ROUGH ROAD

Jubilee hurdles in Uhuru's coalition dream with Raila

Key Jubilee constitution provision vests coalition building powers with NEC

In Summary

• The DP's allies claim the Constitution won't allow Uhuru to make unilateral decisions.

• Uhuru-Raila camaraderie has triggered a political storm within Jubilee with the DP and his allies crying foul.

Deputy President William Ruto in Garissa.
LOCKED OUT?: Deputy President William Ruto in Garissa.
Image: STEPHEN ASTARIKO

A key provision in the Jubilee constitution denies President Uhuru Kenyatta sweeping powers to unilaterally enter into a coalition or merger with opposition leader Raila Odinga’s ODM party.

Instead, the Jubilee Party constitution gives the National Executive Committee the ultimate authority to sanction any pre-election coalition or a merger with other political parties.

The clause contained in Article 32 of the Jubilee constitution could now pose the biggest hurdle for President Uhuru’s allies pushing for a possible pre-2022 coalition with Raila.

The President’s political lieutenants have urged him to forge a political alliance with the ODM leader to vanquish Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential ambitions.

Since, their famous handshake on March 9, 2018, the Uhuru-Raila bromance has been flourishing, with the opposition leader emerging as Uhuru’s key confidant. The camaraderie has triggered a political storm within Jubilee, with the DP and his allies crying foul.

Ruto’s allies claim such an alliance is a scheme to annihilate the DP’s 2022 presidential interests, sparking a bitter falling-out within the ruling party. However, the coalition push could be jolted by key provisions of the Jubilee constitution that vests the veto power for any coalition or merger plans in NEC.

“The National Executive Committee may pass a resolution to enter into a pre-election coalition with any political party or parties,” reads Article 32( 1 ) of the Jubilee constitution ratified in 2016.

The Jubilee constitution provides that NEC members comprise the national officials, parliamentary leaders and members of the National Advisory Council. They are 37.

The DP, who is under siege in government, has also warned that any pre-election coalition must be approved and ratified by relevant party organs and not personalities.

“Our progressive constitution vest power in party organs not personalities. Jubilee the governing party has no room for selfish evil experiments meant to benefit brokers and their ilk,” the DP said on Twitter.

In a veiled attack on the Uhuru-Raila alliance proponents, Ruto said those behind the push are seeking tribal political arrangements.

“Jubilee fraternity should ignore propaganda peddled by desperados seeking ragtag ethnic coalitions,” he said.

But Jubilee National Advisory Council (NAC) chairman Albert Nyaundi maintained that the party leader has powers to forge coalitions with like-minded parties.

“When we signed an agreement with Jubilee, we gave the party leader all the powers to drive the party. Those making noise should tell us where they are getting their powers,” he told the Star.

The Star has established that Uhuru’s allies have schemed to have the party leader take full control of NEC to make it easy for him to form a coalition agreement with Raila ahead of the 2022 polls.

The thinking within Uhuru’s circles was that the President would initiate a working arrangement with Raila in line with the Jubilee constitution before ‘a friendly’ NEC would be approached to approve.

The party constitution gives the party leader sweeping powers to court political suitors but does not confer in him the ultimate power to make decisions.

“Promote political consultation, engagement and co-operation with other political parties and coalitions,” Article 9( 8 ) reads.

To hand the President full control of NEC, Uhuru’s allies want Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen, Chief Whips Susan Kihika (Senate) and Benjamin Washiali (National Assembly) stripped of their plum posts.

The trio — DP’s key allies — would then be replaced with politicians allied to the President’s Kieleweke wing of Jubilee. They sit in NEC courtesy of their leadership posts in Parliament, alongside National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale.

The President would then use the majority of the 22 members of the NAC, all of whom sit in NEC, to boost his numerical war-chest to have his coalition proposal backed by the organ.

Some of the members of the NAC have backed Uhuru including Nyaundi (Ford People), Hassan Osman (UDF), Benjamin Muema (New Ford Kenya), Said Ali (Republican Congress Party), Petkay Miriti (Unity Patriotic Party of Kenya) and Kalembe Ndile of Tip Tip.

The NAC, which forms the single largest vote bloc of NEC, is comprised of at least two officials from each of the 11 parties that collapsed in 2016 to form Jubilee with the President said to be controlling majority of the affiliates.

The President already enjoys goodwill from secretary-general Raphael Tuju and national chairman Nelson Dzuya who, according to the Jubilee constitution, are the mandatory signatories to the instruments of a pre-election coalition.

But the DP’s allies believe they will not allow the President to reconstitute NEC unilaterally as the Jubilee constitution requires him to consult the DP. Armed with the party constitution on their side, the DP’s allies are spoiling for war.

“It has been clear that there was a plan to force Jubilee into some marriage with our political rivals. The plotters of such a move would be embarrassed as the constitution gives NEC the ultimate authority,” said Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, a key Ruto ally.

Uhuru’s plan to make changes to the party’s National Management Committee has been cited by Ruto’s allies as part of the scheme to weaken Ruto’s foothold on key party organs. Lucy Nyawira, Marete Marangu, Walter Nyambati, Jane Nampaso and James Waweru replaced Fatuma Shukri, Pamela Mutua and Veronica Maina at the NMC.

“We know very well that they (President Kenyatta’s allies) were just testing waters before rolling out a grand scheme to reconstitute NEC by kicking out officials allied to the Deputy President,” Belgut MP Nelson Koech said.

Edited by R.Wamochie

Deputy president William Ruto speaking in Garissa
deputy president william Ruto Deputy president William Ruto speaking in Garissa
Image: STEPHEN ASTARIKO