Political Parties Registrar, tribunal differ on Jubilee leadership

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

A move by President William Ruto to recognise nominated MP Sabina Chege as Jubilee Party leader yesterday has put him on a collision path with his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

This, as Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu threw another spanner in the works when she confirmed the expulsion of Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni and Vice-Chairman David Murathe, as well as the suspension of Treasurer Kagwe Gichohi—the three remaining top officials loyal to Mr Kenyatta. 

The communication by the parties’ registrar yesterday is, however, likely to add to the mix-up at the former ruling party after the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal (PPDT) reinstated the three top officials to their party leadership positions. According to the tribunal ruling dated May 22, Mr Kioni, Mr Murathe and Mr Gichohi remain in office until May 31 when their complaint will be heard.

The letter by the registrar is dated May 19—the same day the East African Legislative Assembly MP Kanini Kega faction held their meeting expelling the duo. 

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga had on Monday accused the President of persecution, telling him to keep off Jubilee and pegging the ongoing bipartisan talks on whether or not Dr Ruto keeps his word on it.

A day later, President Ruto, in a meeting with Kenya Kwanza Alliance MPs, Cabinet members and other government officials, backed Ms Chege in her bid to takeover Jubilee.

“Let me recognise and welcome Hon Sabina Chege, my fellow party leader to this meeting,” the President said amid cheers from the attendees.

Yesterday, Mr Odinga accused Dr Ruto of having a hand in the registrar’s decision.

“The government of Mr Ruto should stop interfering with the running of political parties. The parties must be allowed to run their affairs independently without interference from the State,” Mr Odinga said in Alego Usonga, Siaya County, where he visited flood victims and distributed relief food. 

President William Ruto during the Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group Meeting at State House, Nairobi

President William Ruto during the Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group Meeting at State House, Nairobi on May 23, 2023.

Photo credit: PCS

The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition boss said the President is hell-bent on weakening the opposition, a move he said the coalition will not tolerate. 

“This is a warning by the Azimio coalition. I am telling the registrar to move with speed and approve names ratified by the Jubilee national delegates conference (NDC), failing which there will be consequences,” said Mr Odinga.

Jubilee numbers

Jubilee has 29 members in the National Assembly and five senators. Only four elected leaders back Mr Kenyatta, with the rest siding with the Kega faction. 

In the press conference yesterday, Ms Nderitu said according to their records, the two expelled officials are no longer in their register as party officials of the former ruling party. She explained that the decision on the removal of the members was made on Friday and that this was communicated to the affected individuals on the same day through e-mail.

Consequently, she argued that her office has not acted against the law as their decision was made before the tribunal’s order, which they were served on Tuesday.

“Let us leave it as a court process to see what the court will say and determine about our decision. Our decision was made on Friday but we received the orders today though it is dated May 22,” said Ms Nderitu.

The registrar also threw into doubt the validity of Jubilee’s NDC held on Monday, maintaining the meeting was not properly convened. She said that the national executive council (NEC) meeting held on April 28 and that convened the NDC was not properly constituted as it lacked a quorum.

jeremiah kioni, jubilee NDC

Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni at the Ngong Race Course in Nairobi on May 22, 2023, for the party's National Delegates Convention.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Ms Nderitu explained that Article 23 of the party’s constitution provides that a quorum for all meetings for all party organs is one-third of the membership. However, the NEC meeting comprised only nine individuals with two attendees—Maison Leshomo and Polycarp Hinga —being people who had not assumed office.

“Owing to the above, the resolutions emanating from the April 28 meeting cannot stand for lack of quorum,” she said.

Nonetheless, Mr Kioni laughed off the claims saying the party’s constitution puts quorum for meetings at seven members which is a third of the 21 members. He said they provided copies of the notices of the NEC meeting, adding that they also have a court order allowing the NDC to take place, which was delivered before the meeting.

“The mischief here is that the letter was supposed to have been served on us before the NDC. Clearly, there are individuals who don’t want the party to be run by Uhuru Kenyatta and they are doing everything possible,” said Mr Kioni during a media briefing yesterday after serving the registrar with the NDC resolutions.

Mr Kioni accused Ms Nderitu of being used to kill multi-party democracy, saying the office will now become a point of interest for Azimio just like the electoral commission, National Treasury and Parliament.

“We cannot allow a public officer to be used by individuals who have no regard for multi-party democracy and their sole agenda is to kill it. No single decision by the registrar has withstood the test of the tribunal,” he said.

However, Ms Nderitu defended herself against accusations of dancing to the tune of the Kenya Kwanza government by fuelling the ongoing wrangles in the Mr Kenyatta-led party, saying they can only determine what has been brought before them.

“That accusation has always been there. Every time you make a decision in this country, you will be accused in one way or another. One time you will be accused of dancing to the tune of the government or the opposition,” she said.

At the State House meeting chaired by President Ruto yesterday, sources told the Nation that the recognition attracted support from women leaders at the meeting, with Uasin Gishu Woman Rep Gladys Shollei asking for support to defend Ms Chege and other women leaders facing “hostility”.

Sabina Chege

Nominated MP Sabina Chege.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | NMG

Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale, through his Twitter account, also backed Ms Chege as the bonafide Jubilee leader.

President Ruto’s assertion appeared to be in response to Mr Kenyatta’s onslaught against him on Monday. The former president during the NDC broke his silence over what he termed as persecution by President Ruto’s regime, telling them that he would not be cowed into submission.

The former Head of State who reaffirmed his Jubilee leadership position, said that he had wanted to retire from active politics and deal with other issues but was compelled to remain active due to persistent attacks by the Ruto regime.

He said that all Kenyans deserve respect, adding that his silence should not be misconstrued to mean weakness.

“If you see some people silent don’t think they are afraid of you. No, get that out of your mind. Heshima si utumwa (courtesy is not slavery). Behave like leaders and you shall be respected. Behave like thugs and you will be treated like thugs,” he said amid cheers from party delegates.

Additional reporting by Rushdie Oudia and Kassim Adinasi