It was Chinua Achebe who once wrote that when you see a toad jumping up and down in full daylight, it is not for nothing. Former Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe’s onslaught against Deputy President William Ruto, seemingly out of the blue, has roiled the political waters across the country like never before, and may very well determine Jubilee’s future.
Murathe’s vow to take his crusade all the way to the Supreme Court means the battle has just begun. The point he says he wants the Court to determine about Ruto’s eligibility to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta come 2022 may be legally dubious, at best. However, what is unfolding is a political war, not a legal one.
The rush of political formations taking sides, on one hand the pro-Uhuru forces and on the other the pro-Ruto groups, has blown open the deep cracks in what was always an artificial and brittle Jubilee coalition. What was Murathe up to?
There is an argument in circulation that Murathe’s mission from the start was to set in motion the deliberate destruction of Jubilee in order to free its main original partner, the TNA, for new alliances. Going by this view, the present coalition has outlived its usefulness and that the Uhuru side is gearing up for a fresh alliance with Raila Odinga’s ODM.
Last week gave a good glimpse of how the war is shaping up, and who is siding with whom. A group of governors from Central Kenya trooped for a press conference ostensibly to denounce Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria on his sideshow drama about Uhuru’s “poor development” record. But a bigger point they were making was that Uhuru needed everybody’s support in his so-called Building Bridges Initiative, which was borne out of the “Handshake” with Raila.
In short order, a bipartisan team of women leaders, led jointly by Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and ODM’s Women Representative for Homa Bay Gladys Wanga joined the fray, warning against premature politicking — a clear dig at the pro-Ruto “Tanga Tanga” movement and its ill-disguised campaigns. The women wore brand new T-shirts emblazoned with the word ‘Embrace,’ evidently in support of the “Handshake.”
Coincidentally, another group of women activists, seemingly taking the cue from Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, entered the scene, provocatively sporting their own T-shirts with the words “Team Washenzi.” Ngunjiri had previously made incendiary remarks against Uhuru and his “Handshake” arrangement with Raila, which prompted an angry retort from the President directed at Ngunjiri and Kuria — and seemingly the whole Tanga Tanga brigade — calling them “washenzi”. The atmosphere was getting so heated that there were reported murmurs from the pro-Ruto side of impeaching the President. It was probably just bluster, but it showed the extent things were fast breaking down in Jubilee.
There was a widespread feeling, nonetheless, that Murathe’s bare-knuckle assault was inadvertently gaining Ruto sympathy in parts of the country. There is no question of underestimating the DP at this stage; those doing so could be making a mistake.
His Tanga Tanga movement has taken him to nearly every nook and cranny of the country. He has made solid ground with his frequent forays to the Coast. He also commands strong support in North-Eastern. Western is up for grabs, with one side for Ruto while another — coalescing around Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani party — has come out in support of Uhuru and the “Handshake.”
Tanga Tanga pointmen in Central Kenya will face an uphill task if Uhuru decides to go ‘mano a mano’ against them. Kuria’s profuse apologies after he came under sustained attacks were an indicator that the President has his clout intact in his home base.
There is also no question that local Tanga Tanga adherents like Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa, his Kiharu counterpart Ndindi Nyoro and Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua can withstand a fight with Uhuru in his own backyard. As for Ngunjiri, he is betting that his non-Kalenjin constituents in the Rift Valley will stand up against the sabre-rattling against Ruto coming from certain leaders in Central Kenya. Among the responses to the Bahati MP was that “political blackmail” would no longer be tolerated — an allusion to the loaded hints about a possible re-igniting of the 2007/8 clashes.
When he held a pre-New Year media round-table in Mombasa, Uhuru stressed three things. One was seeing that 2022 politics were toned down. The second was to see to fruition the Building Bridges Initiative. The third was to see the anti-corruption war was won. Reading between the lines, there was little of the Tanga Tanga agenda contained in his remarks. It was also noted across the board that he did not expressly rebuke his ally Murathe.
As for Ruto’s main rival in the Rift Valley, one Senator Gideon Moi, he has been studiously silent so far. However, his frequent warnings to the Tanga Tanga crowd come to mind: “There are those who took to the dance floor long before the real dance had begun.”