Wrangles in the ruling Jubilee Party deepened on Sunday with a section of leaders allied to Deputy President William Ruto vowing to resist a proposal that seeks to lock out corrupt members from internal elections slated for March 2020.
In an interview with the Nation, Secretary-General Raphael Tuju declared that leaders accused of corruption will not be allowed to vie for any leadership positions in the long awaited party elections.
However, the announcement has split the party along the usual Tangatanga and Kieleweke lines, with the allies of the DP accusing Mr Tuju of using his position to kill Jubilee for selfish reasons.
While Mr Ruto’s spokesman David Mugonyi refused to comment on the issue, former party vice-chairman David Murathe supported the proposal while Majority Leader Aden Duale reminded Mr Tuju that such a weighty announcement can only be made by the leadership of the party.
“I totally concur with Mr Tuju’s sentiments. Jubilee Party has a code of ethics and any persons associated and implicated in any form of corruption will not be cleared to vie in any position in the forthcoming elections,” Mr Murathe declared.
But Mr Duale demurred, reminding the SG that Jubilee is a party with structures.
“Jubilee has NEC, board of secretariat and a parliamentary group and is not run by an individual called Mr Tuju,” Mr Duale said Sunday.
“The decisions of the party are from the rank and file and are anchored in the constitution. Whether corrupt or not, it is not Tuju to determine who is corrupt or not; that is the work of institutions provided for in the constitution. Mr Tuju is not a DPP, the Inspector General of Police or even the auditor general.”
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen said the sentiments expressed by Mr Tuju were “rather obvious”.
“Corrupt people are either in jail or finished their jail term, which by law is over six months. The constitution does not allow such people to hold public office. This is rather obvious,” he said.
Soy MP Caleb Kositany, who is also deputy secretary-general, described Mr Tuju’s comments as opinions.
“There is presumption of innocence. One is innocent until proven guilty and that is why our President and his deputy were allowed to contest the 2013 general election while facing criminal charges at the International Criminal Court. The same principle will apply to everyone who would like to participate in our party polls.”
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kangata, a close ally of the President, said Jubilee Party must have officials who uphold integrity and competence.
“We shall elect mature and loyal servants who eschew corruption. Of course Mr Tuju is entitled to his opinion but Jubilee is a free party that allows freedom of thought and expression,” Mr Kangata.
Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, another ally of the President, said the government should be given time to deliver on promises Jubilee administration made to voters during campaigns rather than mixing the situation with party polls.
“As Jubilee members, we should ask ourselves if there is need for party elections at the moment; we have not actualised 50 per cent of our manifesto, we should give government time to fulfil its pledges,” said Mr Kutuny.
He added that they will not allow any party election to take place before the house leadership is restructured, alluding that both Senate and National Assembly majority leaders have of late disrespected President Kenyatta.
“I challenge our SG to take action on those disrespecting our party leader before calling for elections. I also agree with him that any person with a graft case should be barred from taking part in the election, because our leader has been in the frontline fighting corruption; hence as a party, we must lead by example.”
Belgut MP Nelson Koech, a close ally of the DP, dismissed Mr Tuju’s comments as idle talk meant to excite villagers.
He noted that Mr Tuju is the problem in the party and likened him to that employee struggling too much to please his employer.
Mr Koech reminded the secretary-general that President Kenyatta and his deputy were cleared to contest in the 2013 presidential election despite facing serious criminal charges at The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).
“While I agree that anybody adversely mentioned should step aside, the courts cleared our president and his deputy to vie in 2013 on account that they were just suspects. There is no reason to bar people from contesting because of allegations,” Mr Koech said.
He said that the court ruling was delivered so that individuals are not vilified on mere allegations as they could be politically motivated to get rivals out of the way.
“The basis of the precedence set by the courts is that Uhuru and Ruto had not been convicted, and if they were, the constitution provides that all the appeal mechanisms must be exhausted. Any sane Kenyan should treat Tuju’s comments as pedestrian talk that should be ignored with the contempt it deserves,” the Belgut MP said.
Mr Koech also wondered whether Mr Tuju was speaking for the party or as an ordinary Kenyan.
“If he was airing his views just like any other Kenyan would do, its okay. But if he claims to have spoken for the party, then the comments are totally unfounded. As far as I know, every party’s SG promotes policy decisions of their parties. In Jubilee, no party organ has met to take a position on this.”
Kiharu MP Ndidi Nyoro said Tuju no longer speaks for the majority of Jubilee Party members.
“I hope he will be seeking to be ODM sec-gen. His body language, spoken and unspoken communication betrays where his heart is — ODM.
I don’t even know what he said but Tuju no longer speaks for majority of Jubilee members. And by the way, such high positions are reserved for people who can clearly demonstrate their deliverables, especially in terms of votes and resources.
He brought zero to Jubilee. Though I commend him for being suave — surviving through Kibaki regime as an adviser of something while contributing to nothing in the political bottom line and reaping maximum benefit from Uhuru for nothing in return,” Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro.
Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono said that the party will only deny a person who has been taken to court over graft and not those being accused politically, noting that they might need court’s interpretation in a scenario one is charged but has not been declared guilty by the court.
“Yes, if you have been taken to court and asked to step aside, that makes sense in case you are requested not to take part in the elections. However, I suggest that we seek court intervention in a scenario where you’ve been in court but not proclaimed guilty,” said Mr Rono.
Nominated MP David Sankok accused Tuju of undermining the party for selfish reasons.
“If you cannot hold together your family, then you cannot purport to want to lead a mass party with national outlook and following like Jubilee,” he said.
Bomet Central MP Ronald Tonui said the target of the announcement was all too clear but reminded Mr Tuju that he cannot wake up one morning and set rules without the sanction of the relevant party organs.
“If there are leaders who have been taken to court for one reason or the other, let the Judiciary deal with the matter and conclude it. You cannot bar someone from contesting leadership position based on hearsay,” he said.
Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, an ally of the DP, said: “Assuming one is barred from contesting based on cases in court, what happens when they are cleared immediately after the poll? Who will compensate him and how for the loss?”
Reporting by Ibrahim Oruko, David Mwere, Vitalis Kimutai, Onyango KÓnyango, Ndungu Gachane
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