Jubilee-ODM merger faces turbulence

Whereas some of President Kenyatta’s allies have approved immediate transformation of their March 9, 2018 truce into a formal coalition between their parties ahead of next year’s election, others think it is premature and would be detrimental to them ahead of the election next year.

Jubilee party’s top decision making organ, the National Management Committee (NMC), following its joint meeting with the party’s parliamentary leadership on August 17, allowed its secretariat to formally engage with the ODM party in drawing a framework agreement on a pre-election coalition arrangement.

But on Monday, Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege insisted that Jubilee was yet to agree on such a deal.

“There was no approval by Jubilee’s NMC on a merger with ODM,” she told the Nation.

Gatanga MP Joseph Nduati also maintained that the Jubilee-ODM coalition is “not yet ripe,” as they first want to engage with the parties in the Mt Kenya region before opening talks with other parties for a coalition deal.

“We still want to engage the parties within the region of Mt Kenya, including that led by Mwangi Kiunjuri and Moses Kuria as Jubilee party to form a big outfit so that when we negotiate, we do it when we are big enough and build a stronger coalition,” Mr Nduati said.

He said as legislators from Mt Kenya region where the Jubilee party is dominant, they want to strengthen it at the grassroots and revamp it before embarking on talks with other parties “including ODM which currently seems to be more organised”.

Jubilee Vice-Chairman David Murathe (left) confers with Muranga County Woman Representative Sabina Chege after a National Management Committee meeting on August 17, 2021./Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Jubilee restructuring

The planned restructuring of Jubilee, which has reignited talks to kick out party Secretary General Raphael Tuju and vice chairman David Murathe, is now proving a setback in the planned deal with ODM.

Mr Murathe said the leaders pushing for their ouster have committed no crime, adding that since they were preparing for re-election, it was vital to have a strong party on the ground.

“To be fair to them, the revamp is important because they need a stronger party to face their opponents in next year’s election,” Mr Murathe told the Nation.

Nominated MP Maina Kamanda now claims that there could be a secret plot by some members of Jubilee party to frustrate the coalition plans with ODM.

This comes barely a week after President Kenyatta hosted Jubilee lawmakers allied to him at State House last Friday.

Mr Kamanda claimed that during the meeting, whereas President Kenyatta agreed to the plans to revamp the party, he was “concerned” about the push to replace Mr Tuju and Mr Murathe.

Mr Kamanda told the Nation that some members have sensed a sinister motive in the push for Mr Tuju’s and Mr Murathe’s ouster, arguing that there is need to investigate the push in light of an alliance plan with ODM.

“They need to be investigated because we may have some people who want to take the leadership of the party and then sell it. This is a time for campaigns and you cannot trust anybody,” Mr Kamanda said.

He pointed out that some people involved in the push for the changes may have ulterior agenda of joining the party to another outfit, thus derailing President Kenyatta’s camaraderie with Mr Odinga.

Mt Kenya focus

But Eldas MP Adan Keynan, who is also the secretary of the Jubilee Coalition Joint Parliamentary Group, said the alliance building can only happen after the party has been organised.

“Our focus right now is to rejuvenate, reorganise and revamp party structures in every part of Kenya. Once we are through with that, we will engage like-minded parties in our quest to grab power come next year. We have the handshake partners and we also have the One Kenya Alliance team and any other willing party,” said Mr Keynan.

Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri said Jubilee will continue to hold coalition talks with any party that shares an ideology with it, including “ODM, Wiper and Kanu, among others”, but with the final decision to be made after the party has been put back together.

“This responsibility is being carried out by our party leader, President Kenyatta, but the rest of us are focused a lot more on restoring the party’s lost glory after the years of internal attacks from a faction led by our own deputy party leader – William Ruto. We intend to ensure that by the time the party leader is making the final agreements, our party is back to where it was in 2017; without the rebels,” Mr Ngunjiri said.

The Jubilee party has been reeling from defections by Deputy President William Ruto’s allies, who are now associated with the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

Kieni MP Kanini Kega, who has been leading a caucus of legislators pushing for the leadership changes in the party, insisted that their resolve to revamp the party and effect leadership changes from the top to the bottom was inevitable and must be done before any discussions on 2022 alliances are made.

“There has to be change – a total overhaul of Jubilee for us to survive. We are not saying that the officers who have been there have not performed. They did their part for four years and it is high time now that we injected fresh leadership into Jubilee,” said Mr Kega.

He added: “Before we engage with any other party or any coalition, change must be done. Jubilee cannot survive as currently constituted.”

Mr Kega also denied claims he was eyeing Mr Tuju’s seat, noting that for the survival of the Jubilee elected leaders, there must be change of leadership in the party.

But Mr Kamanda stood his ground, claiming that some Jubilee legislators may have been “bought to fight Murathe and Tuju because they are the ones spearheading the Jubilee-ODM union.”

A senior ODM official told the Nation that the party was ready to put pen to paper on its deal with the ruling party.

“Our agreement was ready over a month but there have been delays to hold the signing ceremony,” the official said.

ODM leader Raila Odinga with the party’s Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna after attending a church service at the Pentecostal Assemblies of God in Karen, Nairobi, on September 5, 2021./Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Other coalitions possible

ODM party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) chaired by Mr Odinga had approved need for future coalitions with other parties, including Jubilee.

“…the NEC has further deliberated on the future of the party and its need to make new friends. We intend to embark on a programme to build new partnerships and extend the ongoing talks with our potential partners to the grassroots,” ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said in a statement on July 29.

In an interview on Monday, Mr Sifuna said the talks with Jubilee were still on, but seemed to suggest that they had not extended to the other parties as Jubilee MPs suggest.

Already, the National Super Alliance (Nasa) that was derailing the deal has collapsed, after Registrar of Political Parties Ann Nderitu last week approved its dissolution. This was after Wiper party, Amani National Congress, Ford Kenya and Chama Cha Mashinani pulled out, opening the way for a new coalition.

Already, Jubilee MPs Jude Njomo (Kiambu), Mr Kega, Mr Wambugu (Nyeri Town), Ms Chege, Mr Nduati, Mary Wamauwa (Maragua), Ruth Mwaniki (Kigumo), Ng’ang’a King’ara (Ruiru) and James Mugambi (Othaya) have said the party is due for a leadership overhaul that will see “fresh, vibrant, youthful and persuasive leadership driving our vigorous grassroots campaigns.”

“In this regard, we have agreed to clean our grassroots party leadership by replacing those that have betrayed the cause and abandoned ship with others loyal to the party and party leader,” they said in a statement read by Mr Njomo.

However, political experts are now saying that the rejuvenation plans rolled out by the Jubilee Party may fail to bear fruits in case the President fails to hit the ground and give hopes to party supporters that he is in charge.

“History of Kenya seems to suggest that once a party loses its popularity, there is no second coming. My hunch tells me that Jubilee will mutate into another party, hopefully more powerful,” said University of Nairobi (UoN) lecturer X N Iraki.

With a year to the 2022 General Election, he opines that if President Kenyatta fails to join his allies, there are high chances that supporters of the party may move to a party that looks more organised, noting his message and choice of successor will determine the fate of the party.

“If President does not hit the ground, Jubilee followers could get disillusioned and bolt to other parties. Party building is going to be a big job as we head to 2022,” said Prof Iraki.

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