Mt Kenya leaders, including some Jubilee Party officials, have backed Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru’s call for elections in the ruling party.
This follows comments made last week by the party’s interim vice-chairman, Mr David Murathe, when he urged western Kenya leaders to unite and “give central Kenya someone they can work with in 2022”.
In effect, Mr Murathe, who is believed to be close to President Uhuru Kenyatta, trashed the political alliance between central Kenya and the Rift Valley, which helped usher in the Jubilee administration in 2013 and returned it to power last year, with Deputy President William Ruto as the second in command and the shoo-in for President come 2022.
Mt Kenya leaders are now calling for elections to address the simmering fissures in the party and to have officials who can authoritatively speak on behalf of the party.
Long believed to be a mouthpiece of President Kenyatta, Mr Murathe also appeared to suffer a credibility dent when the President said during a round-table with TV broadcasters on Friday that those speaking on the 2022 succession were doing so without the party’s backing.
“Those speaking about succession can go ahead but I am not with them. We have never engaged in 2022 politics with Raila (Odinga),” said President Kenyatta when pressed on the intentions of the Building Bridges Initiative.
One MP, however, said the remark should not be taken at face value as Mr Murathe was still very close to the President.
“We know him as a buddy of the President. We even ask for favours through him. Uhuru has not publicly rebuked him, which means his views maybe shared by the President,” the MP, who did not wish to be named discussing confidential protocol issues, said.
The leaders accused Mr Murathe of fronting ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi to be President Kenyatta’s successor instead of backing Dr Ruto “as the party decided in 2013.”
But others defended Mr Murathe, noting that he represents a “key voice” in the central region.
At the Maragoli Cultural Festival on Friday, Mr Murathe said Dr Ruto should retire together with President Kenyatta. He added that the Kikuyu community does not have a memorandum of understanding with Dr Ruto or anyone regarding the 2022 election, attracting strong reactions from leaders in Meru, Kirinyaga and Nyeri.
Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua termed Mr Murathe as a political broker who was fronting Mr Mudavadi to succeed President Kenyatta.
“The officials we have are holding interim posts. Jubilee should hold elections as soon as possible. Besides, Murathe does not speak on behalf of the party because he has no mandate,” Mr Gachagua said.
He asked Mr Murathe to go back to the grassroots and sell Mr Mudavadi individually as he is not an elected leader.
Former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo also supported calls for Jubilee elections, arguing the party should speak in one voice to avoid internal divisions ahead of the 2022 race.
He claimed the 2022 poll debate was a creation of politicians keen on amassing power, at the expense of delivering on the promises they gave the electorate ahead of last year’s General Election.
“The succession politics to me is neither here nor there. President Uhuru Kenyatta has got three or more years. But even as he plans his legacy, he should also be planning his exit,” said Mr Kabogo.
On Saturday, Ms Waiguru, who has buried her political hatchet with Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga, called for Jubilee elections in order to end wrangles in the party. “The Jubilee Party needs a leadership that has a legitimate mandate and the people’s support,” she said in a statement.
In Meru, Jubilee officials called for Mr Murathe’s ouster, arguing that he was championing the opposition’s cause.
“No individual is allowed to use his party position to make personal statements. Mr Murathe is free to join any other party. We cannot have him championing other parties’ agenda within Jubilee,” the officials led by Meru branch secretary-general Alhaji Mwendia said.
North Imenti MP Rahim Dawood asked President Kenyatta to take action against Mr Murathe.
“Mr Murathe holds the position as an appointee. President Kenyatta should reprimand him or come clear that he does not represent his views. We need party elections to avoid causing disunity within Jubilee,” Mr Dawood said.
But some leaders have come to Mr Murathe’s defence. Nyeri County Assembly Speaker John Kaguchia said elections would not solve Jubilee problems.
Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi said Mr Murathe should not be forced to resign because of expressing his personal opinion.
"That is his democratic right. If we do so, we shall sow chaos in the party and we may split.”
Reporting by David Muchui, Nicholas Komu and Ndung'u Gachane