Promise of state jobs keeps Jubilee losers on campaign trail

Uhuruto Express members, MPs Jamleck Kamau (Kigumo), Ether Gathogo (Ruiru) and Cecily Mbarire
(Runyenjes), campaign in Nyeri town on June 11. [Photo: Kibata Kihu/Standard)

A share of the spoils in Government might be the motivation behind the Uhuruto Express, an amorphous group working parallel with other campaigners to drum up support for the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto.

About 40 incumbent leaders who lost in the Jubilee Party nominations but are not defending their seats have set out on an aggressive mission to ensure their party leaders secure a second term.

Through caravans such as Uhuruto Express, which is championed by Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, the leaders are crusading across the country, trying to woo voters to turn out for JP.

However, their involvement in the campaign has raised concerns that the move is motivated by the promise of lucrative jobs if President Kenyatta is re-elected.

Uhuru and Ruto have openly said they will accommodate all those who lost in the JP nominations, promising them jobs in their next administration.

Should they win re-election, the duo is likely to find themselves with a long list of allies who will need favours, in the form of jobs regardless of their qualifications, because of campaigning for them.

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But governance consultant Javas Bigambo and political analyst Herman Manyora say such agreements are not unusual in politics.

“Politics is a fabric woven together by special interests such as cronyism, business interests and protection of acquired wealth, with the primary focus of attaining power,” Bigambo says.

He says the pursuit of these interests leads to cut-throat competition in the elections.

Manyora says the promise of jobs is to ensure there are fewer disgruntled factions within the party to reduce the number of independents.

“They (Uhuru and Ruto) have not hidden that fact. They have openly declared they have many jobs that they would give. Even in communities where they do not enjoy a majority following, they are luring people with the promises,” Prof Manyora says.

Reducing competition

However, while Manyora contended that the Jubilee duo were smoothing the way for their party’s candidates by reducing competition, there are still some party candidates who feel the leaders are not doing enough to calm the wave of independent candidates.

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The party nominees accused their independent rivals of breaking the promise made to Uhuru that they would back Jubilee candidates and he would consider them for jobs.

“We agreed that should anyone lose, they would not leave the party but instead support the nominees. There are many positions that they could be given,” Nyeri Jubilee governor candidate Wahome Gakuru said in a past interview.

In 2013, soon after assuming office, the President and DP appointed their allies Charity Ngilu and Najib Balala as Cabinet Secretaries, despite an earlier assurance that they would be the only politicians in the Cabinet.

The two politicians had stuck out their necks for the President and his deputy in Ukambani and the Coast, but both lost in the Senate race.

Close ties

President Kenyatta included them as a reward for their loyalty and sacrifice because they supported him in regions where his alliance did not enjoy majority support.

From the Luhya community, Uhuru and Ruto settled on former Saboti MP Eugene Wamalwa as Water and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary in 2015.

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Wamalwa’s appointment was dismissed by fellow Western Kenya leaders as a ploy to woo residents of the region to support the Jubilee government.

The CS, since his days at G7 when he was once touted as Uhuru’s running mate, has maintained close ties to the President and is now his key point man in Western.

Perhaps it is with such appointments in mind that some of those who lost in the nomination have dedicated their time to campaign for the President.

“These agreements between political bigwigs and their regional kingpins help the party to make inroads in the unfriendly regions and also create a psychologic impression that they are widening the support bases,” says Bigambo.

Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba could be the biggest beneficiary if his gamble to back Jubilee pays off. The youthful lawmaker ditched ODM, which enjoys near fanatical support in his Western Kenya region to form his own party and endorse Uhuru’s re-election.

 Duped before

The hostility that Namwamba faces on the ground was evident during President Kenyatta’s campaign in Busia County on Tuesday, when the MP was jeered.

He finds himself in a similar position as Ngilu and Balala and will hope that Uhuru and Ruto look at him favourably in the event they are re-elected.

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“Ababu will most likely be a Cabinet Secretary by every indication if the Jubilee duo wins. He knows he will not be elected but is willing to lose and come out on top with some Cabinet position or as chair of a parastatal,” Manyora says.

However, Bigambo is quick to add that some politicians have been duped before and the same might happen after the August polls. He says that in 2013, Mudavadi had a pact with Jubilee that having been sympathetic to the Kenyatta-Ruto faction before election, he get a position in the Government.

“The likes of Bifwoli Wakoli, Musikari Kombo and other surrogates were lucky to get away with some positions,” he says.

Runyenjes MP Cecily Mbarire, who is part of the Uhuruto Express team, denies that they are angling for a share of the spoils in the Jubilee administration.

“No one has talked to us about jobs or anything to do with appointments in the next government.

“That we are campaigning for the President does not mean we have been promised anything,” Mbarire told the Sunday Standard.

“Does it mean that only the party candidates have a right to campaign? Because Ngilu and Balala got appointed to the Cabinet does not mean the same would apply to us.”

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