Kenya: Fallout in Kenyatta's Camp Following Jubilee's Poor Showing in By-Elections

President Uhuru Kenyatta (file photo).

National Assembly Deputy Majority Chief Whip Maoka Maore has blamed the poor showing of Jubilee in the Tuesday by-elections on President Uhuru Kenyatta sidelining politicians in favour of civil servants.

Mr Maore said the reliance on technocrats and State officials to run campaigns and formulate strategy by the President was a political disaster. He added that civil servants cannot successfully run political campaigns.

Asked if the President sidelined politicians, Mr Maore said Mr Kenyatta "has no time for them".

He added that the President is never accompanied by political leaders when commissioning projects.

"Politicians understand the feelings of ordinary people. The defeat of Jubilee in Bonchari, where civil servants and a top Cabinet Secretary were at the centre of the operations, sums everything up," the Igembe North MP said.

He added that engagements in future should be informed by by-elections that Jubilee has lost, an apparent reference to the coming Kiambaa parliamentary mini-poll.

Mr Maore was made National Assembly Deputy Majority Whip in June 2020.

He replaced Nominated MP Cecily Mbarire in a purge against lawmakers perceived to be sympathetic to Deputy President William Ruto.

Divisions within ruling party

Other supporters of the President said the defeats the ruling party suffered in Juja constituency and Rurii ward should inform the leadership that all is not well.

Mr Kenyatta's backers said Jubilee must reassess its strategies and weigh its popularity, particularly in Mt Kenya, where discontent has been brewing for many months.

Instructively, the outcome of the recent by-elections has been a trend in the last three years.

Of the 10 mini-polls held from 2018, the ruling party has only won two - Wajir West and Baringo South - though it gave up some contests to back candidates fielded by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

Party politics, ethnic mobilisation, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), the 2022 presidential race and the rivalry between Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto dominated campaigns in Juja and Rurii.

Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri blamed the Juja and Rurii results on splits in the ruling party.

"We mismanaged the campaigns right from the nominations. Our competitors were smart enough to take advantage of our mistakes. It is also important to note that Jubilee split into factions. This division affected our performance," Mr Ngunjiri said.

He added that the President would be more involved in future elections.

'Undeserving' candidates

"The outcomes are being addressed by the party leader himself," Mr Ngunjiri said.

According to Imenti North MP Rahim Dawood, dishing out Jubilee tickets to "undeserving" candidates is to blame for the loss.

"The ticket should not just be given out. If we make the same mistake in Kiambaa, Jubilee will be beaten. People are tired and do not want leaders imposed on them," Mr Dawood said.

People's Empowerment Party candidate George Koimburi beat Jubilee's Susan Njeri in the Juja race. Ms Njeri is the widow of immediate former MP Francis Waititu.

Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Joshua Kutuny said the President has been focusing on the Big Four Agenda "but plans are on to revamp the party".

"It was a good performance in Juja and Bonchari for a party that has not been active in politics, a party fought from all corners by our own team," he said. "We also focused a lot on BBI but we are back on track."

Buoyed by the victories, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) - a party associated with Dr Ruto - seems to be on a charm offensive in Mt Kenya. Team Ruto is preparing for the next battle in Kiambaa.

Some Jubilee MPs appear to be bracing themselves for another loss, with Mr Dawood saying there is no competition between Jubilee and UDA.

'Jubilee is dead'

"A victory for UDA is not a problem since the party is part of Jubilee," he said.

Gichugu MP Gichimu Githinji said Jubilee losing a parliamentary or ward seat is worrying, adding that a better strategy is needed to retain the Kiambaa seat.

"Losing a seat means Jubilee has lost one vote in the National Assembly," he said.

He, however, emphasised that President Kenyatta does not need to campaign in Mt Kenya for Jubilee to emerge victorious.

Dr Ruto's allies said the humiliation of the ruling party has shown his popularity.

Belgut MP Nelson Koech said Jubilee started losing focus the moment it began a purge on members with divergent views.

"Jubilee is dead. Brokers and political dealers took charge, threw caution to wind and kicked out those with divergent opinions. The one time giant of a lion is a pale shadow of itself. It will struggle in the elections," Mr Koech said.

According to Turkana North MP Christopher Nakileau, Jubilee has resorted to the Kanu-era tactics.

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