The Jubilee Party is facing a crisis as emerging camps fight for its soul in anticipation of the 2022 elections.
With the party’s core support pulling in different directions, it is a matter of time before the factions crystallise.
Things came to a head when former vice chairperson David Murathe unleashed a withering broadside on deputy President William Ruto, saying he is unfit to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Days and months down the line, politicians and commentators agree the party is facing serious turbulence.
The party has failed to hold key meetings and elections as a result of the succession politics and uncertainty over the outcome of the handshake with Opposition leader Raila Odinga.
The two camps, one allied to President Kenyatta and the other supporting his deputy, have been in a supremacy contest over control of the party and various national issues.
Mr Murathe’s resignation in January gave Mr Ruto a vice-like grip on the ruling party, with some of his supporters bragging that he now rules the roost.
Mr Ruto’s handlers confided to the Nation that there were plans of reviving URP or forming another party to be used as the DP’s election vehicle in 2022.
There has been political posturing, with some youths donning T-shirts with URP colours during Mr Ruto’s events in Kiambu and Nakuru to test the waters on the revival of the party in case he leaves Jubilee.
However, in a recent television interview, Mr Ruto ruled out quitting the party.
While the Jubilee Party team allied to President Kenyatta backed out of the recent Embakasi South and Ugenya by-elections following a deal with ODM, Mr Ruto and his brigade rallied behind the Wiper candidate while his hand was also seen in the Orange party’s defeat in Siaya.
A tour of Murang’a County by President Uhuru and Mr Odinga this month has been pushed to June.
While the official reason has not been given, local politicians say the postponement is to allow the political temperatures to cool.
The differences were also seen on Tuesday when Secretary-General Raphael Tuju announced that ODM had pulled out of the Wajir West by-election following consultations between the parties’ bosses: Mr Ruto had accompanied the former ODM candidate (Mohamed Yusuf Elmi) as he announced to the media that he had pulled out of the race following an agreement with elders, and that he would back the Jubilee candidate (Mohamed Kolosh).
Mr Tuju, at a press conference in January, following Mr Murathe’s resignation, announced the party would open an academy and branches in the 47 counties.
He also announced that the leadership would plan for a constructive engagement with its legislators.
But to date, the party is yet to hold a parliamentary group (PG) meeting, launch the opening of branch offices and conduct its elections.
On Thursday, Mr Tuju laughed off claims that the party cannot hold elections for fear of an imminent takeover by the Deputy President.
He explained that the current leadership has a constitutional mandate to carry the party to March 2020, in an interim capacity, and no elections can be held unless the National Delegates Conference comes up with another decision.
Mr Tuju said differences in opinion are normal and healthy in a democratic party, saying not everyone can read from the same script all the time.
Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny told his pro-Ruto colleagues to stop blackmailing the President. “We have a Leader of Majority and a Whip, both in the Senate and the National Assembly, through whom issues can be addressed,” he said.
Kipkelion East MP Joseph Limo said there is need for the issues affecting the party to be addressed before it implodes.
Konoin MP Brighton Yegon said grassroots elections will help strengthen the party.
National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale downplayed the PG issue: “There is no delay, and we had our parliamentary group meeting last year October just before the Vat increases. The leadership of the two houses have regular weekly consultations with President Kenyatta and his deputy.”
Murang’a-based political commentator Bernard Mwangi said the party has two factions, thus facing difficulties in arranging a meeting and holding the elections.
He said the bad blood between the Kenyatta and Ruto-allied camps makes it difficult to convene a meeting.
When the Nation asked MP Waithira whether she would advocate for elections, she referred the Nation to Mr Tuju.
Bomet MP Ronald Tonui said the party’s MPs are reading from different scripts on matters of national interest due lack of a PG to agree on issues since the 2017 polls.
Mr Tonui claimed President Kenyatta is hesitant to convene a PG because he is suspicious of the MPs.
His Bahati colleague Kimani Ngunjiri said lawmakers are engaged in a spat with the President on one side and his deputy on the other, a clear indication of deep-rooted cracks.
Kigumo MP Ruth Mwaniki asked Mr Ruto to make peace with Mr Kenyatta, stressing that his political support in Mt Kenya is dependent on the President, who is still the region’s political kingpin.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kangata, who has positioned himself party conciliator, said Mr Kenyatta’s value will depreciate once he leaves the Presidency.
“Your value as a leader is seen when you are taking your people to political heights. I insist that we lack a kingpin by now,” he said, adding that he is optimistic that the region would get a leader to negotiate for them.
Prof Hassan Mwakimako opines the party is experiencing factionalism, as most members are still aligned to the defunct URP and TNA.
“The TNA faction in Jubilee is disorganised and cannot participate in party elections. It will be defeated by the URP faction, helping the DP to consolidate his position in Jubilee. This is not desired by some leaders in Central Kenya,” said Prof Mwakimako.
Former MP Anania Mwaboza said there is a plan by some members to paint a picture of a divided party to stop Mr Ruto from succeeding President Kenyatta.
“As far as we are concerned, we don’t think that there are wrangles in the party. It is only a few elements who are known in Jubilee, like Mr Murathe, who are rocking the party from within,” said Mr Mwaboza.
He said the party is yet to hold elections because of some ‘pertinent’ issues.
Reported by Collins Omulo, Ndungu Gachane, Samuel Baya, Vitalis Kimutai and Justus Ochieng