Details of a high-level closed-door meeting by losers of the recent Jubilee Party nominations to chart the way forward ahead of this year's General Election can now be revealed.
The meeting on Friday, convened by Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, had been called to forge a common front by mostly independent aspirants from the Mount Kenya region.
A major outcome of the forum attended by about 200 people was the formation of an Independent Candidates Movement that has put the Jubilee Party aspirants on notice to prepare for a bruising battle. This effectively launched a parallel campaign that will give the Jubilee Party a new headache despite recent calls for unity by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.
“Ruo ruriaga mwene. Ni nii njui uria ndiraigua,” (Pain hurts the one feeling it. I know how I feel),” Mr Kabogo told the Friday meeting in Gikuyu, appealing to participants not to dwell too much on the frustrations of the Jubilee nominations, but instead look ahead. He lost at the nomination stage to Ferdinand Waititu, who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kabete.
The group announced plans to launch its agenda at a meeting in Nairobi next Saturday before hitting the ground to campaign for its candidates around the country. There has been a surge in the number of people seeking to run as independents across the country, with at least 4,000 getting clearance from the Registrar of Political Parties and only awaiting the go-ahead from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Pledging to run a campaign to prove the just concluded nominations were shambolic and resulted in “photocopy aspirants”, the group appeared keen on forging a campaign machinery and agenda for the re-election of President Kenyatta while battling it out for other seats with Jubilee Party candidates. In his public statements, the President has urged party nomination losers not to quit the Jubilee Party.
“This is the beginning of new things for our people. We will take it to the National Assembly, the Senate and the Executive in sharing of committee slots and appointments after the August elections. There is no going back,” Mr George Nyanja, one of the organisers, said.
According to plans discussed in the three-hour meeting, the group will have its own brand, message, slogan and colours to be unveiled on Saturday at a venue that is yet to be decided.
And by publicly announcing it planned to invite the President to receive or reject its endorsement on Saturday, the group also laid bare simmering factional tensions in the Jubilee Party that have been bubbling in the past couple of years, but which have erupted since the disputed party nominations three weeks ago.
Among those who attended the meeting were three governors who lost in the recent nominations: Mr Kabogo (Kiambu), Mr Joseph Ndathi (Kirinyaga) and Mr Kinuthia Mbugua (Nakuru). Speeches at the meeting indicated that failure to accommodate the group or adopting a hostile posture towards them could backfire on the Jubilee Party. Those involved in the formation of the new outfit believe they were rigged out in the party nominations, despite some of them unsuccessfully lodging appeals with the party’s dispute tribunal.
“We expect the President to endorse us, and support us like he has done with others (in reference to “friendly” parties). We have followers and supporters, and this will be evident on Saturday in Nairobi. If there is no reciprocation, we can also demobilise. We welcome his support,” a source who attended the meeting said.
Governors Kabogo, Mbugua and Ndathi were mandated to invite the President to the event.
There were claims that key Central Kenya leaders were being frustrated in the Jubilee Party ahead of the 2017 elections because of 2022 succession politics where there is an agreement that Deputy President William Ruto succeeds President Kenyatta.
At Friday’s gathering, Tetu MP Ndung’u Gethenji and Mr Nyanja, the Kiambu Senate aspirant, who lost in the nominations, recounted that there had been several consultative meetings, and repeatedly acknowledged it took considerable courage to organise the group.
“But great fear only breeds misery in a family,” Mr Nyanja said during the meeting, resorting to folk wisdom that the group recognised its activities may be construed to mean antagonising President Kenyatta, but they believed they were working for his own good.
Nakuru Governor Mbugua, who disputed his loss to Mr Lee Kinyanjui, said the goodwill the President enjoys in some regions could erode if the issues raised by those unhappy about the running of the Jubilee Party are not addressed.
“What happened in the Jubilee nominations was unprecedented fraud, unfortunate and should not be legitimised or allowed to ever happen again,” he said.
Mr Ndathi, the Kirinyaga Governor who lost to former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru, also expressed his frustrations.
“President Uhuru was not part of the mangled nominations. By design, we were ejected out of Jubilee and they used Kirinyaga county to test how to accomplish mischief elsewhere. Thank God for the constitutional provisions for independent candidates, otherwise we would not be here. We shall prove them wrong,” Mr Ndathi said.
Former Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary and Laikipia gubernatorial candidate, Mr Thuita Mwangi, told the meeting that independent candidates were not beggars or favour seekers, but were offering Wanjiku an opportunity to make a free choice of leaders and exercise free will in August.
Mr Kabogo said his silence had been deliberate as he was still busy serving Kiambu people.
“People have been asking, what is Kabogo up to? I want to say what you have heard (in the meeting) has my signature on it. We are all on the same page on this agenda. I, however, wish to state that democracy is difficult and expensive but we must go the whole hog. Kenya is marching forward, but some people are out to pull us down. They will not succeed. I also wish to say Kabogo is unstoppable, and trying to stop Kabogo is like trying to stop a river on its course,” he said, drawing applause.
Even as he had pledged “not to say much” at the event, the Kiambu governor still let slip some heavy political duels on the cards in Central Kenya this August.
He urged IEBC to investigate reports that some people were out to influence the recruitment of election officials in the region. Mr Kabogo also called upon the top Jubilee Party leadership to “hold back their attack dogs” from threatening leaders in Central Kenya. He did not have kind words for Devolution Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria for “badmouthing other leaders”.
Mr Gethenji was picked as secretary of the group while Nakuru gubernatorial aspirant John Mututho, Nyeri counterpart Thuo Mathenge, and former PS Mwangi were included in the leadership team.
Among the resolutions read by Mr Gethenji were to expand the group to rope in independent candidates from other regions.
“We have invited others on board and our next meeting will be bigger so no one says this is a Mt Kenya or a Kabogo thing. The message we are sending out is that democracy is at stake and we must defend it,” he said.
The meeting was also attended by sitting and aspiring MPs, senators and MCAs.