Kenya: 'Handshake', Ruto Poll Line-Up At Heart of Widening Jubilee Rift

opinion

President Uhuru Kenyatta's utterances during last Sunday's Akorino festival at Kasarani have been made before, only that on previous occasions there was less fury on display. They take the form of three themes rolled into one. The first comes as a defiant defence of the "Handshake" with Raila Odinga. The second lambasts Tanga Tanga's non-stop 2022 campaigns that are ill-disguised as church fundraisers. Both Uhuru's pro-"Handshake" and anti-Tanga Tanga narratives are not new to the media.

NASTY TIFF

There is a third intertwined message when Uhuru is addressing specific Mt Kenya audiences when he sometimes veers to vernacular. I have personally witnessed it several times since last year. The first time was during the April 2018 requiem for multi-party crusader Kenneth Matiba in Murang'a town. He spoke strongly that before he leaves power he will ensure everybody was free to live and do business freely anywhere in the Republic without being blackmailed or made to feel like a hostage because of his origins or political beliefs. He repeated the same remarks at the funeral in October the same year of Kikuyu music icon Joseph Kamaru in Kigumo constituency, and again in Kiharu constituency in February this year at yet another burial of a business mogul called Mzee Thayu Kamau. In all three occasions, Deputy President William Ruto had come along, as had Raila.

Uhuru frequently talks of goals without explaining how they will be met. At the Mzee Thayu funeral, he spoke forcefully of how he would have certain "very senior officials" prosecuted for corruption "in a matter of weeks". It never came to be. What many people remember about that function was the President getting into a very nasty private tiff with Tanga Tanga luminary, Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, who in his speech had urged the President to go slow on the corruption war "for the sake of our people in Rift Valley". Raila also weighed in in his speech by chastising the governor for subscribing to such views.

BLATANT DISPLAY

It was exactly that kind of message Uhuru delivered to the Akorino at Kasarani, which to him must have been apt because that church has a strong diaspora presence in places like Nakuru County. He then got particularly vehement against the Tanga Tanga group for defying his repeated calls to cease its politicking and prioritise on development matters. Ruto was sitting quietly near one of his most zealous Mt Kenya followers, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro. For some reason this is one guy who Uhuru cannot stand. At both the Matiba and Thayu funeral services, Nyoro being the local MP had gotten a chance to speak. Everybody was quick to notice that when the MP rose to pick the microphone, Uhuru would leave the podium and only return when the MP was done with his speech.

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The Kieleweke group is into its own campaign mode, though it insists it is primarily supporting the President's "Big Four" agenda and the "Handshake". Comprising a mix of Jubilee-ODM-Kanu MPs (plus the occasional Wiper participant), it has since spawned a like-minded offshoot of Jubilee-ODM-Kanu-Wiper women politicians calling themselves "Embrace" led by Chief Administrative Secretary for Gender Rachel Shebesh and Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga. The day after the President's Kasarani attack, and in what amounted to a blatant display that his warnings would not be heeded, Team Tanga Tanga responded with their own women wing called "Inua Mama" led by Kandara MP Alice Wahome and Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika. Truly, the Jubilee house is fractured beyond repair.

NAME-CALLING

The way Kieleweke sees it, Jubilee was a negotiated marriage between mainly TNA and URP where the parties agreed to share power more or less equally. That was true in the sharing of seats for the Cabinet, PSs, parastatal chiefs and other senior positions. Never mind TNA was the bigger partner in terms of numbers and MPs, the 50-50 power-sharing agreement was largely respected in 2013. But now the pro-Uhuru side suspects the URP wing dreams of taking power in 2022 without a similar power-sharing deal negotiated beforehand. Kieleweke are keen to stop them.

The Tanga Tanga team complain that their problem with the President is that he does not meet with them to thrash out issues and "explain" to them what the mysterious "Handshake" is about. The last time Mt Kenya MPs met with Uhuru privately was in November last year in Nyeri, where they complained of their region's developmental neglect. Uhuru reportedly chose to give them a dressing-down, more so to Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, who represents the President's home constituency. After the meeting, Uhuru startled many when he told a baraza that his preferred successor would "shock people."

Now Tanga Tanga is pressing for the long-delayed Jubilee Parliamentary Group meeting to discuss party elections, the "Handshake" and the 2022 Succession. The President's handlers have no intention of calling such a meeting, which they know will degenerate into name-calling.

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