Rebellion in President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza camp

President William Ruto, Alfred Mutua

From right: President William Ruto, Alfred Mutua, Amason Kingi, Moses Wetang'ula and Musalia Mudavadi.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mr Mudavadi on Thursday threw a spanner in the works when he said the merger is not a priority for Kenya Kwanza “at this moment”.
  • Allies of Mr Wetang’ula like Bungoma Senator Wafula Wakoli and Kabuchai MP Majimbo Kalasinga have said Ford Kenya will not dissolve.

Rebellion against President William Ruto’s plan for a mega party has intensified, roping in allies who say they do not consider it a priority.

Similarly, the humiliation and frustration of then-deputy president Ruto in the Jubilee Party – and his subsequent formation of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) – are some of the ghosts the ruling Kenya Kwanza coalition has to deal with in the bid for a mega party.

And since Dr Ruto, who was the brains behind the formation of Jubilee but was later forced out, many leaders of the Kenya Kwanza affiliates say the scenario is likely to recur.

Even though there was quiet resistance against the push by new UDA Secretary-General Cleophas Malala to have the parties fold ahead of the August merger deadline, it is gradually snowballing into an open rebellion that threatens to rock the stability of the ruling alliance.

The dispute has grown after some UDA politicians asked the President not to give government jobs to allies of party leaders resisting the merger.

For those wary of the mega political outfit designed to vanquish the opposition in the 2027 election, having a party they can call their own in important.

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress (ANC), Ford Kenya of National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula, Pamoja African Alliance of Senate Speaker Amason Kingi, Attorney General Justin Muturi’s Democratic Party (DP), Laikipia East MP Mwangi Kiunjuri’s The Service Party, former Kiambu governor William Kabogo’s Tujibebe Wakenya Party, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua’s Maendeleo Chap Chap (MCC) and Mandera Senator Ali Roba’s United Democratic Movement (UDM) are some of the outfits in the Kenya Kwanza coalition.

The others are the Communist Party of Kenya (CPK), the Farmers Party, the Devolution Party of Kenya, the Economic Freedom Party, Umoja na Maendeleo Party, the National Agenda Party of Kenya, the Grand Dream Development Party, Ugenya MP David Ochieng’s Movement for Democracy and Growth and Chama Cha Mashinani of the former Bomet governor Isaac Ruto.

Parties whose officials have rejected the merger plans are ANC, Ford-K, DP, MCC, UDM, CPK and Farmers. For the small parties, the merger is also about money.

In an event that President Ruto persuades Kenya Kwanza affiliates to fold and join UDA, he would bag Sh155.4 million more from the 13 outfits which qualify for the political parties’ fund, increasing UDA’s worth to Sh732.5 million.

It is on this ground that these parties are resisting the merger.

According to the Political Parties Act, upon receipt of the request, the registrar shall gazette within seven days the dissolution of and  transfer the records, assets, liabilities, rights and obligations of parties to UDA, including their entitlement to the Political Parties Fund.

Mr Mudavadi on Thursday threw a spanner in the works when he said the merger is not a priority for Kenya Kwanza “at this moment”.

“We should focus on the competing challenges of drought, the cost of living, the pending bills and others. The issue of a merger or no merger of political parties is at the bottom of our priorities,”  Mr Mudavadi said.

Acting ANC Secretary-General, Beatrice Adagala, told Mr Malala to stop the merger talk.

“It is been six months after the General Election and the agreement we signed with UDA is still intact. If there will be need for parties in the Kenya Kwanza alliance to merge, that will come from our leaders. We will not listen to Malala, who is pushing his own political agenda. What he is telling us to do is hot air and we will not listen to him,” Ms Adagala said.

She spoke a day after ANC party leader and Lamu Governor, Issa Timamy, insisted that the outfit is not ready for a merger.

“Our message to all is we are not going to fold. I want to assure members that ANC will remain a party. They should not be swayed by the talk of folding. I reiterate that ANC will remain an independent party. If anything, we are already planning to rejuvenate our party right from the grassroots level as we embark on registering new members,” Governor Timamy said.

Allies of Mr Wetang’ula like Bungoma Senator Wafula Wakoli and Kabuchai MP Majimbo Kalasinga have said Ford Kenya will not dissolve.

“Ours is the second oldest party in Kenya. You cannot just wake up one day and dissolve it. We have vibrant party structures from the village to national level, with charismatic supporters across Kenya,” Senator Wakoli said.

Said Mr Kalasinga: “I don’t think this is what the President intends to have. President Ruto embraced unity and the union of Ford Kenya, ANC and the other parties in Kenya Kwanza. Malala should give us a break. Wetang’ula is a senior person in this country.”

Governance expert, Javas Bigambo, argues that the planned merger would result in small parties losing their critical identity.

“The collapse of the National Rainbow Coalition led to merger bids that established the Party of National Unity (PNU) for President Mwai Kibaki’s re-election in 2007. The merger of The National Alliance and the United Republican Party led to the formation of Jubilee, for Mr Kenyatta’s re-election. The consequence of all these is that members who folded up their parties, especially the small ones  drown themselves in the sea of the bigger outfit, but deep within them, they feel they have lost a critical identity,” Mr Bigambo said.

“Political parties in Kenya are not just a basis for identity. They are platforms for political negotiations to get into alliances or coalitions with higher bargaining.”

Dr Erick Komolo, a lawyer and analyst, argues that the merger of parties in a democracy like Kenya is dangerous for long-term stability.

“UDA is basically trying to eliminate internal dissent and give Ruto an upper hand in managing transition in his party. Progressive democracies embrace pre or post-election coalitions, not dissolution of small or minority parties. ANC, Ford-K and others Kenya Kwanza affiliates should see this merger attempt as a power grab,” Dr Komolo said.

Kibwezi West MP, Mwengi Mutuse, who is also one of the officials of MCC told the Sunday Nation yesterday that scars of the Uhuru-Ruto Jubilee have made them wary of mergers.

He added that once a person loses a party, it would not be easy to get hold of it again.

“The ghosts returned to haunt the planned merger. Those who killed their parties were later driven out of Jubilee and had to form UDA. The same can recur. Parties are not like a tap, to be opened and closed on need basis. Parties should be treated like the serious institutions they are,” Mr Mutuse said.

“The calls for dissolution are not in good faith. They are being made in rallies and the media yet there are formal channels of discussions in the coalition.”

DP Secretary-General, Jacob Ali Haji, yesterday asked Mr Malala to convene a meeting with secretaries-general of Kenya Kwanza affiliates before pushing the dissolution agenda.

“Let Malala collect views from the secretaries-general before going to the press to call for dissolution,” he said.

Though UDA has pledged not to coerce other parties to fold and merge with it, it has emerged that it is speaking from both sides of the mouth.

Leaders allied to President Ruto now insist that those serving in his administration should only be retained if they dissolve their parties.

UDA lawmakers like Nyaribari Chache’s Zaheer Jhanda say the President should not name allies of Mr Mudavadi, Mr Wetang’ula, Mr Muturi and Dr Mutua as Chief Administrative Secretaries (CASs) and ambassadors until the parties are dissolved.

Although they are linked to Mr Mudavadi, Mr Muturi and Dr Mutua, ANC, DP and MCC, the three resigned as party leaders as per Article 77 (1, 2) of the Constitution.

Says the article: “A full-time state officer shall not participate in any other gainful employment. Any appointed state officer shall not hold office in a political party.”

But the Nyaribari Chache lawmaker is demanding more.

“I request the President to withhold the nominees for CAS and ambassador from the Kenya Kwanza affiliates until they dissolve and join UDA,” he said.

According to Mr Malala, having many parties in government interferes with the agenda of the administration “since the President has to massage the egos of every party”.

With President Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua having been elected on a UDA ticket, Mr Malala maintains that the two leaders are genuine and that is how the wheelbarrow – in reference to the UDA symbol – plans to avoid Jubilee Party pitfalls, adding that no affiliate would be forced to dissolve.

“The political players in the other arrangement (Jubilee) were not sincere. They were deceptive. They wanted to stab one another in the back but we have a different person as the party leader,” the former Kakamega senator said in an interview with the Saturday Nation days after being named the UDA secretary-general.

 “Our leader is a genuine person. He is very committed to whatever promises he makes. We can’t foresee a point in which we will face the Jubilee scenario.”

Farmers Party head, Irungu Nyakera said the outfit has been shortchanged in the Kenya Kwanza arrangement.

Mr Nyakera said it would be unfair to be asked to dissolve the party “yet we have not been rewarded for supporting Dr Ruto six months after he became President”.

“It is always give-and-take. When eight political parties signed the Kenya Kwanza Coalition agreement on April 12 last year, we had been told that everyone would benefit should Kenya Kwanza win the presidential election,” Mr Nyakera told the Sunday Nation.

“Six of these parties have never been rewarded with anything for being members of the coalition. The the only message we keep getting is that we should dissolve and join UDA by August. To be honest, we would be very stupid to dissolve our party and get nothing in return.”

Additional reporting by Derick Luvega