Malala triggers war in UDA as he rails at leaders over split loyalty

UDA secretary general Cleophas Malala making his submissions before the National Dialogue Committee on 3rd October 2023. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

A fresh conflict has emerged within the ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA), instigated by Secretary General Cleophas Malala’s stern warning to senior cabinet secretaries and politicians from factions loyal to President William Ruto and his deputy, Rigathi Gachagua.

The warning was aimed at the two factions that have been at odds over their split loyalty to the president and his deputy.

Malala’s statement, addressed to Cabinet Secretaries Moses Kuria (Public Service, Performance and Delivery Management), Kipchumba Murkomen (Roads and Transport), MPs Gathoni Wamuchomba (Githunguri), Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), and Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, criticised the leaders for blatant disrespect towards the party leadership and the presidency.

“Your recent conduct not only undermines the party’s unity but also disrespects the leadership that you pledged to serve. Let this be a stern warning: desist from such actions with immediate effect. Should this behavior persist, the party will take disciplinary action against you,” the statement released by Malala read, upon his arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from China.

Malala accused the Cabinet Secretaries of engaging in political activities, which is against the law that requires them to remain apolitical. He reminded Kuria of his duty to serve the public within his docket and directed Murkomen to address issues in his ministry, especially the reclamation of roads damaged by recent floods.

“Should you wish to engage in politics, you are welcome to resign and join the political arena… serve the Kenyan people or step down from your position and return to politics,” Malala warned.

He also demanded that young politicians within the UDA who have prematurely begun their campaigns for 2032 halt their activities, emphasising that their mandate was to serve their constituents.

“The importance of party discipline and respect for party hierarchy is sacrosanct. Any form of indiscipline will not be tolerated within the ranks of the UDA party. We must uphold the values and principles that guide our party to ensure we deliver on our promises to the Kenyan people,” Malala stated.

However, Malala’s warning has been dismissed by both factions, who view him as an irrelevant busybody trying to assert authority over them. Kahiga, Sudi, and Wamuchomba, among others, questioned Malala’s authority to lecture them on party affairs, labeling him as unfit for his role.

Acting SG Malala in UDA is like a square peg in a round hole. He doesn’t fit. I have said it before, and I repeat, we must get rid of him in the coming UDA elections,” Kahiga stated.

Sudi referred to Malala as an ‘elevated MCA trying to be our Raphael Tuju’ on social media, while Wamuchomba dismissed Malala as a ‘political loser and UDA intruder who doesn’t understand the party’s promises to voters during campaigns.’

Wamuchomba insisted on prioritising the livelihoods of the Kenyan people and demanded that Malala understand and address the UDA’s manifesto, particularly issues like Guaranteed Minimum Returns on cash crops and the supply of diapers for mothers as promised.

Kuria refrained from responding to Malala’s claims, hinting at a significant political announcement on August 20 that he believes will impact Kenya’s political landscape.

“I know he (Malala) is being used to poke holes in me but I will not respond. Let the country keep up with my major political announcement on August 20, from then onwards, it will not be business as usual,” he said.

Political analysts, including Charles Njoroge, have criticised Malala’s contradictory stance, noting that his previous allowance for board chairs and CEOs to seek UDA leadership positions contradicts his current admonishment of Cabinet Secretaries engaging in politics.

The UDA’s future appears uncertain as leaders align themselves with either the President or his Deputy amidst a perceived political rift and ongoing grassroots elections.

However, Malala’s statement has been interpreted as double speak by political pundits because  six months ago, he allowed board chairs and chief executive officers to seek leadership positions in the UDA polls on grounds that they were not public servants.

In internal memo dated November 1, 2023, Malala affirmed that independent directors of state corporations are indeed eligible to vie for the party positions.

In another letter to Attorney General Justin Muturi dated September 19, last year, he pointed out a discrepancy between the Attorney General’s advisory opinion and a High Court judgment in the case of Katiba Institute & another versus the Attorney General & another on who exactly is a public servant.

“We find and hold that positions of chairpersons and members of boards of state corporations and parastatals are not officers in the public service,” reads an excerpt of the judgement quoted in the letter.

Njoroge argued that if heads of parastatals in Malala’s view, were allowed to play politics, then Cabinet Secretaries should also be allowed to play politics as they are not subjected to Public Service Commission (PSC) during their hiring process.

“Malala’s letter will cause more confusion and division in the ruling party because on one hand he allows a head of a parastatal to play politics by seeking for a party position but he does not want a Cs to play politics yet a Cs is a political appointee. I foresee a scenario where Malala will be thrown under the bus due to his pronouncement which also seek to gag the elected MPs,” Njoroge added.

The party’s future seems to be on crossroads as leaders have started registering their political allegiances between the President and his Deputy following their perceived political fallout which has been accelerated by the ongoing grassroots elections pitting Gachagua’s allies against Ruto’s allies.