President Uhuru Kenyatta is attempting to wrest Jubilee Party from the grip of his deputy William Ruto by appointing new officials and reappointing an old ally.
In an escalation of turf wars between the two, Mr Kenyatta’s supporters told Dr Ruto to forget about blocking the list of new members of the Jubilee National Management Committee (NMC).
It has emerged that Mr Kenyatta insists on Mr David Murathe remaining the party vice chairman while the Ruto camp wants him out.
Mr Murathe resigned as the deputy boss after a row with Dr Ruto but never handed in his resignation letter.
Mr Murathe on Saturday said stopping the changes is beyond Dr Ruto’s reach since the seven-day window given by Registrar of Political parties Anne Nderitu expires Monday.
In a case of history repeating itself, the DP may again find himself scouting for another vehicle in his State House bid.
Mr Murathe said in forwarding the list to Ms Nderitu, Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju was merely acting on the instructions of Mr Kenyatta.
“Tuju cannot make changes in the party without making reference to the party leader. These fellows are wasting time. Instead of collecting signatures from the more than five million Jubilee members to support their case, they have resorted to making noise on social media. They are in for a shock,” Mr Murathe said.
“In a press conference the other day, Ruto said he regularly consults the President. Why not take up the matter with him instead of crying…on social media? He must have been lying.”
On Friday, the DP protested the proposed changes through a letter to the registrar.
Ordinarily, he would only need to call the registrar and order her to discard such a list without attracting public attention.
“I have noted a gazette notice…purporting to change the membership of Jubilee party’s NMC. Please note that NMC has never been reconstituted by the party and neither have we convened the National Executive Committee to reconstitute NMC. The intended changes of the NMC membership are therefore, illegal and fraudulent,” he wrote.
Jubilee officials are serving on interim basis and are Mr Kenyatta’s appointees.
The National Advisory Council has thrown its weight behind the changes, saying Dr Ruto has no say in them.
“The appointing authority was and still is the party leader. He has veto powers on decisions of the leadership structures. He can effect any changes he deems fit,” council chairman Albert Nyaundi said.
The Sunday Nation understands that the postponement of elections initially slated for March is at the centre of the flare up and Dr Ruto has grown impatient at what he believes are efforts by operatives around his boss to lock him out of the party.
On February 3, Mr Tuju wrote to Ms Nderitu asking for extension of interim officials’ terms.
He said the party could not hold elections in March as earlier planned. The interim officials were to vacate office by March 31.
Ms Nderitu replied the following day.
“Taking cognisance of the party constitution and the explanation offered…this office has no objection to the extension of time to hold elections beyond the earlier communicated date. This will enable the party to reorganise the membership register,” she said.
Ms Nderitu lists Ms Lucy Nyawira Macharia, Prof Marete Marangu, Mr Walter Nyambati, Ms Jane Nampaso and Mr James Waweru as proposed members of the NMC.
Ms Veronica Maina, Ms Fatuma Shukri and Ms Pamela Mutua resigned after getting State jobs, according to Mr Tuju.
He said Mr Kenyatta “is in charge of the party and the proposals in change of leadership have been sanctioned by him.”
“Jubilee officials, including NEC members, are serving courtesy of a transitional clause which authorises the party leader to select officials. I was never elected so this is just a transitional clause, which has been extended by the Registrar of Political Parties,” he said.
Mr Tuju added that the terms of the interim officials have been extended, “including that of Mr Murathe after the party leader declined his resignation”. “We are serving at the pleasure of the President,” he said.
As such, the “coup” by the Kieleweke wing of the party was not by an accident. It came after the realisation that Dr Ruto virtually controls the Jubilee organs.
This came to the fore during the November 2019 Kibra mini poll, where efforts by Kieleweke to ensure Mr MacDonald Mariga did not get party certificate were thwarted by the Ruto-leaning National Elections Board.
Dr Ruto filled the party with loyalists, leaving Kieleweke with no breathing space. The changes are part of a wider plot to clip his wings.
But DP’s allies have vowed to challenge the gazette notice at the Political Parties Tribunal.
Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, an ally of Dr Ruto, said the party should not be run like a family business.
“The registrar must ignore the communication from Tuju or brace herself for a legal suit. No party organ has ever met to sanction such changes. Our calls have been ignored,” he said.
Mr Gachagua added that none of the proposed officials is a member of NEC as required by the Jubilee constitution.
“What Tuju is trying to do is as fraudulent as the Building Bridges Initiative and the handshake (between Mr Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga on March 9, 2018),” he said.
Several MPs have written to the registrar expressing their disapproval of the move.
Initially, Kieleweke had hoped to start taming Dr Ruto in Parliament, where almost all key positions are held by his allies.
The Tangatanga wing made of politicians friendly to the second in command has also been pushing to have party elections to fully own Jubilee ahead of the 2022 General Election.
The NMC, which is the cause of the current furore, is the organ charged with arranging party elections.
To have an edge in the polls, Dr Ruto has been meeting ward representatives in Jubilee strongholds, events that were only scuttled by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, who has little time for Dr Ruto, was philosophical on the impasse.
“He is a passenger like me and the rest of us. There is only one driver and no co-driver. He should be comfortable as a passenger. The driver is in charge,” he said.
The one time long-serving Starehe MP asked Dr Ruto to acknowledge that Mr Kenyatta is the party leader.
“There can only be one leader at a time. As long as the party leader is not complaining, there should be no problem. Ruto will be comfortable the day he realises there is only one party leader,” he said.
Jubilee deputy Secretary-General and Soy MP Caleb Kositany said he would sue Mr Tuju and party chairman Nelson Dzuya for falsifying documents.
“We have not met for three years but they had the audacity to sign minutes of a meeting that never took place,” Mr Kositany said.
“The law will catch up with them. It is high time the President started running the party and kicks out these conmen.”
Reported by Justus Ochieng, Justus Wanga and Wanjohi Githae
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