President Uhuru Kenyatta's allies have opened a new legal front in the battle to oust Deputy President William Ruto and his Tangatanga faction from the ruling Jubilee Party.
Jubilee has written to the Registrar of Political Parties seeking to annul a coalition agreement with the Party for Development and Reforms (PDR), which has been rebranded United Democratic Alliance (UDA), and which Dr Ruto has strong political links with.
"(We) have found it improper and untenable to complete the formulation of the coalition. All the PDR officials engaged in coalition discussions have been changed and the new ones have exhibited hostility by actively fielding candidates in areas outside the original areas covered by (the) cooperation (agreement)," Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju told Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu in his letter yesterday.
He said the two parties had only entered into a conditional cooperation but had not filed statutory documents to cement a coalition agreement.
The new development could expose MPs allied to Dr Ruto, as well as the DP himself, to a legal dilemma. The law prohibits elected leaders from associating or promoting ideals of another party while still in another, and Jubilee might use this to institute mass expulsion of the "rebels" , which could lead to loss of their seats. However, such a move could trigger a protracted legal dispute.
Separately, Jubilee has set in motion the process to strip Dr Ruto of his position as deputy party leader, with the latest development seemingly part of a strategy to bog him down with fire-fighting legal crises.
Mr Tuju explained that, in the run-up to the 2017 elections, Jubilee had opted to cooperate with PDR in West Pokot, Wajir, Isiolo, Garissa and Mandera counties, where the ruling party faced challenges of clan-guided democracy, adding the deal did not involve any other county.
Jubilee also argues that the "hustler movement" mantra perpetuated by UDA, whose party symbol is the wheelbarrow, is divisive and goes against the values of the ruling party.
"We have found ourselves as strange bedfellows especially with the UDA use of their identity as "hustlers" which has negative dictionary meaning and connotation. This is also at complete variance with our motto of 'Tuko Pamoja' that seeks to unite Kenyans and not divide them along ethnic or class lines," said Mr Tuju.
He insisted that MPs and UDA MCAs working with Jubilee will still have their positions intact.
"However, and without prejudice, all members of the dissolved coalition holding leadership positions in the assemblies shall continue serving as such," said Mr Tuju.
Yesterday, MPs allied to Dr Ruto dismissed the move, saying Jubilee had no right to unilaterally sever ties with UDA, even as they insisted they will run on the new party's ticket in 2022.
"Jubilee has become a bunch of desperadoes acting in anger. This is part of the normal Jubilee Party intimidation and we will face them head-on. Our association with UDA as an alternative to Jubilee is very much alive. We are still members of Jubilee. What is clear is that we will not use Jubilee to run for office in 2022," said Soy MP Caleb Kositany.
Mr Kositany dared Jubilee Party to start by ejecting UDA-elected MPs, who now have positions in Parliament courtesy of the agreement.
"Fatuma Dullo, the Isiolo senator, is the Senate Deputy Majority Leader courtesy of the agreement Tuju is purporting to seek to cancel. If they are serious, they should start by throwing out Fatuma," said Mr Kositany.
Murang'a senator Irungu Kang'ata, who was recently ousted from his Senate Majority Whip seat, termed the move a political blunder for Jubilee.
"This move does not serve the interests of the Tuju faction of Jubilee. This can cause Fatuma Dullo to lose her seat in leadership. That would mean that the Kieleweke (President Kenyatta's allies) numbers in Senate will reduce from the current 17 to 16, while those allied to Dr Ruto will be 23. This is bad for Jubilee, particularly now that they need all the votes during the BBI discussions," said Mr Kang'ata.
"This is just a continuation of Jubilee's fight against anything William Ruto, whether real or perceived. On this, Tuju has acted in anger because of our internal fight in Jubilee Party. I am still a member of Jubilee and my advice is that my party uses existing exit clauses between itself and UDA, not this public spectacle," said Belgut MP Nelson Koech.
Like his allies, Dr Ruto has defended his association with UDA, arguing it was an affiliate of Jubilee.
"UDA and Jubilee are one. We have a coalition agreement with them and we have been working together. If they break Jubilee, trying to make it a tribal party, we will build UDA as the national party we had hoped Jubilee will be," Dr Ruto said last month.
This is a position he has held consistently as signs become clearer that the DP will ditch the ruling party for UDA in his 2022 State House bid.