Kenya Kwanza fringe parties protest UDA's six-piece voting campaign

William Ruto

Deputy President William Ruto addresses Kenya Kwanza coalition rally. A UDA flagbearer hopeful now wants to petition the party in a challenge to DP's nomination.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

The acrimony among leaders in Mt Kenya parties allied to Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza alliance has played out publicly yet again.

The rancour had subsided after United Democratic Alliance (UDA) secretary-general Veronica Maina announced in March that talks would be held to harmonise how constituent parties were to relate ahead of the August 9 polls, but some of the partners are now crying foul.

"The UDA party, which Dr Ruto belongs to, is treating the rest of us in utter contempt. Just [when] we are sure that we have found the magic of cohesion, the UDA luminaries come out and poison the serenity with uncalled-for hostility against partners," said Farmers Party chairman Irungu Nyakera.

Since Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua was selected as DR Ruto’s running mate on May 15, he has come out forcefully in Mt Kenya counties to campaign against fringe parties.

"As your representative in Dr Ruto’s government, I need loyal soldiers with whom I will fight for your interests. I pray that you [elect] only United Democratic Alliance aspirants."

Mr Gachagua argues that if they win the election, “the Jubilee Party, which is Azimio's lead entity in Mt Kenya, might end up destabilising us and our common agenda” of winning a majority of seats in the region.

Both UDA and Jubilee have the same target of winning 11 governors, 11 senators, 11 women reps, more than 70 MPs and a majority of members of county assemblies in the region. The targeted counties are Nakuru, Nyandarua, Laikipia, Nairobi, Kiambu, Murang'a, Kirinyaga, Embu, Nyeri, Meru and Tharaka Nithi.

Mr Nyakera, who is vying for Murang'a governor, said he and the Farmers Party fraternity took great exception "to the campaigns that UDA has launched in Mt Kenya advising its supporters to vote six-piece in favour of its aspirants".

A six-piece voting pattern is where voters choose candidates from the same party for President, governor, senator, MP, woman rep and war rep.

Mr Nyakera warned UDA that it risked sabotaging Dr Ruto's chances of winning nationally if it continued with that line of campaigns.

"We all know that Dr Ruto is banking on Mt Kenya turnout to retain an edge against his major competitor, Raila Odinga of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition,” he said.

“There is no better way to mobilise turnout and gird the region [against] the combined onslaught by the President Uhuru Kenyatta and Odinga battalions to undermine Dr Ruto than to give us an unpoisoned environment to also help in the battle."

In a protest letter to the UDA secretariat, Mr Nyakera said "the UDA party aspirants in their characteristic deficiency of civility are referring to fringe parties and their aspirants as tatters".

The Service Party (TSP), led by Mwangi Kiunjuri, said it is pushing for calm and peace in the Kenya Kwanza alliance.

"We should collectively own this battle ... even as we compete amongst ourselves, we should refrain from utterances that create bad blood in the campaigns,” he said.

“We should be guided by the common goal of ensuring that the Mt Kenya region remains steadfast behind Dr Ruto. To hold on [against] the combined Azimio brigade onslaught, we need a Kenya Kwanza alliance that is not at war [with] itself."

Mr Kiunjuri, who is gunning for Laikipia East parliamentary seat under TSP, said he was optimistic that sanity would prevail and teach in-house competing voices to choose their words well so as to avoid turning Dr Ruto’s campaigns into a theatre of conflict.

Dr Ruto faces tough choices in Mt Kenya, with aspirants from as many as five affiliate parties contesting a single seat.

In Kiambu, for example, Kimani Wamatangi (UDA) is competing against Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria (Chama Cha Kazi) and William Kabogo of Tujibebe Wakenya Party in the gubernatorial contest.

In Murang'a, Senator Irungu Kang'ata is contesting under UDA and against Joseph Wairagu (Democratic Party), Dr Mike Gatogo of Amani National Congress (ANC) and Mr Nyakera.

Mr Kuria said CCK will soldier on with the contest in all Mt Kenya competitive seats except for the presidency.

"We all have a common presidential candidate and all efforts should be concentrated there. Even us in the said fringe parties have our voices but we are not putting our tongues to bad use,” he said.

“We should be bound by the collective responsibility of maintaining the Mt Kenya conquest in favour of Dr Ruto and hold tight against the Kenyatta/Odinga designs to grab the region. All those other wars being [waged] are petty."

He added: "I have my strategy that I am employing and I need not talk bad of others to win ... what I know is that I am the incoming Council of Governors chairman."

Mr Kabogo warned against "bad mouths that add no value to the collective goal".

He defined that goal as ensuring "the percentage of turnout gets as closest as possible to 100, ensure the votes cast for Dr Ruto are as many as possible and not spoilt, and in all other seats, have the Kenya Kwanza alliance in its solid composition occupying the region".

Mr Kabogo said that "in our utterances and deeds, we should avoid that poison that disintegrates us ... we should all aspire to engage only in versions that make us more cohesive and more determined to achieve the ultimate goal – seizing state power".

Democratic Party leader Justin Muturi said "we are at that sensitive corner of our politics where we dare not lose focus".

He said Dr Ruto is winning the national tally "and it is upon us to midwife that win in the perfect possible atmosphere of peace".

Mr Muturi wondered why one would feel aggrieved in the alliance and after writing a letter to the administrative structures seeking redress proceed to publicly issue ultimatums and threats.

Ms Maina, the UDA secretary-general, told Nation.Africa that negotiations were underway to come up with a common contest plan for mutual benefit.

She said that affiliate parties that would not be contesting the presidency are good to partner with "but there are points of grave concern".

The negotiations are open, broad and in good faith, she said.

But the toughest part of the talks, she said, is on how UDA will relate with its affiliate parties in contesting governor, senator, woman rep, MP and ward rep seats.

"It can be a tragedy if all affiliate parties contest the seats. The complication is real and we have to make a decision. Our position is that UDA candidates will be Dr Ruto's point men and will enjoy his direct support. That is the point at which we are trying to convince all those who share the common agenda of seeing Dr Ruto ascend to power," she said.

This came as it emerged that UDA would want the affiliate parties to help it in mobilising voter turnout, especially in the Mt Kenya and Rift Valley regions, where the ‘Hustler Nation’ foundations are established.

"Yes, we know that this election will be won by getting the turnout math right. We are better dealing with voter apathy as a team. But we cannot also sabotage our national outlook to bank on tribe and region as the focal point of contest," Mr Kang'ata said.

He added that Dr Ruto is a member of a political party that has nominated him as a presidential aspirant and he has been endorsed by partnering parties to vie on their behalf.

"That should not be used as an excuse to make the UDA be relegated to captivity by others. We as an independent party that is vying for all other seats will continue to build ourselves and will coalesce together as UDA seeking to post maximum wins," he said.

Mr Kang'ata said "those worried about turnout in the Mt Kenya region should not panic since as UDA we have an elaborate plan to mobilise voters to show up at polling stations and vote for Dr Ruto. For now, those plans are our UDA secret".

He said that UDA’s insistence on vying for all seats is a precautionary measure to guard itself against sabotage by perceived deep state influence to disadvantage Dr Ruto.

Mt Kenya political analyst Prof Ngugi Njoroge said the issue is complex.

"We all know what happens when a contest is split into cubicles. If we have, say, 10 candidates in different camps but campaigning for a common presidential candidate, the common candidate will gain but lose the seat owing to disintegrated votes," he said.

He said Dr Ruto shares “the same dilemma of affiliate parties insisting that they be let to contest where they feel they are stronger than the party in which their common presidential candidates are in, otherwise called zoning”.

The best way to approach the issue, he said, is to come up with both pre- and post-election partnership pacts "because the two most important aspects of a contest are to first win and form a government that is stable".

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