UHURU SUCCESSION

Uhuru, Ruto camps fight to control Jubilee Party

Ruto in a battle for his life to firm up his grip on Jubilee party ahead of 2022 polls as Uhuru's men pose a challenge

In Summary

• The Wajir West mini-poll has exposed the soft underbelly of the Uhuru-Ruto ties

• Ruto allies accuse Tuju of playing into Raila's trap

Deputy President William Ruto and Presidnet Uhuru Kenyatta during the launch of Jubilee Party.
Deputy President William Ruto and Presidnet Uhuru Kenyatta during the launch of Jubilee Party.
Image: FILE

Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju is becoming DP William Ruto’s biggest headache in the succession matrix, the Star has established.

The back scenes tussle between Ruto and Tuju is fuelled by their aspirations to control the Jubilee political machine ahead of 2022.

Tuju is a close confidant of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his family and he runs the show at Jubilee Headquarters which Ruto has unsuccessfully fought to control.

 
 

Some sources say Tuju, who is also a Cabinet minister without portfolio, is simply executing Uhuru's directives, pointing to the widening rift between the President and his deputy.

Former powerful Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe is also understood to still be pulling the strings, despite resigning in a huff in January, citing differences with Ruto.

A few days earlier, Ruto was received by a huge crowd donning yellow T-shirts, rekindling memories of his defunct URP Party. The youths wore T-shirts bearing a huge image of the DP as they welcomed him to Banana, Kiambu county.

Murathe said this was a sign Ruto was plotting to ditch Jubilee.

“You have seen the yellow T-shirts, the colour of URP. What message are they sending? Are they hinting at leaving Jubilee?” Murathe asked.

Signals of a tough war between Tuju and Ruto emerged this week after the ex-Rarieda MP issued a Jubilee statement on "setting the record straight" on ODM's withdrawal from the Wajir West poll.

He said there were “high-level consultations between Opposition Chief Raila Odinga and President Uhuru before Mohamed Elmi withdrew as ODM’s candidate for the poll". 

 
 
 

"We would like to put on record that this withdrawal by ODM follows high-level consultations by the leadership of the two parties," Tuju stated and thanked the ODM leadership "for reading with us from the same script".

He went on, "As reiterated by the President a few days ago during his State of the Nation address, "There is no going back on the Building Bridges Initiative."

The statement is similar to a separate statement by ODM's director of campaigns Junet Mohamed. 

Ruto's allies say Tuju is among a cabal of powerful elites around the President who are sabotaging their man.

On the Wajir issue, they say Tuju contradicted the DP who is his boss in the Jubilee hierarchy.

However, Wajir leaders led by Governor Mohamud Abdi protested against Tuju, saying the deal was struck by Ruto himself.

“We, as leaders from the region do not condone deceit and/or conmanship. The decision had nothing to do with the ODM party or any of its functionaries, as some would allege,” they said.

Ruto, who held a flurry of meetings with Wajir leaders to firm up his grip on Northeastern, been silent on whether he brokered the deal.

But in a clear indication that Ruto’s allies were unhappy, National Assembly Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali yesterday accused Tuju of issuing reckless statements with the potential of breaking up Jubilee.

“We should stop this bragging and chest-thumping about who negotiated it. Whoever did that was doing so on behalf of the party and nobody should claim credit,” said the Mumias East MP, a close ally of Ruto.

He added, “It was actually the DP who reached out to this candidate and the leaders of Wajir to broker the deal. Raila had nothing to do with the consultations. The consultations were at the DP level."

On Wednesday, Murathe threw a spanner in the works once more when he claimed that Ruto may not be Jubilee’s 2022 presidential candidate.

This gave credence to the narrative that there are powerful forces within Jubilee pushing to block Ruto from succeeding Uhuru by angling for another broader political formation that includes key opposition figures.

I wonder why Tuju goes to this extent to praise our competitor in 2022. We may need another secretary-general soon
Benjamin Washiali

Murathe, a harsh critic of the DP, said there could be a new formation outside Jubilee and ODM in the contest, but “something of those like-minded against the tanga tanga group”.

“I can tell you for free about formations in 2022. There will be a formation led by Raila Odinga. I expect people like Kalonzo (Musyoka), Musalia (Mudavadi), Gideon (Moi) and probably even Uhuru to be part of that formation.

"William will also have his own formation with the (Aden) Duales and (Kithure) Kindikis of this world,” Murathe said in an interview with a local TV station.

Murathe has pledged to stop at nothing to block Ruto from succeeding President Uhuru. Tuju, a trusted loyalist of the President, has emerged in Jubilee as the face of Uhuru’s handshake with Opposition leader Raila Odinga, in what has further jolted Ruto who has denounced the political truce.

The Star has established that Tuju has been working for the president’s political and personal interests in the party, including handling the delicate internal succession matrix in what has complicated Ruto’s game plan.

“Tuju appears to be having a clear brief to derail Ruto’s succession plan. He has been issuing reckless statements supporting the opposition’s stand at the expense of the Deputy President,” said a senior Jubilee senator from Rift Valley close to the DP.

Another vocal Jubilee MP from Kiambu who is part of Ruto’s campaign team told the Star it was appalling that Tuju had resorted to pursuing the interests of rival parties that are in competition with Jubilee.

“Tell me how he manages to come out and contradict the Deputy President even on this Wajir issue. We can’t entertain antagonism and conmanship. Tuju should cross over to ODM where his blood is,” the furious MP said in confidence to avoid reprisals.

A senior Jubilee leader concurred with Washiali, saying Tuju was trying to award Raila credit so that it doesn’t appear that Ruto’s popularity in Northern Kenya was surging.

“I wonder why Tuju goes to this extent to praise our competitor in 2022. We may need another secretary-general soon,” the MP said, saying Tuju had transformed Jubilee into an “ODM appendage.”

‘Jubilee is not ODM and ODM is not Jubilee. Tuju is transferring Orange House to our Jubilee headquarters,” protested the parliamentary leader.

The former Rarieda MP had on Wednesday issued a statement on behalf of Jubilee saying there were “high-level consultations between Raila and president Uhuru before Mohamed Elmi withdrew as ODM’s candidate for Wajir West by-election.

Tuju’s statement was seen as buttressing the handshake deal in what could have given Raila political mileage at the expense of Ruto whom his backers said brokered the Wajir deal.

The Star has established that Uhuru personally spoke to Raila over the forthcoming Wajir poll moments before the President left for a four-day State Visit of Mauritius.

According to a close political ally of the former prime minister who was present when the two leaders spoke on phone, Raila agreed to Uhuru’s request to withdraw his candidate from the by-election.

The vicious infighting which has erupted over the control of Jubilee has exposed the soft underbelly Uhuru’s relationship with his deputy amid murmurs that the ties are icy.

However, insiders have warned that the factional scramble for the heart of the Jubilee machinery could hit a tipping point if its apex leadership does not move fast to halt the infighting.

The political drama stemming from intrigues surrounding the Wajir West by-election could have just lifted the lid on the behind-the-scenes nasty wars rocking the ruling party.

Many say the ruling party is no longer at ease and internal cracks are widening with opposing camps embroiled in an all-out war for the heart and soul of Jubilee.