Raging war for ‘dead Jubilee’ soul

Jubilee Party Leader and former President Uhuru Kenyatta

Jubilee Party Leader and former President Uhuru Kenyatta during Jubilee Party National Delegates Conference held Ngong Racecourse on May 22, 2023.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

In the months preceding last year’s general election, a huge number of Mt Kenya voters opted to vote for then Deputy President William Ruto and his newly cobbled Kenya Kwanza Alliance, rejecting with feverish gusto not only the party they had identified with for the previous 10 years, Jubilee, but also the coalition it had joined to help ODM leader Raila Odinga vie for the presidency under the Azimio la Umoja banner.

The region’s rejection of Mr Odinga was categorical, sweeping away all those who vied for seats under Jubilee in the region.

In the past week, Jubilee has again been in the news, but this time over events that could either lead to its revival or to its death. It so happens that a number of politicians who lost their parliamentary seats last year decided to stage a coup against Jubilee’s office-holders, “sacking” its secretary-general and deputy chairman in a series of events that has left many bewildered.

After all, Mr Kanini Kega the rebel faction’s secretary-general and Ms Sabina Chege, the new party leader, had been Jubilee’s most vociferous defenders in the run-up to the election.

Strangely, the two were the only election losers in Jubilee who ended up in Parliament, one as a nominated MP and the other as an East African Legislative Assembly legislator.

Impunity and spite

What has been happening in the past couple of weeks, events that need no repeating here, may make sense to politicians, but to ordinary folks, they reek of betrayal, disloyalty, impunity and spite.

Politicians, it emerges, are all too willing to stab you in the back if they conclude that you are no longer of any use to them. However, this is not about Mr Kega and Ms Chege alone. The reasons why more than 30 MPs deserted their party could be understandable, but why they should throw their lot with the party that defeated them so soundly is less clear.

Did they conclude that hanging around the outfit led by Mr Odinga is unhealthy for their political careers, and did they confirm this with the voters who stuck with them? Is there any room for loyalty to a greater ideal than political survival, or perhaps as rumoured there were other more material considerations which prompted them to sell their “dead party” to another outfit that shows all the signs of becoming another Kanu-like dictaorship?

It is, of course, quite counter-intuitive for some in Jubilee, and in Azimio, to argue that Kenya Kwanza is doing wrong in trying to get as many legislators into its fold as possible. To govern effectively in a multiparty system, any party would like to have the numbers on its side.

What is more pertinent is whether the motives are benign or sinister. In this case, it is very possible that the ruling party seeks a super-majority with the aim of nurturing a dictatorship, for democracy is expensive, disorderly and time-consuming.

Two reasons have been advanced for this attack on Jubilee. The first one is that UDA honchos were unceremoniously bundled out of Jubilee and now it is payback time. Should that be the case, such pettiness boggles the mind when there are so many problems that should be tackled with greater urgency in this country.

Revenge is sweet when you are at the top, but you must take care it does not turn into vendetta that may come back to haunt you. The second is that Jubilee’s existence, even in its emaciated state, does not sit well with the powers-that-be and the best way out is to forestall its possible resurgence.

This notion may not be too farfetched, for it has everything to do with the voting strength of the Mt Kenya region. It is well-established that nobody can hope to rule this country comfortably without the active support of the majority voters in this region.

In fact, the ruling party leaders would be the first to admit that Mt Kenya alone gave President Ruto the highest number of votes and it would be foolish to let it go.

Not going well

It cannot be lost on Kenya Kwanza that things are not going well among those they promised a prosperous new world. The scales are slowly peeling from the eyes of “hustlers” and resentment against the government is building up. Should the hustlers see the vehicle they abandoned returning, they may start trooping back which would be a nightmare for Kenya Kwanza honchos.

Therefore it makes sense to disassemble Jubilee now by co-opting it or by demonising its leader, former President Uhuru Kenyatta, a tactic that worked in the past, and which may explain the frenzy with which they are telling him to step back and allow them to swallow Jubilee in peace.

One thing is becoming clear though. Regardless of what eventually happens in the battle for Jubilee’s soul, Kenya Kwanza may succeed in wresting the party from Uhuru, but they are unlikely to carry half of those who elected Ruto with them next time. Meanwhile, the region’s voters remain divided, which may have been the plan all along. One can hardly think of a more Machiavellian scheme than this.

Mr Ngwiri is a consultant editor; [email protected]