Deputy President William Ruto this week seemed to dig in, as he continued to fight off critics over allegations that he is trying to break up the ruling Jubilee Party.
On Thursday, the DP appeared to unveil what some see as his command centre for the 2022 presidential election – the Jubilee Asili Centre – after a meeting over “lunch” with legislators allied to him.
Dr Ruto exuded the confidence of a man ready to fight back, amid a continuing siege of his allies in the Houses of Parliament.
On Thursday, he met a team of MPs loyal to him at an undisclosed location in Nairobi, after which they circulated photos of a building that they said would serve as their headquarters.
Thereafter, there was speculation that the DP, having been boxed into a corner by his own party, had decided to find another political vehicle to advance his presidential ambition for 2022.
This came as some Tangatanga MPs who declined to be named said that the DP is simply putting his house in order after losing control of the Jubilee.
Jubilee Asili is, therefore, viewed to be a party to be registered soon.
And on Friday, the speculation was boosted by reports that two individuals had lodged an application with the Registrar of Political Parties to reserve the name Jubilee Asili as a political party.
Registrar Anne Nderitu confirmed to the Saturday Nation that she had indeed received a search and a reservation application for the Jubilee Asili name from two individuals that she did not name.
“They are not known names. So I cannot tell who is behind it,” she said.
She added: “What I can tell you is that they are common names you will find on Kenyan streets. Who knows, they could be speculators, if you understand Kenyan politics.”
She said that the application will be evaluated under the Political Parties Act.
Mr Kositany, a Dr Ruto confidant, yesterday said those behind the application to reserve the name may want to register it and sell it in future.
“A name is just a name. If they register it, we can still pick another one,” he added.
Dr Ruto’s allies said the shift was prompted by the “mistreatment” of the DP by Jubilee.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah and Belgut’s Nelson Koech said the Jubilee Asili Centre is a “sanctuary” to those who feel persecuted in Jubilee.
The duo claimed that the Jubilee headquarters in the city’s Pangani area is full of “political mercenaries” who have made it their business to frustrate members “to a point it was necessary to establish a freedom-based refuge”.
“It is our brainstorming haven,” said Mr Ichung’wah yesterday.
“It is where we will give our like-minded Jubilee members an opportunity to engage freely and exercise their freedom of assembly and expression and be party to progressing our the original Jubilee agenda.”
Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, a close ally of DP Ruto, said the move was prompted by the “soaring popularity of Dr Ruto to a point that his followers had to give his supporters an avenue to call home.”
He said recent happenings in Jubilee where Dr Ruto’s followers have been de-whipped and hounded out of office for no other reason but to humiliate him was defeatist and will be countered all the way to the 2022 ballot.
The fight for control of Jubilee between President Kenyatta and DP Ruto has been going on since the latter was accused of attempting to wrest power from the party leader.
Politicians close to the President, led by party secretary-general Raphael Tuju and vice-chairman David Murathe, have since thwarted his efforts and sidelined his allies.
Jubilee has been divided along two competing factions – Kieleweke, which support President Kenyatta, and Tangatanga, coalescing around Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid.
When they met at the so-called Jubilee Asili Centre, the DP seemed to state that the time had come for him to move on and he may not need anyone’s blessings after all.
We could not locate the new office building in Kilimani, Nairobi.
DP Ruto announced the meeting with the MPs via his Twitter handle.
“Had lunch with Jubilee MPs who were recently assigned other responsibilities in the party. I implored them to continue focusing on Jubilee’s people-centred transformational agenda now and in the future. Sote pamoja.”
Among the MPs at the lunch meeting were William Cheptumo (Baringo North), Mr Ichung’wah, Alice Wahome (Kandara), Cornelly Serem (Aldai), Didmus Barasa (Kimilili) and ODM’s Aisha Jumwa (Malindi).
Interestingly, as the MPs were having “lunch” with the DP, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi announced that 16 of them had been de-whipped from committees.
Mr Ichung’wah was kicked out of the Budget Committee, where he was the chairman, Mr Cheptumo from Justice and Legal Affairs, which he chaired, and Ms Wahome from Justice and Legal Affairs, where she was vice-chairperson.
If Jubilee Asili were to be Dr Ruto’s party, it could be understood to mean that he heads the “original” Jubilee. “Asili” is a Kiswahili word that can be translated to mean original.
“Sote Pamoja” then could be the party’s slogan, compared with the Jubilee Party’s slogan “Tuko Pamoja”. “Sote Pamoja” is meant to sound inclusive of everyone.
But this came as the designs to drive Dr Ruto farther from the centre of power gained momentum after Jubilee signed cooperation agreements with former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Democratic Movement and Chama cha Mashinani, led by former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto on Tuesday.
The Registrar of Political Parties may decline to register Jubilee Asili but DP Ruto may not lack a party if he were to move out Jubilee.
Contacted for comment, the Jubilee deputy secretary-general, Mr Kositany, was cagey on whether the DP is behind the new outfit, but he confirmed that they are not short of political vehicles for the 2022 bid.
“We are not short of options,” he said.“Those who had been locked out of the Jubilee Party secretariat now have somewhere to exercise their independence of mind.”
“It’s not proper for some people to be isolated yet we belong to the same party. We therefore thought it wise to have another home,” Mr Koech said.
“Watch this space. There will be a lot of action at this new home in the coming days.”
With regard to their 2022 political plans, Mr Kositany said: “Ile nyama inakunyonga sio ile iko kwa mdomo, ni ile iko kwa sahani (the meat that chokes you is not the one in the mouth but that on the plate)”, without elaborating.
But Cherang’any MP Joshua Kutuny and his Nyeri Town colleague Ngunjiri Wambugu, harsh critics of DP Ruto, laughed off the DP’s new posturing, saying he would not succeed.
“We are focused on the referendum, they better join us,” Mr Kutuny said.
Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama dismissed the DP’s new plan as a non-starter.
If Dr Ruto is seen to associate with another political outfit, his critics would find fodder to kick him out of the party and consequently from the presidency.
“The DP has started openly showing the Jubilee Party leader disrespect. I dare him to walk out of the ruling party and start his own political party,” Mr Arama said.
Additional reporting by Mwangi Muiruri, Onyango K’onyango and Eric Matara
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