Kanu to support Uhuru Kenyatta, but problems with Jubilee persist

Saturday February 25 2017

Front, from left: Nominated Senator Zipporah Kittony, Kanu secretary-general Nick Salat and the party's chairman Gideon Moi at the party's national executive council meeting in Nakuru on February 23, 2017. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Front, from left: Nominated Senator Zipporah Kittony, Kanu secretary-general Nick Salat and the party's chairman Gideon Moi at the party's national executive council meeting in Nakuru on February 23, 2017. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By GITAU WARIGI
More by this Author

If you watched keenly the announcement following Thursday’s Kanu NEC meeting, party chairman Gideon Moi pointedly said that they would support President Kenyatta.

He did not mention Jubilee or, most notably, the ruling coalition’s Rift Valley chieftain William Ruto.

The phrasing told a lot about the bitter tug-of-war between Gideon and Ruto in the Rift Valley, and also the larger feud over turf between Kanu and the URP wing of Jubilee.

This had put Kenyatta in a dilemma in a region that is an electoral must-win for him. Obviously the President cannot afford to antagonise his Deputy and his supporters.

That is out of the question. Yet he also can ill-afford to have Kanu continuing with its guerrilla warfare against Jubilee pointmen in Kalenjin country.

It hardly looks like Gideon’s belated backing for Kenyatta amounts to a truce with the President’s top Jubilee ally in Rift Valley.

Basically the announcement confined itself to stating Kanu’s support for the President’s re-election. It was made very clear that Kanu would otherwise field candidates at all other levels below the Presidency, meaning that the Jogoo party will not relent in battling head-to-head with Ruto’s chosen candidates in Kalenjinland. This is a problem Kenyatta is far from resolving – yet.

HELD PRIVATE TALKS

There had been too much speculation about what transpired when the President and his mother Mama Ngina separately held private talks with former President Daniel arap Moi.

Ruto’s allies like Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen sounded particularly agitated. I am personally highly doubtful of the bit that a deal was struck for Kenyatta to prop up Gideon’s hypothetical presidential candidacy in 2022, and even more absurdly to replace Ruto with him as Deputy President ahead of the August election.

Kenyatta is certainly not blind to the great calamity he would bring onto Jubilee if he openly short-changed Ruto.

However, there are indications that Gideon won certain assurances when Kenyatta met with his father, where Gideon was present. One which is being widely spoken of is that he wangled a promise that Jubilee would not put up a candidate in Baringo to oppose him as senator.

It is also being said that, as a thank you for his support, he expects a Kanu cabinet seat and a slew of top appointments in the next government.

This would limit Ruto’s choices, for sure. Besides Gideon being the clear possibility for any such cabinet appointment, Kanu’s other nominees for top government jobs would crowd into the same Rift Valley pool that Ruto’s Jubilee wing draws from.

It would constrain Kenyatta, too, at a time when he has been under great pressure to widen the list of top appointments away from Jubilee core bases of Rift Valley and Mt Kenya regions.

RETAINS STRONG PRESENCE

It remains to be seen whether Ruto will accept to forgo fronting a senatorial candidate in Baringo, where the DP had pinpointed the Betting Control and Licensing Board director Simon Chelugui. Senator Murkomen rejected giving Kanu a free pass in Baringo and West Pokot Counties, where the Independence party retains a considerably strong presence.

Kanu’s support was never an automatic thing. Could secretary-general Nick Salat have flirted so openly with Cord/Nasa at their meetings without Gideon’s nod?

It is unlikely, to say the least. Even Nominated Senator Zipporah Kittony was giving conflicting signals at a funeral in Vihiga a fortnight ago. Kenyatta’s and his mom’s urgent meetings with the senior Moi suggested there was a problem.

A couple of statements from the former President to Kenyatta suggested his support would not come unconditionally. Reportedly he asked Jubilee to “respect” Kanu. He is also understood to have reminded Kenyatta of his father’s political roots in Kanu.

I don’t suppose Nasa were too surprised by Kanu’s declared preference. They have lived with Old Moi long enough to know what he thinks of these groupings.

***

Former Nation colleague Mohammed Warsama rounded on me with a highly emotional email for my column last week. Any perceived insult to Cushites was not intentional, and is retracted.

Unfortunately, in the heat of his reply my friend got so incensed he veered into the direction I had earlier deplored about Suna East MP Junet Mohamed. My brother Warsama, there was no need to label me sick in the head. That was low coming from you.