GAME OF CHANCE?

Ruto initiates divorce from Uhuru

The launch of Jubilee Asili Centre with branded colours similar to the defunct URP signals plan to quit Jubilee.

In Summary
  • DP in an aggressive campaign to be his own man amid a bitter falling-out in the ruling party.
  • Analysts say the DP's war against Uhuru could dangerously explode.
Jubilee Asili Centre
Jubilee Asili Centre
Image: COURTESY

Deputy President William Ruto is already rolling out an exit plan from the Jubilee Party in what is promising to be a nasty divorce from his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The DP, who has been on the receiving end of Uhuru’s ruthless political war, has left no doubt of a daring revolt against his boss, two years to the 2022 polls.

On Thursday, Ruto unveiled a parallel command centre for Jubilee MPs allied to his Tangatanga faction of the ruling party.

The launch of Jubilee Asili Centre by the DP himself and the move to adopt 'Sote Pamoja' phrase as his new slogan instead of Jubilee’s 'Tuko Pamoja', left no doubt that the die of his exit is cast.

Jubilee Asili borrows heavily from the Jubilee Party but has replaced the red colour in the Jubilee emblem with black and yellow. These new colours were associated with the DP’s defunct URP.

With the widening rift in government, the DP is seen to be carefully crafting an elaborate strategy that can deliver him to State House without the support of the President.

Part of the plan, those close to him say, would be to walk out of the ruling party and either launch his own party or join an existing one to propel his presidential ambition.

However, on Friday, Ruto’s allies maintained that they have no intentions of walking out of the ruling party, despite attempts to kick them out. They said Jubilee Asili Centre is instead a "complement" office for members who believe in the ‘original’ Jubilee dream.

Jubilee deputy secretary general Caleb Kositany told the Star that the new office was necessary because members who support the DP had been denied access to the Pangani headquarters.

The Soy MP said Jubilee Party had become a private entity.

“The original Jubilee did not want to be involved with small tribal parties with one MP or half an MP; that’s why we had folded over 12 parties to be one party. It's sad that it has taken this route, we are no longer democratic, the party has become a private members club,” he lamented.

This suggested that the DP’s camp was irked by Jubilee’s decision to sign a cooperation agreement with Ruto's rivals, among them Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Chama Cha Mashinani boss Isaac Rutto, on Wednesday.

So far, there has not been any application at the Registrar of Political Parties to reserve the Jubilee Asili name with the intention of turning it into a registered political outfit. However, its unveiling left no doubt of the intentions.

Before surfacing on Thursday to meet his allies who had been kicked out of parliamentary committees and key House positions, the DP had taken a laid-back approach as the President unleashed a ferocious political purge of those considered party dissidents.

Former Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen, Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika and former Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki were among Ruto’s stalwarts whose parliamentary clout, insofar as House matters were concerned, were chopped as they lost powerful leadership posts.

At least 16 other Ruto loyalists in the National Assembly were recalled on Thursday from House committees where they have been serving as chairs or vice-chairs.

Murkomen said the Ruto brigade is firmly in Jubilee without intentions of backing off. He maintained that the Jubilee Asili Centre was a meeting venue for and by members who have been "denied access to our party offices on Thika Road".

He said they are not invitees in Jubilee and will be in it for the long haul.

"Ignore the rumours doing the rounds. Jubilee Party is our party, our labour of love and visionary investment whose fruits we look forward to enjoying," he said.

Ruto ditched ODM in a similar fashion and unsuccessfully staged a takeover of UDM before eventually settling on URP in 2012.

The latest political friction in Jubilee rekindles the nasty falling-out in Ford in the run-up to the first multiparty polls in 1992.

In August 1992, then main opposition party Ford split into Ford Kenya led by Kenya's first Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Ford-Asili, which was spearheaded by Kenneth Matiba. This made room for then-President Daniel Moi to easily extend his grip on power, winning his first five-year term following the repeal of Section 2A of the old constitution.

The Jubilee Asili Centre located along Makindu Road, off Riara Road, in Nairobi’s Kilimani area is likely to be at cross-purposes with the Jubilee Party’s Pangani headquarters as things fall apart in government.

When the Star visited the place on Friday, it was a beehive of activity. A major facelift was underway. This is despite insistence by Ruto's allies that they will stay put in Jubilee Party.

On Friday, former Nyayo-era State House comptroller Franklin Bett told the Star that Ruto’s open defiance to the President is dangerous and amounts to an open declaration of war against his boss.

“You may need to be careful when confronting a man in power. It's not easy to fight the state two years to a general election and win,” said Bett, a once-powerful Roads minister in the Grand Coalition Government.

Bett warned that the no-holds-barred war has the potential to "degenerate into tribal skirmishes" if political temperatures continue to rise in the country.

“The war will play out very badly in the days ahead. My only worry is that it can degenerate into tribal skirmishes, which might be very unfortunate for the country,” he said.

Bett, who served as Bureti MP from 2008 to 2013, said the DP should have waited until it is too close to the 2022 election to reveal his disaffection with Uhuru.

For his part, University of Nairobi's Prof Herman Manyora said the DP is trying to direct rebels against the President to "scare him".

Manyora said that while the war pitting Uhuru against Ruto is getting out of hand, the DP might not be forming a new party, at least not any time soon. He said Ruto is out to test the waters.

"The message to the President is simple: ‘If you thought we were scared, think twice, as we, too, can do this,'" he told the Star.

Edited by F'Orieny