Eyes on Uhuru as Jubilee moves to kick out Ruto

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s allies have initiated a brutal process to kick out his deputy William Ruto from the Jubilee Party in what marked the beginning of their formal political divorce.

Yesterday’s pronouncement by the party, with far-reaching political ramifications perceived to put roadblocks on Ruto’s road to State House, gave the strongest indication yet of a plot to block him from running on a Jubilee ticket in his quest to succeed Uhuru. Ruto has in the past said he was ready to jump ship ahead of 2022 polls if denied the party ticket.

The National Management Committee (NMC) is the organ that sets the agenda for the National Executive Committee (NEC), which the party’s top decision-making organ.

All eyes will now be on party leader President Uhuru Kenyatta who chairs the National Executive Committee and can ratify or reject the decision from NMC.

“The NMC has recommended to NEC that the DP ceases to be deputy party leader after he opened the so-called Jubilee Asili offices that are reserved for him and his allies until such a time this development of the Jubilee Asili is discussed at the NEC,” said Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju.

The organ also barred Ruto from holding any political meetings at the party offices, declaring that the Pangani-based headquarters is out of bounds for his 2022 presidential ambitions.

Tuju described Ruto’s decision to host about 30 MPs at the offices on Thursday as an attempted power grab in the absence of President Kenyatta, who has been away in France on an official visit.

He declared that the party headquarters was not going to be used as a theatre of conflict and political confrontation by the rival camps in the ruling party. Ruto had on Thursday camped at the party offices for over three hours hosting MPs critical of president Kenyatta.

It has since emerged that the DP did not inform Tuju of his intention to host the meeting at the offices, only calling him after arriving at the headquarters.

Yesterday, Tuju said the DP can host his political meetings at his Jubilee Asili offices while declaring him a persona non-grata at the offices.

“That the deputy party leader as a self-declared presidential candidate for 2022 will not be allowed to use the party headquarters as a centre of operationalisation of his 2022 campaign and to use the centre to intimidate any potential opponent or party staff,” charged Tuju, who was flanked by other party officials.

In a strongly-worded statement, Tuju said it was no longer tenable to have Ruto continue using the party platform to advance his 2022 political ambition through “his divisive so called hustler politics that are counter to the party and president’s platform of uniting the country, the fight against corruption and the agenda four items”.

Breakaway faction

“He will no longer be allowed to use the party headquarters to make such statements that are principally for his breakaway faction of the party,” declared Tuju.

The NMC in its consultation yesterday, said Ruto’s decision to host a group of MPs critical of the party leader amounted to an attempted power grab in his absence.

Tuju claimed the party almost witnessed physical confrontation on Thursday after a group of MPs allied to Uhuru convened at a Nairobi hotel with plans of flushing out the rival camp at the party offices.

A group of 47 Jubilee MPs and senators allied to Uhuru on Thursday held a second lunch meeting at a city hotel to plot how to tame the DP and cement the president’s legacy. Tuju said the team wanted to charge against their rivals at the headquarters, in what could have degenerated in a physical brawl.

The recommendation to expel Ruto means the party’s NEC, which he sits, will have the final say before he can be rendered to a mere party member or retain his position of deputy party leader.

NEC is currently composed of individuals allied to Kenyatta after politicians backing the DP were kicked out in a ruthless purge.

The organ that will have the final say on whether he stays or be shown the door is made up of the president, Ruto, Tuju, Nelson Dzuya (chairman), David Murathe (vice-chairman), Kositany (deputy SG), Mutai (Treasurer) and Abdul Haji (organising secretary).

Others are Amos Kimunya (National Assembly Majority Leader), Irungu Kanga’ta (Senate Whip) and Samuel Poghisio (Senate Majority Leader).

But legislators allied to Ruto dared Tuju to go ahead, accusing him of overstepping his mandate. The MPs said Tuju was being used to cause division in the party by some detractors who were keen to block Ruto from using the party for his 2022 presidential bid.

They said it was time President Kenyatta called a national delegates congress to look at the matters of the party.

“It is ridiculous that Tuju warns the deputy party leader not to do politics in a political party headquarters, does he want us to come and preach there? It is very sad that he purports to block us the owners of the party from our office, is he normal?” said former National Assembly Chief Whip Benjami Washiali.

Tuju accused Ruto of staging an open defiance against the president, citing several instances including DP’s recent decision to skip a Covid-19 conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Center as well as his move to back an independent candidate in the Msambweni Parliamentary by-election.

Jubilee opted out of the mini-poll in favour of Raila Odinga’s ODM, citing the March 9 handshake.

“Last week, the party had a decision not to field a candidate in the forthcoming Msambweni parliamentary by election. Shortly after that announcement, the deputy party leader came into the party headquarters with an aspirant on tow,” said Tuju.

He said it was a surprise to the party that Ruto went ahead and declared support for an independent candidate, Feisal Abdallah Bader, who seeks to replace the late Suleiman Dori as Msambweni MP.

The DP had committed to stand with the party position despite expressing his reservations about the decision not to field a candidate.

“He went ahead to express his dissenting view on this matter but committed to respect the party position. It was a surprise to see the deputy party leader emerge the following day unveiling and declaring his support for an independent candidate in contravention of the party position,” said Tuju.

The party further cited his decision to skip the Covid-19 conference, saying how Kenyans questioned when Ruto’s seat remained conspicuously empty throughout the event where he was included in the programme to make remarks according to State protocol, then invite the president.

“For such travesty, the only thing we have received from the DP’s camp are tweets from his allies rubbing salt onto the injury,” he said.

Tuju also revisited the recent outburst by some Ruto allies targeting the first family, hitting at Ruto for not reprimanding his political foot soldiers.

“We have witnessed the unprovoked and inexplicable abuse of former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta by political allies of the party leader and the subsequent response by Ruto that exhibited not an ounce of contrition. Some of the abuses have been expressed in the most primitive and vulgar vernacular,” he said.

The party said the deputy party leader has continued to defy president Kenyatta’s directive against premature 2022 campaigns.

He said the DP has continued to run around the country holding “hustler rallies” in churches, markets and roadsides.

Last term

This, Tuju said, has continued to undermine Kenyatta’s development agenda during his second and last term in office.

“In many days, weeks and months we have seen the DP run around the country in his so-called hustler political rallies in churches, markets and roadsides. This restraint is out of respect for the president and not because of a lack of leaders with ambition and capacity to hit the road and start campaigning,” he said.

The party further slammed breaks at Ruto’s push for party elections, saying he has no constitutional mandate to organise elections of officials.

Ruto and his allies have been pushing for the party elections after the term of the current interim officials expired.

“It is noteworthy that the party constitution has not given the deputy president any specific role of organising party grassroots elections in collaboration with his select MPs and senators as emerged from the press conference yesterday addressed by MPs and senators allied to him,” said Tuju.

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