Two teams campaigning for President Uhuru Kenyatta are entangled in a quiet, yet vicious, fight for supremacy that has caused divisions within the Jubilee Party, just a month to the General Election.
The competition between the Mbele Iko Sawa and the UhuRuto Express teams has resulted in calls for better coordination by the Jubilee Party secretariat as those who do not want to be entangled in the fight keep away from either camp.
The fight is between a group of new entrants who won in the Jubilee Party nominations and are working with Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria under the Mbele Iko Sawa banner, and those who lost and decided to campaign for the President under UhuRuto Express.
At stake is seniority within the Jubilee Party and the Central Kenya region.
So serious is the internal war that Mr Kuria and his team are reported to have been advised not to campaign in the former Central Province.
They faced resistance when campaigning in Ruai, Nairobi, which saw one of them hit with a stone as they reached out to voters.
A colleague of Mr Kuria’s told the Nation that the Mbele Iko Sawa outfit was not trusted from the beginning.
Mr Kuria’s personality and aggressive approach was also said to have discouraged some from working with him.
He is known for his sharp tongue and liberal use of language.
“You can’t work that way with politicians. You have to consult. That’s why you see he is working with the nominees, most of whom are new,” said the MP, who asked not to be named for fear of being seen to create disharmony in the Jubilee camp.
The problem manifested itself in Narok recently, where local leaders complained that they had not been informed of the visit in advance. The Kuria team was met with some jeers by supporters of Chama Cha Mashinani.
When other Jubilee Party campaigners met there last Saturday, this was one of the complaints voiced.
Apparently, Mr Kuria informed Narok Governor Samuel Tunai late and he had not had enough time to mobilise supporters.
Mr Kuria is also accused of projecting himself as Deputy President William Ruto’s pointman in the region, despite the fact that there was no formal process that put him in that place.
Mr Kuria has been vocal against independent candidates and this has not also endeared him to this category of leaders in the region.
The Gatundu South MP’s moves are seen in some quarters as a precursor to his bid for the influential Central Kenya MPs chairman when Parliament is reconstituted.
With a good number of the region’s more experienced MPs losing in the nominations, there will be a contest in Parliament on who becomes the chairman of the parliamentary group.
One of Mbele Iko Sawa’s apparent objectives was to get a Jubilee wave going and to campaign against independent candidates, most of whom had lost in the ruling party’s nominations.
UhuRuto Express, on the other hand, accommodates everybody and gives independent candidates an opportunity to campaign as they insist their focus is on getting votes for President Kenyatta.
Mbele Iko Sawa was born shortly after Jubilee party nominations were finalised, when Mr Kuria organised a retreat in Nanyuki for all Jubilee hopefuls in Mt Kenya region, 52 out of 91 nominees attended but the meeting was boycotted by Kiambu gubernatorial candidate Ferdinand Waititu and Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri. The two organised parallel meetings.
On May 3, Mr Kuria organised yet another meeting. This time, he went to Nyeri County, where he urged people to turn out for Madaraka Day celebrations the next day.
Conspicuously missing was Kieni MP Kanini Kega but all other Jubilee nominees were present.
His moves caught the attention of some senior financiers in the party and he was promptly funded for his efforts.
Since then, he has been traversing the country with his Mbele Iko Sawa initiative.
His outfit’s advantage is that, apart from campaigning for President Kenyatta, he is also campaigning for Jubilee candidates.
Facing little competition in his Gatundu South Constituency, Mr Kuria has also incorporated Kipipiri’s jubilee candidate Amos Kimunya and Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba in his team.
The other one is Jubilee party official Joseph Maathai who serves as the coordinator.
Alongside Kuria are also popular gospel and secular musicians who have been receiving allowances for their efforts.
“Kuria saw a gap that the party had not utilised and he seems to have had the blessings of the President and Deputy President,” said a source.
The campaign team has visited over 20 counties so far.
UhuRuto Express was quietly put together by Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau and Gichugu MP Njogu Barua. Mr Kamau lost to Mwangi wa Iria in the Jubilee Party nominations for Murang’a governor.
Nominated MP Isaac Mwaura, who lost to Mr Simon King’ara, defended the Kamau-led outfit, saying they are on the brink of delivering victory for the President.
“All we want is 100 per cent turnout on election day. We have moved around and can report that the ground is ready for this,” he said.
Mr Mwaura, nominated on an ODM ticket, sought to downplay the existing friction with the team under Mr Kuria, arguing that their mandates were different.
“There is no reason why we should clash. We are campaigning for the President and have embraced all the candidates, including the independents, whom we believe will help shore up the numbers and, unlike them, we are not running for any elective seats,” he said.
His counterpart from Njoro Joseph Kiuna assured Jubilee candidates that they were not opposed to their tickets and so they should stop seeing them as enemies.
“The problem is that some of them know they were handed party certificates yet they did not deserve it, that is why you see them crying wolf,” he said.
Mr George Warutere, a Narc Kenya candidate for Mathira Constituency seat, said Mr Kuria’s efforts should not be condemned since he is campaigning for the President.
“Nyeri people welcome anyone who wants to campaign for the President, but have it in mind that in 2013, the Governor was from GNU and Mathira elected a Narc MP.
In the end, the President will get all the votes here but for the other seats, Nyeri people will make their decision at the ballot,” he said.
Murang’a Jubilee senate aspirant Irungu Kang’ata sees nothing wrong with what Mr Kuria is doing.
“The meetings are a good contribution towards mobilising support for the party.
Whether he has other subtle plans is neither here nor there. No one else is doing that, so if he has, the better for him,” he said.
Laikipia Governor Joshua Irungu said he has allied himself with Mbele Iko Sawa.
“Mbele Iko Sawa is also campaigning for Jubilee candidates and that gives it an edge over the others,” he said.
Nyeri Town Jubilee candidate Ngunjiri Wambugu said Mr Kuria is being vilified for showing an initiative.
Mr Kuria, on his part, said he will continue with his meetings.
“I am not apologetic for what I am doing for the re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta. I am concerned with voter turnout and to see that Jubilee has a majority elected leaders,” he said.
Despite the apparent acrimony, the good thing for Jubilee Party in having different teams is that they augment the national campaign team led by President Kenyatta and his Deputy.
Their opponents, the National Super Alliance (Nasa), has five principals who have been splitting up to cover different parts of the country.
Reported by Wanjohi Githae, Justus Wanga and John Ngirachu