Jubilee begins journey to the graveyard of former powerful ruling parties
Jubilee Party has quietly moved its headquarters from a six-floor building in Pangani to Kileleshwa.
The move was low-key, communicated to the media through a brief statement by the party whose entry to the imposing Thika Road-based building was characterised by fanfare in the run-up to the 2017 General Election.
Initially projected as a behemoth designed to outlive its founders by following in the footsteps of South Africa’s African National Congress and China’s Communists Party, the change of headquarters is symbolic.
Once a ruling party commanding the largest numbers in membership and elected leaders, Jubilee has moved to a relatively smaller office, perhaps to match its current influence.
Though party Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni says the decision is part of a plan to revamp Jubilee, analysts and critics say Jubilee has begun a familiar journey walked by past ruling outfits that ended up in the political graveyard after their leaders left power.
Jubilee’s shrinking influence and poor performance in the 2022 General Election mirror the decline of previous ruling parties since the return of pluralism.
Independence party Kanu was the first to go into terminal decline after its 40-year grip on power was ended in 2002 when Mwai Kibaki won the presidency flying the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) banner.
Narc lasted just a term, before Mr Kibaki secured a second and final term through a new outfit, the Party of National Unity (PNU), in 2007.
“Kenyans will soon forget Jubilee. It will vanish, just like Kibaki’s Democratic Party, Kanu, Narc and PNU,” says governance expert Javas Bigambo.
“Jubilee’s dream of building a strong party was bound to fail because of the nature of our personalised politics. The same fate will befall the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) when President William Ruto leaves office.”
Prof Macharia Munene, a university don, says Jubilee had no option but to move to a smaller space.
He says the small number of MPs under Jubilee means a decline in monthly contributions by the elected leaders as well as cash from the Political Parties Fund.
“Jubilee was formed by Uhuru Kenyatta, Ruto and their supporters. When Ruto left, he moved with his support base,” Prof Macharia says.
“The party rented the space and I don’t think it is in a position to settle rent for the building. It is all about their finances.”
"Shadow of its former self"
According to Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, Jubilee is a shadow and a relic.
He says the party got millions of shillings from its lawmakers when it had a near super majority in the National Assembly and Senate.
“Jubilee is dead. From more than 140 MPs to about 20, it is a relic,” Mr Cherargei says.
But Mr Kioni says the move is strategic, as the party leadership plans to focus on strengthening county and constituency offices.
He says the new place offers a better environment to run the party compared to Pangani, “which was exposed”.
“We have moved to a stand-alone property, which has a compound. It is a good environment for running a party. Our critics will always have something to say but the money we get from our elected leaders and the Exchequer is enough to run Jubilee,” he says.
Mr Kioni adds that the party collects monthly contributions of Sh10,000 from an MP, Sh5,000 from a ward representative and Sh50,000 from a governor.
Jubilee has 29 members in the National Assembly, five senators and one governor.
“Focus will now be on strengthening our county, constituency and ward offices. We also want to recruit more members as we mould and nurture the next generation of Jubilee leaders,” Mr Kioni said in the notice that announced the shifting of the headquarters.
In the current financial year, Jubilee is to get Sh135 million, a significant shrink from the past figures.
The audited accounts of the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties show that in the 2017/18 financial year – the first after the 2017 election – some Sh371.2 million was given to the Political Parties Fund.
Of the amount, Jubilee received Sh240.37 million while the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) was given Sh112.23 million.
In the following fiscal year, some Sh671.2 million was allocated to the fund, out of which Sh434.6 million went to Jubilee and Sh203 million to ODM.
In the 2019/20 financial year, Jubilee got Sh564.2 million.
In the 2017 election, Jubilee had at least one elected representative in 41 counties. It won 171 seats in the National Assembly, 25 governor seats and 34 in the Senate, cementing its position as Kenya’s largest party at the time.