David Murathe was pushed out of his position as Jubilee vice-chairman Sunday following what insiders said was President Uhuru Kenyatta’s intervention to prevent the vitriol against Deputy President William Ruto from splitting the ruling party.
The intervention, sources said, came after Dr Ruto called his boss in the morning demanding to know why Mr Murathe "is still a party official even with his views aimed at breaking Jubilee".
Seen as President Kenyatta’s voice and dyed-in-the-wool supporter, Mr Murathe on Saturday revived his anti-Ruto 2022 State House bid, insisting that the DP had a joint ticket with the President in 2013 and 2017 and should therefore step down in 2022.
The comments were quickly rebuked by Dr Ruto’s allies in the Rift Valley, with some lawmakers asking Mr Kenyatta to rein in Mr Murathe “or the President quits and joins Raila Odinga in the opposition”.
There were also fears, following the rare, bare-knuckled press conference by Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, in which he openly blamed the President for the implosion in Jubilee.
The removal of Mr Murathe came as MPs from the ruling party were planning a meeting to discuss his conduct, amid calls for elections in Jubilee ahead of the interim officials' term ending in 2020.
On Sunday, Mr Murathe said his comments were personal and should not be misconstrued to mean he was speaking for Mr Kenyatta.
"I find that it is no longer tenable to stay on as the party vice chairman, given that I will have to sit in the same National Executive Council with a man I am taking to court to block from running for president," Mr Murathe told reporters at his Garden Estate home, Nairobi.
It was a decision welcomed by Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot.
“Reckless utterances can often lead to chaos and unnecessary divisions. While freedom of expression is a protected right, incivility has no place in present-day Kenya or within Jubilee. We welcome the timely resignation of #MuratheResigns, as a matter of course!” Ms Waiguru said.
The Elgeyo-Marakwet senator tweeted: “Congratulations to Jubilee leader Uhuru Kenyatta and deputy leader Dr William Ruto for restoring order in the party. Tuko Pamoja.”
While he did not provide a letter confirming his decision, Mr Murathe said he had informed Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju about his move.
Mr Murathe wants the Supreme Court to declare that since the DP automatically acts as president in the event that the incumbent is unable to discharge his functions, “it only means that the DP is a president using the mandate he is given during the election and so he should not be allowed to run for president after the two terms”.
He said there was no memorandum of understanding between President Kenyatta to back Dr Ruto for the top job in 2022.
“MoUs are public documents. I want to dare those who say there exists such a thing between Ruto and the President to produce it. Let them show it to us,” he said.
Mr Murathe added that he would not leave the party “but we are free people, and if a formation comes up that we like, we will move”.
And while he said he was passionate about what he said and would stand by it, he took offence at “politicians linking my comments to the President’s views”.
"I speak as David Murathe, and the views I have are mine. I do not take brief from anyone and I am disappointed that people have construed this as the position of President Uhuru Kenyatta,” Mr Murathe said.
Asked why he was making the comments now, and not 2013 when the pair ran, or 2017 when they sought re-election, Mr Murathe said he was taking the position “to help avoid problems in 2022”.
"If our deputy party leader was to lose the election to say, Raila, or Mudavadi, and the discussion becomes 'I lost because they did not vote for me, even after I supported them for two terms', there will be chaos, and we want people to know this early that there is no guarantee to support anyone in 2022," he said.
Earlier, Mr Ngunjiri became the first lawmaker to blame Mr Kenyatta, even asking him to resign “if he wants to join the Orange Democratic Movement”.
“If Mr Kenyatta is tired of leading this country, he should call for fresh elections to end this political rumour mongering,” the Bahati MP said in reference to reports that the President met Mr Odinga to discuss a possible Cabinet reshuffle.
BROKERS AND REJECTS
“We shall revisit and expose records of past presidents. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was reading water meters but after 15 years as president, he became a billionaire. Daniel arap Moi was a teacher but is also a billionaire. Mr Mwai Kibaki was a lecturer in Uganda,” Mr Ngunjiri said.
The MP poured cold water on the March 9 Kenyatta-Odinga handshake saying, “Jomo Kenyatta, Mr Moi and Mr Kibaki attempted similar experiments but failed”.
Elsewhere, Central Organisation of Trade Unions Secretary-General Francis Atwoli told NTV that he has little faith in Dr Ruto “because he does not have the interests of the people at heart”.
“We are not saying that Ruto should not be elected president. We are warning Kenyans that if they do, they should know what the heat will be. They should not cry that the heat is too much because we have told them about it. You can take our advice or leave it but do not say we did not tell you,” Mr Atwoli said.
He added that Dr Ruto is not the right man to be president “because he has put a lot of effort in making money through businesses”.
“People do not make money. They work hard and earn it,” Mr Atwoli said.
The unionist was the first to call for the extension of President Kenyatta’s term beyond 2022. He repeated the call yesterday, saying Mr Kenyatta “is still young, and has a lot to offer”.
Before Mr Murathe announced his resignation, Mr Murkomen had led his Nakuru counterpart Susan Kihika and MPs Kimani Ichung’wah (Kikuyu), John Kiarie (Dagoretti South), James Gichuhi (Tetu), Didmus Barasa (Kimilili) and Charles Njagua (Starehe) in condemning the Jubilee top official.
Ms Kihika and Mr Ichung’wah called Mr Murathe and Mr Tuju political rejects and brokers.
“When political rejects are moving around uttering careless statements, you can only be concerned even though their utterances hold no water,” Ms Kihika said.
Mr Ichung’wah said it is not brokers and rejects who would decide the person to lead the country.
Reports by Patrick Lang’at, Francis Mureithi, David Mwere and Vitalis Kimutai