There’s something fishy in the mad scramble for Jubilee Party

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

The plot by the Jubilee rebel faction led by EALA MP Kanini Kega and Nominated MP Sabina Chege to take control of the party got a giant boost when the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) okayed the ouster of David Murathe and Jeremiah Kioni as vice-chairman and secretary-general, respectively.

The ouster had been initiated by the Kanini camp. Then the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal (PPDT) ruled that the status quo in the party remains until further notice. 

Notably, the PPDT pronounced itself on May 22, the same day Jubilee held a delegates convention at Nairobi’s Ngong Racecourse. 

The ORPP’s decision was ostensibly communicated on May 19, three days earlier. The Kioni team are unconvinced. They only got the ORPP letter on May 23. They believe it was written on May 22 after the PPDT ruling, but was backdated so as to render the ruling redundant.

The ORPP’s letter was supposedly written on the same day that the Kanini group met to expel Kioni and Murathe, then forwarded their decision to the ORPP, who then did their due diligence, updated their files and communicated the outcome to the involved parties. All done on the same Friday! Amazing. 

The Kanini-Chege pair has powerful backers in government. Yet if they eventually succeed in grabbing the party, it will be an impossible task convincing the membership that they are holding onto something that belongs to them. There will forever be an air of illegitimacy about them. Jubilee has always been identified with Uhuru. As long as he has not willingly handed over to a successor, that perception is unlikely to change.

I don’t know if any of these Johnnies-come-lately have the foggiest idea how Jubilee — and its predecessor The National Alliance — came to be and were financed. (Perhaps Murathe, a perennial Uhuru retainer, can tell them). Sorry guys, the public perception is that Jubilee is Uhuru’s property, literally. Full stop. In fact, the way the party constitution is presently drafted in relation to the position of party leader makes that ownership abundantly clear. Anything else people say or imagine is hot air. 

The constant refrain from the Kanini faction is that Uhuru automatically ceased being party leader because of a specific law — the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act of 2003 — that says a retired president must not hold a political party office beyond six months of retirement. If he contravenes the Act by continuing to be active politically, then he forfeits his retirement benefits.

Uhuru has not said he craves those benefits. I am sure he understands that law pretty well. He doesn’t need anybody to remind him. If Uhuru has decided to forgo those benefits and continue as leader of his party, that’s his choice. Politicians who don’t belong to Jubilee but have been commenting volubly on why Uhuru must retire don’t have the locus standi to, frankly. 

Contempt card 

At the Jubilee delegates convention, Uhuru was categorical that he would continue in his party position indefinitely. He made no mention of the retirement benefits matter. At all. That’s one way of showing those talking about it the contempt card. However, he did make it clear that the endless personal vitriol directed at him by the UDA government is what had forced him to make the decision to hang on in the political arena. 

Kenyans have become used to the daily torrent of hysterical insults thrown at Uhuru by UDA stalwarts, from Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua to the likes of Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro. (I wonder whether Uhuru bothers to listen to them).

Last Sunday, May 21, at what were supposed to be “thanksgiving prayers” in Isiolo, it was the turn of Defence CS Aden Duale. He overdid himself. His insults were raw, and direct. Uhuru has never uttered a word in response to all the crude provocations. Not even when known UDA MPs paid vandals, arsonists and livestock thieves to invade his Northlands farm near Ruiru (Duale seemed to gloat about it on television). Uhuru kept mum. Completely mum. That’s class. Undeniable class. 

Many speakers at the Monday Jubilee event referenced the disgraceful Northlands incident as typical of the treatment Uhuru was getting from the UDA government. Uhuru chose to mention it only in passing. 

The hatred and vindictiveness elements in the UDA government hold for Uhuru is an open book. I was half-expecting a police announcement cancelling the Jubilee convention, never mind the illegality of such a move. There are individuals in this regime who will go to any length to pull down the former President. 

Jubilee had been blocked from hiring the Bomas venue for the delegates meeting, on the pretext that it was undergoing renovations. They got the point. Seeking any other venue which was government-controlled would be useless. So they shifted to Ngong Racecourse, a private property operated by the Jockey Club of Kenya. ODM’s Raila Odinga, Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, and Narc-Kenya’s Martha Karua — who together with Jubilee are all Azimio affiliates — joined Uhuru at his convention. 

It was a huge gamble on Uhuru’s part to convene the party delegates' meeting. The main order of business, of course, was to kick out Kanini and Chege and to assert his authority in the party. Next was the very urgent need to rebuild the party after its catastrophic showing in last year’s general election.

Would the party succeed to regain the popularity it enjoyed back in 2017? And how would the UDA government react? It’s a no-brainer that UDA would feel highly threatened by a rejuvenated Jubilee — for obvious reasons. And as long as Uhuru looms in the background, not being supportive of this government and refusing to validate it, the UDA regime somehow will never feel comfortable. 

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I sympathise with Housing PS Charles Hinga. You must sweat profusely when forced to explain voodoo stuff. 

[email protected]; @GitauWarigi