6 January 2019

Kenya: Jubilee At a Crossroads As Factions Fight for Its Soul

The Jubilee Party is facing an implosion as several factions clash over a myriad of political and ideological differences.

Three groups have emerged from the party: The pro-Deputy President William Ruto group popularly known as the Tanga Tanga group; a faction that is calling for a halt to early campaigns and has stated that the DP will not be the automatic candidate; and another slew of politicians who want to vie for the presidency under Jubilee.

The latter are symbolised by Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria.

Failure to start projects that have been launched by the government has also intensified the row.

SUPPORTERS

The Tanga Tanga group is led by youthful lawmakers, and also goes under the "hustlers" tag.

Members include Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro.

"I am not apologetic for being Team Tanga Tanga. Our business is Ruto; and Ruto is our business. The rest are on the wrong side of history," Mr Nyoro said.

The anti-Ruto group mostly comprises political veterans. They include Jubilee vice-chair David Murathe, Igembe North MP Maoka Maore, nominated MP Maina Kamanda, Kangema MP Muturi Kigano and Kieleweke squad leader and Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu.

"I am 100 percent not in Tanga Tanga group. It is an unviable unit that is undermining the presidency. It is unfortunate that the Ruto group are thinking about 2022 in 2019. Very sad," Mr Maore said.

UHURU ALLIES

The group angling for the top job is led Mr Kuria. Others who have shown interest in the post include Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki and his Murang'a counterpart Mwangi wa Iria.

"Yes, I am no longer in either camps now. My goal is on the presidency but I want to work first and use that as a springboard," Mr Kuria told the Sunday Nation.

"We will go where the President goes, despite where he goes," Jubilee Deputy Chief Whip and Murang'a Senator Irungu Kang'ata added.

Several key factors are driving the split -- the March handshake between Nasa leader Raila Odinga and President Kenyatta; 2022 succession politics; interference from Deep State; and differing ideology and "modus operandi".

The handshake has made the group pushing for Ruto presidency insecure and complicated the race for the presidency, a stark contrast to 2017 when Ruto looked like he would automatically inherit the six million plus Mt Kenya vote.

RAILA

It has also diluted his say in governance as the presidency can now count on ODM in Parliament, and Mr Odinga outside the House, to push government agenda.

"They (Tanga Tanga) fear the "handshake" and are rocking the boat from within. What Raila and Uhuru did was good for the country. It is uncivilised for them to talk about 2022 now," Igembe North MP and Anglo Leasing scandal whistle-blower Maoka Maore added.

Mr Maore challenged Dr Ruto to dissociate himself from the group if he wants to unite the party. "He should rein in his troops," he said.

But the Tanga Tanga team -- led by Mr Murkomen, Mr Gachagua and Mr Nyoro -- views the Maore-Wambugu team and ODM as saboteurs.

"Raila is using the handshake to brand himself for 2022 and trying to rock our boat," Mr Murkomen said.

His sentiments were supported by Dr Ruto last month, who accused ODM of trying to kick him out of Jubilee.

ENDORSEMENT

Succession politics has also exacerbated the infighting. Remarks by Mr Murathe that Dr Ruto is not the automatic 2022 party candidate have only added fuel to the political fire in Jubilee.

Mr Wambugu and his Kiambaa counterpart Paul Koinange also last week led Kikuyu council of elders in a prayer meeting where the elders maintained that there was no deal between Kikuyus and Kalenjins to support the DP in 2022.

In an interview with the Nation, Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina said the region was free to choose any candidate in 2022.

But Mr Nyoro counters: "If Mr Murathe and his group's opinion is so popular, why doesn't he come to the ground and support their candidate? We want to tell him and his ilk that Mt Kenya belongs to Ruto. If the region was a girl, it would already be engaged to the DP and be waiting for a wedding date".

Others like Mr Gachagua are accusing the Murathe group of fronting ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi to take over from President Kenyatta.

"The same fellows who were pushing for Mr Mudavadi in 2013 are back. They want to edge out Ruto the way they tried to keep Uhuru out of the presidency.

"They did not succeed then and they won't succeed even today. They also cheated Mr Peter Kenneth. We will not do business with strangers and opportunists. We only know Uhuru and Ruto," the Mathira MP said.

NOMINATIONS

But Kangema MP Muturi Kigano said the Tanga Tanga Team has overdone it.

"Nobody has said Ruto will not be elected. They have advertised him too much. They should leave our people free to choose. People are getting fatigued about Ruto. This group is his worst enemy," Mr Kigano said.

Meanwhile, the third group and its ambitions, led by Mr Kuria, is lurking menacingly.

"Jubilee does not belong to the Tanga Tanga group or the Kieleweke team. It belongs to the people. I will be seeking their mandate to rule Kenya if Jubilee has a fair nomination process," Mr Kuria told the Sunday Nation.

It could be this group that Dr Ruto alluded to when he said on Thursday that Jubilee would pick its presidential candidate through fair nominations.

"I will accept the outcome of the nominations," the DP said. But Mr Kuria says such comments should come from a neutral official, not the DP.

"He is a candidate like any other. He should be neutral and let the party make such announcements," Mr Kuria shot back.

SUCCESSOR

As the groups in Jubilee intensify, there are fears of a split, especially if the President does not show his hand. His silence, especially on the succession issue, is fuelling the divisions.

"In 2017, the President said the Jubilee candidate for 2022 is Ruto. What other pronouncements are we waiting for?" Mr Nyoro asked.

The MP also accused tycoons he did not name of trying to scuttle Mr Ruto's presidency bid "because he is not one of them."

"Uhuru is backing Ruto. We have not heard otherwise," Mr Gachagua said.

But Mr Maore differs. "The President has been very clear. His choice will be known as we near the elections. For now, we work first. What is so difficult about that?" the MP said.

PROJECTS

Failure to start projects launched, or even to begin new ones in Jubilee, is also causing differences.

Mr Kuria brought out the frustrations last week, with some leaders agreeing with him but differing on the language he used.

But Mr Kang'ata thinks the differences are normal and a reflection of the "vibrancy of the party".

"If the party was not popular, would all the candidates be scrambling to vie under it?" he asked.

As the divisions continue, new parties are being formed or revamped in Mt Kenya. For now, the groups have vowed to stay put.

Additional reporting by Joseph Wangui

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