The fight for the control of a top organ of the Jubilee with authority over primaries and choice of the presidential candidate is the latest war rocking the ruling party.
Rival camps allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta or his deputy William Ruto are now jostling for the control of Jubilee Party’s National Executive Council (NEC).
At the moment, NEC has 34 members in office but an additional 30 slots are vacant, with Ruto’s allies alleging that the President’s camp is making piece-meal appointments designed to ultimately take over control of the party. This, they claim, is designed to scuttle the DP’s hopes of vying for the presidency on the ruling party’s ticket.
Aldai MP Cornelly Serem claimed Uhuru’s wing was trying to acquire unfettered influence over the ruling party so that they could enter a coalition agreement with Opposition chief Raila Odinga’s ODM and Kanu, which is led by Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, ahead of the 2022 General Election.
“We are aware that they want to steal the party and form a coalition with ODM and Kanu without our approval. That is why they want to pick people who sing their tunes to powerful positions,” claimed Mr Serem, a Ruto ally.
Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe had in a previous interview indicated that Uhuru was free to form a coalition with Raila, Gideon, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said Uhuru had the powers to fill vacant party positions on an interim basis, but would only pick loyal party members and not those seen to be fighting him like the Tangatanga team.
“Any vacant office can be occupied by an appointee of the president. And because he has the authority to do this without consulting anyone, I doubt he would appoint people not loyal to his vision of where he wants the party to go,” said Wambugu, a Uhuru supporter.
According to Jubilee nomination rules filed with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), NEC has the ultimate say on who flies the party flag in any elective seat.
“…It shall have the final authority and be empowered to receive and consider the reports of the nominations from the National Elections Board and from the counties in determining the results of and actual election and selection…” states the regulations.
“…the ultimate organ of the party for determining the person who succeeds (by-election or selection) in obtaining any nomination of the party,” the rules add.
The NEC is made up of the president, Dr Ruto, Secretary-General Raphael Tuju, Nelson Dzuya (chairman), David Murathe (vice-chairman), Caleb Kositany (deputy SG), Albert Mutai (Treasurer) and Shukri Fatuma (Deputy Treasurer).
Others are Abdul Haji (Organising secretary), Pamela Mutua (Deputy Organising Secretary), Veronica Maina (Vice-Chair, Strategy), Aden Duale (National Assembly Majority Leader), Benjamin Washiali (Majority Whip, National Assembly), Kipchumba Murkomen (Senate Majority Leader) and Senate Majority Whip Susan Kihika.
Mr Duale, Mr Murkomen, Ms Kihika, Mr Washiali, Mr Kositany, Mr Mutai, Ms Shukri, Ms Mutua are all perceived Ruto allies, making the current composition slightly leaning in favour of the DP.
Mr Wambugu, however, said the suggestion that NEC membership was Ruto-leaning was an illusion, as once the membership of the National Advisory Committee (NAC) was factored in, the president had a stranglehold on the organ.
“NAC has a membership of 24 by itself,” Wambugu said. He was referring to the fact that each of the 12 parties that dissolved to form Jubilee has two representatives in NAC, which is also a member of NEC.
Wambugu pointed out that the group had since endorsed the proposed appointments to the National Management Committee (NMC), which the Ruto camp has rejected.
On the other hand, Ruto’s wing has been pushing for party elections in a double-pronged strategy aimed at winning more slots and at the same time kicking out officials allied to the president.
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, another Ruto ally, said they would fight for the control of the party to the end, warning that they would not allow themselves to be kicked out of the party they worked hard to create. He said they would also push for elections so that the “right people” lead the party towards the next poll.
“We are pushing for an election. We want to make the scenario messy so that people can sit down and streamline the party. We will fight till the end,” he added.
This explains why Ruto and his allies came out guns blazing to reject plans to make changes to the NMC, which would in effect tilt the scale in favour of Uhuru. Members of NMC are drawn from NEC, according to the party’s constitution.
Tuju had sought to replace the names of Maina, Mutua and Shukri, who had resigned after securing State jobs.
The stakes are high for the DP, who has invested immensely in the outfit that he hopes will help him make a stab at the presidency in 2022. This explains why his allies are leaving nothing to chance.
Kositany claimed Tuju and Dzuya fraudulently made the changes since NEC had never met to constitute the committee. He said NEC had its last meeting on March 28, 2017, and never had a meeting to appoint six members from within its membership.
“The purported NMC meeting of February 10, 2020, could not have taken place, as it has not been constituted. Substantive members of NMC, like the National Treasurer, confirmed that no notices were issued for any meeting,” said Kositany.
Baringo North MP William Cheptumo said: “It does not matter who they are going to bring. What we are demanding is total adherence to the rule of law.
However, Uhuru’s wing dismissed the rival camp as politicians always looking for an opportunity to fight. Wambugu and Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja said it was a fallacy that Ruto had the numbers in the top party organs.
Sakaja said except for members of the defunct URP that belonged to Ruto, all the 12 parties that merged to form Jubilee in the run-up to the 2017 poll backed the changes. “It is only people belonging to one of the affiliate parties that have created a fuss over nothing. These are people who are always looking for an opportunity to fight,” said Sakaja.
He added: “The other 11 parties are fully behind the president because we believe he has the best interest for Jubilee.”
Sakaja described the rival camp as confused, accusing them of opposing the changes, which he said were done in the same way the current acting officials were picked.
“They mobilized signatures against the recent appointments without appreciating that the appointments were made the same way someone like Caleb Kositany, who signed a protest later as deputy SG, was appointed. All interim appointments are made by the party leader. The party was allowed to extend having interim officers until it is ready for elections,” he said.
He added: “So the same power that makes Kositany and Tuju legitimate party officials is the same that makes the recent appointments legitimate.”