Mandera Governor Ali Roba has acquired the United Democratic Movement Party (UDM), days after leaders from northern Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands (Asals) launched the Upya Movement political group.
In an advertisement in one of the dailies in the country, some Mandera county government staff were also announced as new UDM officials.
A source close to the governor confirmed the acquisition of the party from one General (Rtd) John Koech Cherotich.
“He is now a party leader and things will be easy for him locally and within the North Eastern region,” said the source.
Deputy President William Ruto was once associated with UDM, but could not wrest control of the outfit from a faction led by the then secretary-general, Mr Martin ole Kamwaro.
Now, newly-announced UDM secretary-general David Ohito has stated that the party will fill the political gap in the entire North Eastern region.
“There exists UDM that is keen on championing for better education, healthcare and the interests of the people of Mandera and North Eastern,” Mr Ohito said.
Mr Ohito, who is the Mandera County chief of staff, said the devolved unit has lagged behind in terms of political representation.
“UDM is about service to the people unlike the Economic Freedom Party that went silent after the 2017 elections. We shall chart our path and decide which presidential candidate to support after putting our house in order,” he said.
He revealed that UDM will be unveiled officially in a month’s time.
History of UDM
The party was founded in 1999 by politicians who were at the time considered renegades of the then ruling party, Kenya African National Union (Kanu).
It was initially denied registration by the state.
Some of its leaders scattered to other parties in the run up to 2002 General Election.
At the time, UDM’s most prominent MP was Hellen Sambili, who served as Minister of East African Cooperation in Kenya's grand coalition government.
The party was once subject to a leadership wrangle as a faction of 'rebel' ODM Members of Parliament, allied to Dr Ruto, attempted to take control of the party to use it as their platform for the 2012 elections.
However, following resistance from the existing leadership Dr Ruto and his allies opted to form the United Republican Party (URP) in December 2012.
Governor Roba ran on a URP ticket in the 2013 election.
In 2016, Kenya's former Director of Public Prosecutions Philip Murgor was unveiled as UDM's presidential candidate for the August 2017 General Election.