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Jubilee Party dream was untimely, Uhuru and Ruto allies now admit

Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi (centre) and Igembe Central MP Kubai Kiringo (right) during a Central leaders’ meeting at Kangeta Catholic Parish in Igembe, Meru. [Photo: Allan Mungai/Standard]


Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi (centre) and Igembe Central MP Kubai Kiringo (right) during a Central leaders’ meeting at Kangeta Catholic Parish in Igembe, Meru. [Photo: Allan Mungai/Standard]

Top Jubilee Party (JP) leaders are now admitting that the dissolution of small parties was ill-advised and untimely.

This comes amid ongoing defections by aspirants to smaller parties that are quickly gaining ground in Jubilee strongholds, making nonsense of the idea to create one strong outfit.

They now say the big dream by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto of creating one monolithic JP that could swallow other parties in the Mt Kenya and Rift Valley regions, has flopped.

Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi, who co-chaired the Jubilee steering committee that oversaw the merger process together with former Minister Noah Wekesa, has owned up that it was untimely to dissolve the parties and that experiment has failed.

“The idea was and remains noble – to unite Kenyans into one political vehicle. But Kenyans are not ready for such a big party,” said Kiraitu.

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He, however, credits President Kenyatta and Ruto for their resolve to have a united country, although he thinks the idea has not been wholesomely bought by majority of Kenyans.

11 political parties

The JP merger that brought together 11 political parties was marked with pomp and fanfare last year when politicians like Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka and Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa folded up their Ford Kenya party to join the new team.

Others that joined the President’s The National Alliance (TNA) and Deputy President Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) were Kiraitu’s Alliance Party of Kenya (APK), the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP), United Democratic Forum (UDF), National Rainbow Coalition (Narc), Ford People, the Republican Congress Party (RC), Tip Tip, the United Party of Kenya (UPK), the Grand National Unity (GNU) and Party of National Unity (PNU).

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It was expected that UDF, Narc, Ford People, RC, UPK, GNU, PNU and Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC) would also join in.

The dream at the time was that politicians in Jubilee strongholds would join JP and unite in taking on the CORD team that has now morphed into the National Supper Alliance (NASA).

In multiple interviews with key players in the political union, they have since come out to own up that the timing was wrong. Kiraitu said the amalgamation of political parties into JP was theoretically brilliant but the practical part has failed.

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“Uhuru and Ruto meant well for this country; they want a united country without tribalism,” he said.

His co-chair Dr Wekesa’s thinking is similar: “It serves no purpose to have a coalition with other parties now, it takes back our efforts to have one united party.”

These developments come at a time when President Kenyatta’s party is suffering defections to parties which claim to be allied to him and Opposition political outfits as well.

PNU, Narc Kenya, MCC, Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) and recently Kanu have sprung up to eat into the Jubilee support base, claiming that they too support President Kenyatta’s re-election.

Parties dissolved

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So far, a number of big names have quit JP and defected to these smaller parties (see list in glance box).

President Kenyatta’s close ally, David Murathe, has dismissed the defections as “inconsequential.” “What did you expect from the sitting MPs? Those who are leaving know that they will lose the nominations because 70 per cent of sitting MPs never make it back to Parliament,” Murathe told The Standard on Sunday.

In September last year, Jubilee affiliated parties dissolved in a colourful event at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani. In a three-day event held in Nairobi, the parties had their National Delegates’ Conference and endorsed the political marriage – with the culmination the birth of JP.

The event was witnessed by about 40,000 people at the stadium and beamed live across TV stations to millions of Kenyans.

In October last year, to show its resolve to have JP hold at the centre, Uhuru’s party sent a 12-member delegation to China to learn about the ruling Communist Party that rules over 1.6 billion people.

The delegation was to learn how to run and ensure harmony in a huge political party in the 21st century.

But four months after JP came into being in a memorable jamboree, the party has been watching its core members leave for smaller parties.

On Thursday, Kanu said it would work with JP, signaling a possible corporate parties’ coalition.

Kiraitu said Kenyans are not ready for such a political outfit yet.

“We wanted to have one huge party that would bring Kenyans together; the President and deputy were committed because they felt that, that was the way to bring Kenyans together. Notably, Kenyans are not ready for such an eventuality,” said Kiraitu.

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He further said given the current situation, their theoretical part worked well but the practical bit has refused to hold.

“Unlike what we anticipated, the reality seems to be different because Kenyans value their small parties,” he said.

Dr Wekesa said those running around saying they are supporting JP are political opportunists.

“You cannot purport to turn around and say you support Uhuru and Ruto yet you did not fold your party when we were coming together. That is hypocrisy and politics of opportunism,” said Dr Wekesa.

Wait a minute!

Former Tip Tip Party Leader Kalembe Ndile said the exercise did not add value, and that “it was a mistake to fold the small parties”.

Mr Lusaka is however cautious, saying the postmortem should be done after the General Election.

“Then we will have the time to ask ourselves whether it was the best thing to do; but for now, we must remain focused,” he said.

Kamau Wairuri, a political analyst notes that though it is plausible that at some point in the next few months JP will realise that the process will not deliver much.

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“They will reach the inevitable conclusion that while merging political parties may have appeared a solid strategy, it is certainly not enough to guarantee success.”

He added: “Leaders want to feel that they are wanted and respected and that they have a fair chance of getting what they are fighting for. They need to trust the people and the systems put in place for them to stay on board or join. Innovativeness and trust are critical elements of success now and Jubilee appears to be running low on both. They could still catch up.”

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