The rift in the Jubilee coalition widened Thursday after President Uhuru Kenyatta’s party asked those from DP William Ruto’s side implicated in the Sh791 million National Youth Service scandal to carry their own cross.
The announcement came in the wake of a growing rebellion by MPs in central and Rift Valley regions, which is threatening to scuttle the formation of the Jubilee Party, on whose ticket President Kenyatta hopes to defend his seat in next year’s General Election.
Speaking at The National Alliance (TNA) offices in Nairobi, Secretary-General Onyango Oloo, while declaring that the coalition would not be “shaken or threatened”, told National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale and Senate Deputy Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen not to drag the Jubilee coalition into the NYS scandal.
Both Mr Duale and Mr Murkomen are members of the URP.
“Those whose names have been mentioned should exonerate themselves as individuals,” said Mr Oloo. “They should submit themselves to the law enforcement agencies to clear their names. And if you are found culpable, carry your own cross.”
TNA appeared to have taken the defensive position following claims that former Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru was targeting URP with a view to destabilising the coalition.
In her affidavit, Ms Waiguru alleges that Mr Duale texted former NYS deputy director Aden Harakhe, warning him that “he needs to be careful lest he is used and dumped by the other side of the coalition”.
Mr Duale and Mr Murkomen, who put up a spirited defence of Ms Waiguru when the corruption scandal erupted last year, have accused the former CS of seeking to paint the URP wing of the coalition as corrupt.
Mr Murkomen challenged Ms Waiguru to provide any “iota of evidence” that he benefitted from the NYS scandal and wondered why all those mentioned in the affidavit, including Mr Ruto’s personal assistant, Mr Farouk Kibet, are from the URP wing.
“I see this as an attempt to rock the coalition by mischievously picking on key figures from one side of it, something we cannot fall for,” Mr Duale tweeted in the wake of Ms Waiguru’s claims.
Even as the rift between URP and Jubilee caused tension in the coalition, Mr Oloo maintained that the NYS scandal would not scuttle the political marriage.
“This merger will not be shaken or threatened. Appointments (to the government) were not made on the basis of your allegiance to a party, so do not drag the party along. You have not been mentioned as a member of the party or the coalition, you have been mentioned as an individual,” he said.
He, however, maintained that it was wrong to ask individuals to step aside simply because they had been mentioned in a scandal.
“The mere mentioning of people should not warrant their stepping aside. Let due process be followed. Whether you are Waiguru, (Josephine) Kabura, Oloo or Murkomen, go through the due process,” he said.
A few hours before Mr Oloo addressed the conference, a group of MPs from the western region had met at the Nairobi Safari Club on Wednesday evening, under the chairmanship of Jubilee steering committee boss Noah Wekesa, and raised concerns over the rebellion by their counterparts from Rift Valley and central Kenya.
Dr Wekesa, a former Cabinet minister, on Thursday confirmed chairing the meeting, but said it was meant to make arrangements for another meeting scheduled for Kakamega on Friday.
However, even though the former Kwanza MP denied that the dissent in central Kenya and Rift Valley against the Jubilee leadership was discussed, two MPs who attended the meeting said they had expressed fears regarding the planned dissolution of their parties to join the Jubilee Party.
DELIVER ON PLEDGES
This new turn of events is crucial for the survival of Jubilee and the future of the new Jubilee Party as Dr Wekesa and Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi co-chair the steering committee, which is spearheading the creation of its new political vehicle by the end of next month.
Teso South MP Mary Emase, who is a member of the steering committee, attended the meeting at Nairobi Safari Park.
But TNA chairman Johnson Sakaja downplayed the concerns, saying the plans to dissolve all the Jubilee affiliates were still on course.
“Nothing has changed,” said Mr Sakaja. “Jubilee is not facing any rebellion because the party that is facing elections in Kericho is the Jubilee Alliance Party that will also be dissolved.”
MPs who attended Wednesday’s meeting, and who sought anonymity, said members of New Ford Kenya and the United Democratic Forum were hesitant to fold up their parties in the face of the growing rebellion.
New Ford-K is chaired by Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka, while Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali heads UDF.
“Our people on the ground are not feeling comfortable that we disband our parties to join Jubilee Party, when our big brothers in central Kenya and Rift Valley are showing signs of moving away. How safe are we?” posed one of the MPs.
Last week, Maara MP Kareke Mbiuki accused the Jubilee administration of failing to fulfil its development pledges.
Similar discontent has been witnessed in the Rift Valley, with Kericho residents telling Deputy President William Ruto that they were dissatisfied with the performance of the Jubilee administration.
Mr Ruto apologised publicly for the failures of the government.
And two weeks ago, voters in Nyangores Ward, Bomet County, elected a candidate on the People Party of Kenya ticket instead of the Jubilee flagbearer.
Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, the mastermind of Jubilee’s recent political troubles in the South Rift, insists the region is fighting for its own political liberation, warning that after the results of the upcoming Kericho by-election, no political actors will ever take the region for granted.
“We are serious on our mission to win the Kericho senatorial seat. When the campaigns are done and victory is declared to us, no other political actor will ever take the Kipsigis for granted,” Mr Ruto said.
Reports by Bernard Namunane, Isaac Ongiri and Peter Leftie