Kenya: How William Ruto Evaded Jubilee Trap

President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre) in a show of unity with Deputy President William Ruto (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga, during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on November 27, 2019 (file photo).

Allies of Deputy President William Ruto on Sunday said the formation of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) early this year helped him sidestep a trap to deny him a Jubilee Party presidential ticket in next year's elections.

According to influential leaders in the DP's camp, the March 2018 truce between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga -- with the two parties now in talks to form a coalition -- was the beginning of a plan to deny the DP the ruling party's ticket.

The DP had banked on the ruling party given its popularity and electoral successes, but the falling out with his boss, and a subsequent purge of his allies from key party posts, including organs crucial to presidential nominations, signalled he could no longer depend on it.

With a super alliance being touted by the President's allies, including Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe and Cotu boss Francis Atwoli, it was becoming clear to the DP's camp that were Jubilee to join other parties in a coalition, then the ruling party would not be available to field a presidential candidate.

State House

Keen to avoid the trap and to keep his State House race on course, the DP drifted towards UDA to avoid what was long coming after the handshake, his allies told the Nation in multiple interviews.

It is a scenario the DP spoke to on Saturday in various stopovers in West Pokot County.

"If they think that by bringing together all those parties, hustlers will miss a party to propel us forward, we want to tell them that we are well-prepared and ahead of them. These people have destroyed the Jubilee Party which was a national party. Now they are telling us that everyone should go and form a party of his tribe. But we are ready. We have a party which brings together all hustlers," said the DP, saying the Hustler nation "is so big it cannot be squeezed into a tribal party."

Handshake

According to Murang'a Senator Irungu Kang'ata, who lost his position as Majority Whip in the Senate for his association with the DP, the handshake and the former premier's rising influence in government has always been a well-choreographed move to bar Dr Ruto from using Jubilee Party to succeed his boss in 2022.

"We have been expecting Jubilee-ODM. As a government insider, I had the intelligence that the endgame of handshake was to form a coalition between the two leaders. I had been told this personally by one of the top government's strategists," Senator Kang'ata told the Nation.

Often, Mr Kang'ata said, government insiders would brag about how the DP would end up in the cold with no party. "Personally, this was untenable to many of us who were Ruto diehards. We could not countenance a marriage between our camp and Raila. This is why we had to come up with UDA," the Murang'a senator said.

Before forming the Jubilee party, both the president and his deputy had their parties -- The National Alliance (TNA) and United Republican Party (URP) -- and in the 2017 General Election, the duo decided to disband those parties to form what they described as a 'national' outfit.

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