The Jubilee Party secretariat is in turmoil as two camps – one allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and another to his deputy William Ruto – fight for control of the three-year-old outfit.
The vicious war that has seen officials openly work at cross-purposes is expected to climax in March next year during party elections.
Those loyal to Mr Ruto, who believe they have the numbers in the branches across the country, are keen to replace secretary-general Raphael Tuju, who is also a Cabinet minister without portfolio.
The Mr Ruto is on record wondering how Mr Tuju, a party spokesman, could become a strategist for Opposition leader Raila Odinga while reacting to a story recently published by a daily.
It is an open secret that there is no love lost between the two, with Mr Tuju said to hold brief for Mr Kenyatta in the party affairs.
President Kenyatta is the leader of the ruling party and Mr Ruto his deputy.
Even though Mr Ruto has led members in denials that there was a problem in the party and blamed the media for “creating a non-existent war”, intense infighting has persisted.
The declaration that it will field a candidate in the Kibra by-election on November 7 has further exposed internal conflicts in the party.
Barely a few hours after Mr Tuju issued a statement asking aspirants to apply for the party’s ticket on Monday, a letter purportedly authored by him was sent to the electoral agency bearing five names, including that of former football star McDonald Mariga.
Others who were listed among the party’s aspirants included Morris Peter Kinyanjui, Mikinyingi Walter Trenk, Said Ibrahim and Doreen Nangame Wasike.
It is the emergence of this list that has further exposed underlying tension within the party, resulting from a perceived cold war between Mr Kenyatta and his deputy.
The Sunday Nation has learnt of how DP arm-twisted the party into fielding a candidate in Kibra.
The initial indication had been that they would support Raila Odinga’s ODM party in the spirit of ‘the handshake’.
The Kibra seat fell vacant following the death of Ken Okoth, who had been elected on an ODM ticket in the past two elections.
But on realisation that Mr Ruto was going to rally a good section of Jubilee leaders to give ODM a run for its money by fronting a candidate, and to avoid a situation where Jubilee leaders were campaigning for different candidates, the party’s top leadership changed its mind and will now field a candidate.
One of the aspirants in the list sent to the polls agency, names that Mr Tuju later disowned, admitted that he had been approached by some high-ranking members of the party and persuaded to declare interest.
As was seen in the Wajir and Embakasi by-elections, Mr Ruto is keen to claim the win and use it to consolidate support.
He is testing his war machine ahead of the next elections when he is widely expected to run for the top seat.
In Embakasi, Jubilee did not front a candidate on an understanding with Mr Odinga, the leader of the defunct Nasa coalition, only for the DP to openly campaign for the Wiper candidate Julius Mawathe against Mr Irshad Sumra of ODM. Mr Mawathe triumphed.
We also established the emergence of two factions in the Jubilee party headquarters, leaning either towards the party leader or his deputy.
Together with Mr David Murathe, who resigned (though it is understood Mr Kenyatta rejected his resignation), Mr Tuju is accused by those leaning on the side of the second in command of working hard to rock the boat from within as they know that Mr Ruto’s chances of succeeding the president are higher were JP to remain united until the next general election.
Mr Murathe declared early in the year that he is opposed to a Ruto presidency and would do everything constitutional and within his power to stop him.
Records at the Registrar of Political Parties as at Friday showed that indeed he is still the bone fide party vice-chairman of Jubilee.
Those from Central Kenya, Mr Kenyatta’s backyard, who are opposed to the DP’s ascension to power are understood to be in the process of securing an existing political vehicle through which they could enter into an alliance with leaders from other regions ahead of the 2022 elections.
Mr Ruto’s strategists are however not asleep. As they fight for full control of JP, they are said to be in the process of registering an alternative vehicle, Jubilee Republican Party, just in case.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) earlier in the week wrote to the party to clarify on the letter it received on Monday purportedly written by Mr Tuju listing the five aspirants for the Kibra by-election.
In a brief statement by the IEBC on Tuesday, the agency confirmed receipt of the letter but noted that it had written to the party and forwarded a copy of the same for “information and further action”.
“It has come to the attention of the commission that Jubilee Party has denied authoring the said letter and termed it as fake,” read the IEBC statement in part.
The letter dated August 26, which had five names including that of Mr Mariga, was received by the IEBC on Monday.
However, Mr Tuju, when contacted, denied authoring the letter, only stating that he was aware of a press statement he issued on Monday stating the party will field a candidate in the Kibra by-election.
“I gave a press conference telling those who are interested in contesting to get in touch because we won’t do the normal process in which people line up or vote or whatever, ours will be an interview process whose deadline is Friday,” Mr Tuju said.
On the purported letter to the IEBC, he said: “Some busybody somewhere is trying to do something I don’t understand. I will investigate.”
Soy MP Caleb Kositany appeared to authenticate the list saying “those were some of the aspirants of the party”.