President William Ruto Friday laid the foundation for a mega United Democratic Alliance (UDA), with plans to have it last a century, even as he highlighted his achievements.
Top on his agenda is having Kenya Kwanza affiliate parties dissolve. President Ruto said the merger would be voluntary, a departure from the abrasive approach UDA officials have deployed in pushing the objective.
"Some parties will agree and join UDA and we will find a way of cooperating with those who will not. But we cannot be dictators and insist that they must join us like some people have been suggesting," Ruto said during the party's National Governing Council meeting at the Bomas of Kenya, the venue where he was declared president-elect in August last year.
He championed the idea as one that would stem divisions arising from "ethnic parties".
"I am a firm believer in building a national party that brings all Kenyans together in shared ideologies," he said.
The strongest UDA allies, such as Moses Wetang'ula's Ford Kenya and the Amani National Congress of Musalia Mudavadi, have already rejected such dissolution calls. On Thursday, Ford-K also announced long-term rejuvenation plans that essentially shut the door on the proposed merger.
All affiliate parties who are members of the larger Kenya Kwanza family family were not present.
To attract their allies, Ruto said they would build strong party structures, including putting up its headquarters with Sh127 million in its coffers. The amount is part of the Sh345 million earned through the Political Parties Fund and another Sh127 million worth of subscriptions. Ruto said grassroots offices would be built "through harambees".
UDA's national elections on December 9 will set in motion a drive to recruit 15 million members by 2027, up from the current "7.2 million", as UDA Secretary-General Cleophas Malala announced.
"From 54,000 members in 2020, we now have more than seven million members and take pride in being the largest party... We must agree and commit our dedication towards a successful grassroots election," said Malala.
Ruto defended the timing of the party elections, whose December date had been opposed by some members.
"It is better to have them now than close to the election so that if it gets messy, we can deal with the consequences," Ruto stated.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua spoke of plans to have UDA survive 100 years, a dream borne by previous ruling parties Kanu and Jubilee, both of whose fortunes have dwindled over the years.
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"Our party was not formed for the sole purpose of forming the government. It was founded on the bottom-up ideology and it must live for generations to come. The first step is ensuring it is strengthened and that it will be around in the next century," said Gachagua, who is also UDA's deputy party leader.
In an apparent reference to the priority accorded to UDA members ahead of allies from other parties, Gachagua revisited his "shares" remarks.
"In President Ruto's leadership, the people in front of us are the shareholders and they will be the first to benefit," the DP said.
Amid fissures within the party, Ruto warned that no one would earn any favours in the party polls, which will be digital and with real-time relaying of results, as demonstrated in a simulation exercise.
The President also used the event to issue promises as well as enumerate his successes. Among the promises was that he would champion functional and welfare reforms for Members of the County Assembly, such as a pension scheme and financial autonomy for the counties.
"I promised to host you (MCAs) at State House. Allow me one or two weeks to plan that so that we can ensure your issues are addressed," said Ruto, adding that he had instructed the parliamentary leadership to push legislative measures.
Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot said they would be seeking to entrench the proposals in a law to be drafted within a fortnight. "When we have it in place, MCAs should bring in their recommendations," said the Kericho senator.
The Head of State also defended his one-year in office as one that had set the nation on the economic recovery path, announcing a four-pronged job creation plan.
He highlighted his housing plan as one that would spur employment as well as the "digital superhighway" agenda.
"We are spreading the fibre optic network to every ward, where we will have ICT hubs," he said, adding that the steps would avail digital jobs and build the e-commerce market.
Ruto said he had secured commitments from tech multinationals to realise his digital agenda.
The second strand was exporting labour to double the diaspora remittances from the current "Sh500 million to Sh1 trillion". He revealed bilateral agreements with foreign nations such as Canada, Germany and the United Arab Emirates for the export of skilled labour.
Ruto also hailed the Hustler Fund, from which he said Kenyans had borrowed Sh36 billion.
The fund is part of the president's plan to grow micro, small and medium enterprises. He said his plans in the sector had seen seven million Kenyans whitelisted from the credit reference bureau.
Ruto praised his planned implementation of the universal healthcare programme.
"I have no doubt in my mind that this administration will change Kenya for the better and make it the country we want it to be," he said.