UDA troubles deepen as leaders read from different scripts

From premature succession politics, postponement of party polls, fallout between allies to calls to disband the three deputy party leaders in its constitution, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) is no longer at ease. 

On Tuesday President William Ruto moved to keep his house in order by reading the riot act to a section of youthful leaders who had started coalescing around Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro in a bid to unseat Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua in 2027 as the Kenya Kwanza presidential running mate.

“Let me ask all leaders that we focus our attention on the delivery of the assignment that was given to us by the people of Kenya especially those of UDA and Kenya Kwanza. I want to ask them to step down any contestation for whatever positions present and future so that we can work together to deliver to the people of Kenya,” he said.

The mistrust within UDA leaders has also seen some politicians from Mt Kenya region express regrets over their decision to join the UDA as opposed to joining a regional party and entering into a pre-election pact with the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Nyeri Senator Wahome Wamatinga is convinced that it was a major political miscalculation for the region to join the ruling coalition, saying they were paying the price by lacking a voice to bargain for Mt Kenya region.

"We need to go back to the drawing board and ask ourselves serious questions about our political future. We may not complain about the appointment of our people in government but we must probe the strength of these appointments," Wamatinga said.

Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga is crying foul. In the 2023-2024 budget, Kahiga said, Nyeri county, did not receive a coin for development, despite voting overwhelmingly to the Kenya Kwanza administration. He is now supporting calls for a regional party which they could use to demand their fair share in the coalition.

Another factor accelerating the friction in UDA is the position of the Secretary General which was formerly occupied by Veronicah Maina from Mt Kenya region but was later given to Cleopas Malala after Maina's nomination to the Senate.

Some leaders, such as Githunguri MP Gathoni Wamuchomba felt the position was a negotiated one and ought to have been given to Mt Kenya region.

"Some of the reasons why we feel uncomfortable in this administration include the decision to replace the Secretary General of UDA. At the beginning we were involved in having an SG from our region but in her (Former SG Veronica Maina) replacement we were not involved," she said.

In what could be the deal breaker in the UDA, a section of leaders, especially the allies of the Deputy President have been demanding the amendment of the party constitution to repeal a clause that provides for three deputy party leaders.

Led by Kahiga, the leaders have held that the clause ‘is an insult to the Mt Kenya region which is a major shareholder of the Kenya Kwanza government.’

“We will not tolerate any effort to water down the position of the deputy party leader and we maintain that the party constitution must conform to the Constitution of the Republic of Kenya,” he said.

The governor argued that any leader who is serving in the Kenya Kwanza government has been powered by the votes of Mt Kenya and hence any plans to twist the region would be met with opposition.

“As a teacher I have learnt in psychology that when one is brought up in a violent relationship, he ends up being violent but we hope President William Ruto, who was in a toxic relationship with the former President Uhuru Kenyatta will not end up in such a situation,” Kahiga said in an interview with The Standard on phone.

“The relationship in the Kenya Kwanza government is built on mutual trust between two communities and we hope it will not be destroyed,” he added.

Wamatinga averred that the leaders’ fear that with creation of several centers of power, there will be duplication of roles and scramble for power, a situation they want to arrest before it is too late.

“The government structure must be mirrored in the party leadership structure. Imagine a situation where Gachagua, being the senior most political figure in UDA by virtue of being the Deputy President, has several other officers who are at his status in the party hierarchy," he said.

The Nyeri senator maintained that the push to strength UDA should seek to surpass generations to come and not to settle political scores.

The three deputy party leader positions that have caused divisions include policy and strategy, operations and the third one being that of programs.

UDA secretary general Cleopas Malala said the noises that were being experienced showed that the party was vibrant and strong.

"those noises you hear show party is democratic since we allow political leaders to vent. However, this does not mean that the party is weak. It is strong and stable and we have confidence with the party leadership of Dr Ruto and his deputy."  said Malala

According to Malalala the noises about the provision of three deputy party leaders should not cause jitters as the decision to fill o scrap; the positions would be would be made at a later date. 

 " At the moment we only ave one deputy party leader who is the deputy president. My proposal is to scrap   the provision but this will be decided later," he said.

 As to whether to change Gachagua in 2027, Malala said, “We can’t change what is working."

In defense of the existence of the positions, the UDA Secretary to Legal Affairs and Gatanga MP Edward Muriu downplayed claims that the move could undermine Gachagua by creating several centers of power saying it was aimed at persuading the Kenya Kwanza affiliate parties to fold and join UDA.

“We have been convincing the Amani National Congress (ANC) and Ford Kenya to fold their parties for the 2027 General Election but in consideration that their party leaders may demand what they would get in return, that is why we have the other two unoccupied positions,” Muriu disclosed.

"The two leaders are already in government. Gachagua is above them in the pecking order so there should be no cause for alarm," he added.

It is such differences that led to the postponement of the UDA elections from December last year to April with a section of leaders casting doubt whether the exercise will take place as some of the contentious issues remain unsolved.

“We needed to have rules of engagement before conducting the party primaries but since the postponement the issues have not been discussed and this raises doubts whether the party will conduct polls in April,” a source told The Standard.