Kanu’s decision to work with Jubilee Party (JP) has been received with both excitement and caution as the country watches how Deputy President William Ruto will navigate around the new challenge.
Senior JP officials have dismissed claims by some Kanu North Rift officials that the independence party successfully bargained for a stake in the government in the event Uhuru is re-elected, with a possibility of getting slots in the Cabinet.
They also took offence with Kanu’s decision to support President Uhuru Kenyatta and not his deputy and asked its leadership to stop interfering with JP affairs.
“You are not telling the country anything because however much you hate the DP, he is here to stay. He will be the running mate this year and will also be the flag bearer in 2022,” said National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale.
Duale dismissed Kanu as a separate entity from JP, just like CORD, NASA and other parties fighting with the ruling party for power.
But there are growing concerns that Kanu will seriously weaken Ruto’s grip of the Rift Valley because it will field candidates for all positions, most of them senior politicians with a lot of influence and campaign resources.
The DP was instrumental in pushing for the folding of several affiliate parties to form one united party, but the rush by dissatisfied aspirants defecting to Kanu and Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto’s Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) should be a cause for worry.
The DP’s grip is not only threatened in the Rift Valley, but also other areas where his associates appear to face opposition. In counties such as Mandera, Ruto is striving to ensure his ally and current Governor Ali Roba retains his seat after his clan endorsed former PC Hassan Noor. A lineup picked by clan elders has already met President Kenyatta.
The Deputy President was last week conspicuously absent from high-profile meetings, including the visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, before emerging on Sunday to attend a church service in Karen where the media was asked to step out.
Ruto then held meetings at his Karen home and at a hotel on Langata Road, hosting several delegations, among them one from Marsabit.
“The DP is human and can suffer from fatigue. He had simply taken an off to relax and people should not use that to claim the DP is under any sort of pressure,” said Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria.
Ruto also appears to be aligning himself with a group calling itself “Team Nairobi” that consists of Dagoretti MP Dennis Waweru, Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko, former MP Margaret Wanjiru, and nominated MP Johnson Sakaja.
The DP’s close associates say they too are wary of the move by former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth to ditch his Kenya National Congress (KNC) party and join Jubilee to vie in Nairobi as governor.
Both Gideon Moi, the Kanu chairman, and Kenneth are seen as potential threats to a Ruto candidature in 2022 after Uhuru’s exit.
Friday, Ruto allies, Duale, Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet Senator), Kuria and Patrick Osero, dismissed detractors of the DP, insisting that no one can isolate Ruto from President Kenyatta.
“Saying you will vote for Uhuru but do not support Ruto is like saying you love beef stew but you will only eat beef and leave the soup,” said Murkomen.
Duale added, “Those divisive politics are the old politics of Kanu in the 1980s. Apart from being the President, he is the party leader of JP and Ruto is his deputy, the two are intertwined. With or without Kanu, we will deliver the highest number of votes in the country as JP.”
Osero, a close associate of the DP since their time in the Youth for Kanu ‘92, argues, “It’s a big joke to purport to support Uhuru and not Ruto, yet the two are in the same ticket.”
Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto warned that Jubilee would lose the presidency due to its arrogance and insensitivity to the plight of Kenyans.
“We told the President to engage the people directly; unfortunately he has left the Rift Valley to Ruto and that may be counter-productive,” said Governor Ruto.
President Kenyatta’s political adviser Joshua Kuttuny warned that a rift will cost Jubilee dearly, and said the President and DP must reach out to all players.
“Even if it means talking to our enemies, we must reach out to everybody, including our enemies if that is what it takes to secure support for Jubilee,” Kuttuny said.
JP Vice Chairman David Murathe, who is a close ally of President Kenyatta, terms the political rivalry in the Rift Valley as healthy, saying in the end they will mobilise votes for JP.
“Sibling rivalry is healthy; let William have his forte and Gideon his. But in the end both baskets will emerge in Uhuru’s re-election,” Murathe said.
“We have an agreement that Uhuru will serve two terms and thereafter the Kikuyu community supports William for another two terms.”
However, nominated Senator Paul Njoroge said the Deputy President had been weakened and should not even think of running in 2022.
“The DP should start minding and getting worried about whether he is coming back as Uhuru’s running mate. Things are about to change for him,” he told The Standard on Saturday on the phone.
NASA takes battle to Uhuru, Ruto doorstep
Njoroge said as things stand now, Ruto needs to convince everyone that he still commands numbers in the Rift Valley.
Asked what he thinks about the DP’s political future, Governor Ruto said, “The hour of reckoning has come and the Deputy President should regret the day he started to become a dictator.”
Governor Ruto said his party was carefully studying the two coalitions — NASA and Jubilee — and would make its final decision on who to support after knowing exactly what they stand for.
-Story by Geoffrey Mosoku, Roselyne Obala and Steve Mkawale