Deputy President William Ruto’s camp may have made a major tactical blunder. And in doing so, they appear to have helped their rivals working to seize control of the ruling party achieve their ultimate goal of denying the deputy president the Jubilee ticket for 2022 should he stay put.
The Ruto camp lost a petition against new Jubilee appointments at the parties’ tribunal, and now cannot file their objection with the party because the 14-day deadline within which they could do so has lapsed.
This essentially means President Uhuru Kenyatta’s five nominees to the National Management Committee (NMC) will assume office.
This advances the cause for the president’s camp, which now takes full control of the NMC and the National Executive Committee (NEC), given members of NMC and the new House leaders – Samuel Poghisio (Senate Majority Leader) and Irungu Kang’ata (Senate Majority Whip) – sit in NEC as well.
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The NMC sets the agenda for the NEC, a powerful organ with authority over primaries, choice of presidential candidate and coalition agreements, among other key party decisions.
It, however, has not met since 2017, apparently because the wing of Jubilee allied to the DP has had the upper hand.
Sources said President Kenyatta’s team was working to instal loyalists in these crucial positions in preparation for meetings to implement radical actions to further isolate Deputy President Ruto, who is also the deputy party leader.
The grand scheme by the Uhuru axis includes taking control of every organ of the party to endorse a series of favourable coalition agreements ahead of the 2022 General Election.
Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper and former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto’s Chama Cha Mashinani are some of the political outfits lined up for a possible pact in the run-up to the next polls.
The ruling party has since entered into a coalition with independence party Kanu under Baringo Senator Gideon Moi.
Ruto allies yesterday said they were aware of an ultimate scheme to deny the DP the party’s presidential ticket.
Yesterday, Jubilee Deputy Secretary General Caleb Kositany told The Standard that the ultimate aim of the changes was to block Ruto from flying the Jubilee presidential flag in the next polls.
“What they are doing is to try to gain control of the party. Once they have control of NEC, they will be quick to call NEC meetings so that they can sign coalition agreements,” said Mr Kositany, a close Ruto ally.
“We are aware that all these political machinations are aimed at blocking Ruto from running on Jubilee Party. They want to enter into coalitions so that they can give the ticket to another person to run for the presidency.”
Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju yesterday revealed that the party did not receive any complaints against the changes within the 14 days provided for by the Political Parties Act, 2011.
“For all intents and purposes, the five members are now members of the NMC because the party did not get any complaints within the 14 days,” said Mr Tuju.
It means that Lucy Nyaguthi Macharia, Marete Marangu, Walter Nyambati, Jane Nampaso and James Waweru are now set to join both NMC and NEC upon a Gazette notice from the Office of Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP).
The Act stipulates: “Where a fully registered political party intends to change or amend … it shall notify the Registrar of its intention and the Registrar shall, within fourteen days after the receipt of the notification, cause a notice of the intended change or alteration to be published in the Gazette.”
The lapse of the 14-day period provided for members to object to the changes to the NMC and dismissal of a case filed by three MPs allied to Ruto implies that the changes take effect.
Tuju had on May 2 placed a notice of appointments of the five members in the daily newspapers for public participation as required by the Act and the party’s constitution.
“Take notice that Jubilee Party has appointed the following persons as members of the National Management Committee in accordance with Article 7(2)(B) of the party constitution. This notice is published pursuant to Sections 20 (1)(C) and 20 (2) of the Political Parties Act No 11 of 2011,” it stated.
But Ruto allies, led by Kositany and senators Susan Kihika (Nakuru) and Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East), proceeded to the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal (PPDT) to challenge the changes.
However, the tribunal dismissed the case, noting that the three had not utilised internal dispute resolution mechanisms provided for in Jubilee Party’s law.
The revelations come on the backdrop of other concerted efforts by Uhuru’s wing to populate the powerful NEC with their allies. This has included the removal of Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Ms Kihika from the Senate Majority Leader and Senate Majority Whip posts, respectively.
The two, perceived as fierce critics of Uhuru, were NEC members due to their positions in the House, but were replaced by Mr Poghisio (West Pokot) and Mr Kang’ata (Murang’a).
The recent changes leave Ruto with National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Majority Whip Washiali, Kositany and Albert Mutai as allies in the top organ.
But there is talk of plans to strip Mr Duale and Washiali of their House posts, which will in effect hound them out of NEC.
This would further diminish the deputy party leader’s influence in the running of the party.
The NEC is made up of the president, Ruto, Tuju, Nelson Dzuya (chairman), David Murathe (vice chairman), Kositany (deputy SG), Mutai (Treasurer) and Abdul Haji (organising secretary). Others are Duale, Washiali, Poghisio and Kang’ata.
Ruto had last month protested reports that Uhuru has powers to enter into a coalition unilaterally, saying Jubilee is run by party organs, which he now seems to be losing control of.
“The Jubilee fraternity should ignore propaganda peddled by desperados seeking dubious ethnic coalitions. Our progressive constitution vests power in party organs, not personalities,” said Ruto.
He made the remarks in response to a suggestion by Uhuru allies, who cited a clause in the party constitution that they say essentially allows the party leader to sidestep the wing of the outfit allied to the DP if he opts to enter a pact with other parties.
Meanwhile, Uhuru has begun the second phase of purging Jubilee MPs allied to his deputy from House leadership and committees.
Among those targeted is Senator Kindiki Kithure, who faces ouster as Senate Deputy Speaker. Today, Senate Majority Whip Kang’ata is set to give notice of a motion to impeach Prof Kindiki and replace him with Uasin Gishu Senator Margaret Kamar.
Yesterday, Kang’ata convened a meeting of all Jubilee senators to whip them into helping secure the two-thirds majority needed to remove Kindiki.
“The president has sanctioned the removal of Prof Kindiki from the Deputy Speaker’s seat. The changes in the National Assembly will be from the Leader of Majority, committee chairs and to the members,” said a close ally of the president.
Those on the chopping board include National Assembly committee chairs Kimani Ichung’wa (Budget) and David Pkosing (Transport).
In the Senate, the committee chairs targeted are Mohamed Mahamud (Finance), John Kinyua (Devolution) and Naomi Waqo (National Cohesion and Equal Opportunity).
National Assembly committees’ vice chairs facing ouster are Moses Kuria (Transport and also member, Budget) and Alice Wahome (Justice and Legal Affairs).
In the Senate, vice chairs facing toppling are Mithika Linturi (Justice and Legal Affairs), Anwar Oleitiptip (Trade and Tourism), Victor Prengei (Lands) and Millicent Omanga (National Cohesion and Equal Opportunity).
The president is reported to have resolved to reward loyalists like MPs Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri Town), Peter Mwathi (Limuru), Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Silas Tiren (Moiben) and Gathoni Wamuchomba (Kiambu Woman Rep), among others.
Ruto’s perceived allies Nandi Senator Samson Cheragei and his Bomet counterpart Christopher Langat, who chair the Justice and Legal Affairs and Education committees, respectively, are expected to be spared.
“We will follow due process in the removals and reshuffles in committees. You can’t have Ichung’wa chairing the powerful Budget committee and Kuria in the Roads and Budget committees, and they are busy insulting the president,” said a source close to the president.
Yesterday, Ichung’wa declared no amount of intimidation, threats and coercion would make him change his political stance of backing Ruto.
“We have now been vindicated when they said that we are engaged in premature 2022 politics. Kenyans can now see who the main architects of the next polls are. I will be very happy if my removal will end corona, help economic recovery, feed millions of Kenyans dying of hunger and those homeless due to flooding and demolitions by the government,” he said.
Kositany said they are working on a strategy to fight back.
“All these changes, including in the Senate, are illegal. We will not allow any decision made by them,” he said.
But Mr Wambugu and Jubilee National Advisory Council Secretary Hassan Osman said the rival camp blundered by not pursuing internal mechanisms.
They charged the Tangatanga wing with shooting itself in the foot by taking the dispute on appointments to the tribunal before pursuing internal processes within the 14 days.
“I expect the members to be gazetted as soon as possible because no one has objected to their appointments through the set-out procedure. The case was self-defeating, and that is why they could not pursue the provided internal mechanism,” said Wambugu.
“These people, including Kositany, were picked the same way the five were identified. In fact, he is illegally in office because the agreement before election was that no elected leader was to continue holding a party office. He ought to have resigned from the position immediately he was elected.”
Mr Osman added: “They were just busy making noise on social media instead of pursuing the internal mechanism to raise their objections to the changes. Those changes are now legally in place.”
Another Ruto ally, William Cheptumo (Baringo North) and his Kimilili counterpart Didmus Barasa said the appointments were still in dispute and called for a fresh process.
Cheptumo, who is also the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs (JLAIC) committee chair, said the lapse of the period does not negate the previous protest by Ruto’s allies.
Ruto had last month led his allies in a coordinated protest letters to the Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu, who later advised them to exhaust internal mechanism in resolving the disputed changes.
“The ruling by the tribunal and the elapse of the provided period does not take away the initial objections by the party members. The registrar referred the matter back to the party,” said Cheptumo.
He explained that they were not opposed to the names but the process in picking them.
“We have no problems with the names but the process. Even if no objection has been sent to the party, it does not validate the process which has been a source of dispute,” he added.
Barasa said the decision to proceed to the tribunal was informed by an alleged partisan approach by Tuju, explaining that they could have suffered injustice by taking the matter to the party internal mechanism.
He said that they still have the option of going to the High Court to challenge the changes.
“Now that the days have elapsed, nothing stops us from taking the matter to the High Court. We will do everything within our means to block the changes,” said Barasa.
Cherangany MP and Uhuru ally Joshua Kutuny yesterday said they are sanitiing the August House leadership to ensure those appointed are supporting the president’s agenda.
“Loyalty is key. There are those characters that have publicly opposed the President’s agenda. They are enemies within. You cannot oppose the same party that sponsored you,” Kutuny stated.