Politicians nervous as parties demand unwavering loyalty, discipline

Parties push to instil - more like impose - discipline on unruly, independent-minded members. Arer they allowed to think for themselbes?

In Summary
  • Rebels, beware! However, DP Ruto's allies say they are not intimidated.
  • Jubilee had initially protected ODM rebels from discipline. Now it's cracking the whip.
Former Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki, Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika and her Elgeyo Marakwet counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen
Former Senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki, Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika and her Elgeyo Marakwet counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen

Politicians who have been openly defying their sponsoring parties have been squeezed into a tight corner as leaders demand unquestioning individual loyalty and discipline in toeing the party line.

Members who had been vocally critical of party positions have had to make a strategic retreat as they fear they could lose their Parliamentary seats as parties take charge with firm grip, and a whip.

While the wave of blatant independence and an iron-fisted response ccan destabilise parties, their officials maintain that allegiance  and obedience are paramount for such outfits to thrive and advance democracy.

For instance, the Jubilee Party that has already imploded, is playing hard ball against a section of party MPs allied to Deputy President William Ruto whom they accuse of disloyalty.

However, Ruto's lieutenants have remained unbowed, saying they would be ready for any consequences of their support for the DP.

It has emerged that Jubilee plans to recall at least six MPs coalescing around the DP to punish disloyalty and tame rebellion in the ruling party.

Those targeted include Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, Soy lawmaker Caleb Kositany, Kimani Ngunjiri of Bahati, Rigathi Gachagua  of Mathira, Alice Wahome of Kandara and Moses Kuria  of Gatundu South.

The legislators who were elected ona Jubilee ticket are accused of disrespecting the party leader, President Uhuru Kenyatta, and publicly calling him out using abusive and derogatory terms.

Equally determined, Musalia Mudavadi's Amani National Congress is pushing to expel Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi who is accused of having pledged his loyalty to ODM leader Raila Odinga.

ANC had won round one of the battle when it successfully compelled the Registrar of Political Parties to delete Osotsi's name from the party register but the decision was overturned by the court.

And  on May 17, the party was stopped after the Political Parties Disputes Resolution Tribunal temporarily halted Osotsi's expulsion, arguing the MP ha not been giving a fair hearing.

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala also faced expulsion from ANC, but Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu overturned the move on July 8.

Nderitu said the decision to expel Malala was inconsistent with the party's constitution because it was not done within the stipulated timelines.

On Thursday, People's Democratic Party leader and ex-Centre for Multi-Party democracy chairman Omingo Magara said party loyalty is the cornerstone of political parties.

Maraga, whose PDP party is said to be seeking to discipline some MCAS who have 'gone rogue, said democracy cannot thrive if party discipline is optional.

“The democratic space is anchored in political parties. Parties are institutions of democracy and every member must exhibit the utmost loyalty and discipline,” Magara told the Star.

The PDP boss said parties can become stronger institutions if members subscribe to their particular ideologies and champion them.

“If you look at advanced democracies like America and the UK's, you would realise that the strength of the democracies is built on the solid foundation of the ideologies of parties," he said.

Their ideologies, however, are more clear-cut - Democrat vs Republican and Labour vs Conservative. Then there are green parties, communist parties, working families parties and others with specific goals.

The distinctions are not as clear-cut in Kenya where parties tend to be election vehicles.

However, there are concerns that blind loyalty could actually weaken parties that build and are based on personalities, as opposed to stronger institutions that can withstand criticism, welcome dialectic and stand  the test of time.

“It is unfortunate that in Kenya, parties are equal to their leaders. Instilling fear among members in the name of affirming loyalty will  slowly kill parties,” political analyst Felix Odhiambo warned..

Odhiambo said parties built on a cult-like following without well-defined structures are doomed to collapse.

“If you look at some of the current parties in the country, only a few can outlive their leaders,” he said.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany told the Star it was unfortunate that parties had started to operate like individual enterprises and then try io impose issues on members.

'Parties belong to members and not personalities. It is important that we cultivate the culture of tolerance and democracy in parties so members can freely express themselves without intimidation," he said.

The protracted push to deal with errant party members evokes memories of hitherto futile efforts by the Orange Democratic Party to kick out perceived rebels.

When ODM wanted to expel Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa in 2015, Jubilee accused Raila of dictatorship and turning the party into a tribal outfit.

Jumwa found solace in Jubilee.

Ironically, ODM leader Raila Odinga's ODM is having the last laugh as the ruling Jubilee Party is walking the same straitjacket path, now being accused of dictatorship and strong-arm tactics.

President Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee had hitherto vehemently defended ODM renegades from discipline and even successfully thwarted disciplinary action against errant members.

In fact, when ODM sought to discipline some of its members, Jubilee had cried from the rooftop, consistently accusing ODM of dictatorial tendencies meant to stifle democracy.

However, in the fullness of time, the ruling party has found itself fighting the same internal rebellion that ODM has battled for more than a decade, even becoming home to Jubilee 'refugees'.

There is palpable joy in ODM with some members said to be happy that Jubilee is finally learning the game, albeit too late in the day.

“It is better late than never. That is what will enable parties to have clear national standards of leadership followed with morality. Jubilee has appreciated that parties are the core,” an ODM leader said.

Basically, the handshakke and camaraderie between President Kenyatta and Raila has become the ultimate glue that has fixed rebellion within the ruling party under implosion.

Political analysts say that were it not for Raila's political shrewdness, President Uhuru could not even attempt a a grand housecleaning in Jubilee.

Ruto's allies who were considered rebels have been purged from influential parliamentary leadership slots while others have been recalled from House committees.

On Thursday, when asked about the true meaning of party loyalty, ODM national Treasurer Timothy Bosire termed it an important tool bestowed on parties to instil discipline and order.

“I wish that political parties' discipline and democracy could be institutionalised so the country can advance in good leadership,” the former Kitutu Masaba MP said.

Bosire said ODM has for many years endeavoured to build stronger institutions within the party.

“Our dream has to do with a very strong and democratic party. We are a role model and have set the way. It has dawned that parties are the core of good leadership and democratic practices,” Bosire said.

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed last month triggered a political storm when he likened his loyalty to ODM and its party leader to that of a "cow" meekly following directions.

“As for Duale, when you see us following Baba like cows, it is because we fear the consequences like those you are facing today,” Junet said. He was contributing to former National Assembly majority leader Aden Duale's exit speech. Duale, though very competent, was deemed too close to DP Ruto.

Uhuru's belated determination to crack the whip on members perceived as disloyal to him has caused jitters among politicians and injected some momentum for parties to instil discipline.

Some politicians who has started crossing over to other camps have beaten hasty retreats to avert punishment as the dynamics shift ahead of 2022.

Laikipia Woman Rep Catherine Waruguru, who had been a key member of the Tangatanga movement backing DP Ruto, withdrew and joined the Uhuru camp.

She visited Raila's office to pay her respects and her hands were 'sanitised'. She still lost her position on the Parliamentary Committee on Members Service and Facilities.

“I am firmly behind the President and Opposition leader Raila Odinga. I will serve my people better if I continue supporting the President's agenda and the handshake. My people want services,” Waruguru told the Star.

Parties are likely to continues striking hard against rebels to control and manage alignments ahead of the 2022 polls.

After the President managed to annihilate his DP (who hasn't given up), the 2022 political landscape has shifted radically with new formations in the offing as bigwigs continue to battle for the President's favour.