposed the growing rift in the former ruling party.

As one faction of the former President Uhuru Kenyatta-led Jubilee made their way to State House, Nairobi, on Monday, another group led by Jubilee Party secretary general Jeremiah Kioni joined Azimio leader Raila Odinga for a rally at the Kamukunji grounds.

The divergent views and actions of the Jubilee legislators are now telltale signs of an imminent crumbling of the once monolithic party of former President Kenyatta and his then-deputy Ruto.

The impending resignation of Kenyatta as the Jubilee leader and chair of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya council in February has also thrown a spanner in the works.

Historically, once a party leader exits or vacates his position the outfit crumbles.

The infighting within Jubilee is now akin to that in the former President Mwai Kibaki-led Party of National Unity (PNU) which was in power between 2007 and 2013 but disintegrated and is now a pale shadow of its former self.

Led by Nominated Senator Sabina Chege and East African Legislative Assembly Speaker Kanini Kega, 13 Jubilee MPs on Monday morning held talks with President Ruto and vowed to work with Kenya Kwanza government and not take part in the “confrontational style of politics.”

Legislators at the State House meeting were David Kiaraho (Ol Kalou), Irene Njoki (Bahati), Zachary Kwenya (Kinangop), Shadrack Mwiti (South Imenti), Mark Mwenje (Embakasi West), Amos Mwago (Starehe), Daniel Karitho (Igembe Central), Stanley Muthama (Lamu West) and Joseph Githuku (Lamu).

Ruto said he wants to unite all the leaders to push the country forward.

"We must build a bigger and better team that will work together to effectively prosecute the agenda of the people of Kenya. We cannot move our country forward by leaving others behind," he said in a statement.

The MPs' meeting with the Head of State is now being viewed as a declaration of their intent to sever ties with the Jubilee party.

Uhuru is set to resign as Jubilee leader in line with the law.

According to the Presidential Retirements Benefits Act of 2003, a retired president should not hold political office if he wants to draw retirement benefits.

“A retired president will not get a pension if he has held office in, or actively engaged in the activities of any political party contrary to the provisions of section 6(1),” the Act reads in part.

Section 6(1) of the Act  states that “a retired President shall not hold office in any political party for more than six months after ceasing to hold office as President.”

But Kioni’s presence at the Kamukunji rally sought to assure Kenyans that the Jubilee party’s place within the larger Azimio party was still intact and portrayed those who had sought audience with the president to be betrayers.

An MP who was part of the delegation to State House confirmed that there was indeed a split within Jubilee fueled by the top brass which was “out to implement its personal agenda” devoid of consultations.

The lawmaker who sought anonymity said that they did not attend the Kamukunji rally since they were not invited and opted for the meeting with the president for the sake of development in Mt Kenya region.

The MPs had earlier met with Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua who has been championing the unity of Mt Kenya leaders.

“We sought to work with Ruto to ensure there is development in the Mt Kenya region despite our political affiliation. We also agreed that those seeking to join Kenya Kwanza would do so within the law,” said the source.

But Kioni maintained that Jubilee would not work with the Ruto administration.

“I am here as the SG to assure you that Jubilee will not work with Kenya Kwanza. As Jubilee, we will be attending all the Azimio rallies because we know that we were denied victory in the 2022 elections,” he said. "We will also not allow President Ruto to reconstitute the IEBC by himself."

In the recent past, the Jubilee secretary general has said that there were no plans for Uhuru to exit Jubilee or Azimio.

He termed the reports as propaganda saying that official communication would only emanate from the party or the former President through his own channels.

“We have not had a debate with the former president about him leaving the party. When that decision is made, it will be communicated to the public through the channels we choose,” said Kioni during an interview on K24.

"What we see in the media is more speculation than anything that has come from him. I want to respectfully leave it to him to inform the public when it is necessary to do so.”

Efforts to reach Jubilee vice chair David Murathe for comment were futile.

Former Nyeri East MP Ngunjiri Wambugu has revealed that there is discord within Jubilee and as Mt Kenya leaders, they were discussing the way forward. He also claimed that there was infighting in Azimio.

"Jubilee is not given its fair share whenever Azimio is reaping benefits. This, as evidenced during the formation of House committees where we Jubilee was left out,” said Mr Ngunjiri.

He also faulted the Azimio brigade for their planned rallies saying they were retrogressive.

"Instead of dialogue, we know Raila is using rallies and other means to be called to work with the government but that is why the Kenya Kwanza administration is reluctant to listen to him," he said.