Ruto, Raila, Uhuru political parties in major overhaul

William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila ODinga

President William Ruto (center), ODM party leader Raila Odinga (left) and retired President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Kalonzo Musyoka, the leader of the Wiper Party, has also announced plans to revive his party.
  • Raila Odinga announced on Wednesday that ODM would hold its grassroots elections in April.

The country's major political parties have embarked on aggressive rejuvenation plans to shore up their membership nationwide.

President William Ruto's United Democratic Alliance (UDA), Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and former President Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee Party have started the new year with intensified mass membership registration drives across the country.

The UDA and ODM's push for new members will culminate in the parties' grassroots elections, both scheduled for April. The UDA had planned to hold its elections in December but postponed them without giving a reason.

The planned party elections, however, represent a major litmus test for the two main parties as such exercises have remained divisive, leading to major fallout.

Kalonzo Musyoka, the leader of the Wiper Democratic Movement - Kenya, has also announced plans to revive his party as part of his preparations to win the flagbearership of the opposition Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya Coalition.

Musyoka plans to shore up his support base as part of a strategy to ensure he does not play second fiddle within the opposition coalition in the 2027 general elections.

The former vice-president has since said he would rather retire than abandon his presidential ambitions.

“I am going to move all over the country in 2024. So 2024 is a watershed year for democracy in this country. And it is going to be a total approach to democracy. So you should be prepared for a lot of action in 2024 – political action and also citizen action,” Musyoka told the Nation in a recent exclusive interview.

Odinga announced on Wednesday that ODM would hold its grassroots elections in April.

The party has been on a mass membership drive in various parts of the country since last year, with officials describing the exercise as a long-term plan to strengthen the party and position it as the party of choice ahead of the next election.

“We are in the process of membership recruitment. You know that our party holds elections every five years, and recruitment of members is continuous, we started in the month of November and it will continue till March this year,” Odinga told journalists in Mombasa.

“We will do our party elections in April, and then do a national delegate’s convention between May and June this 2024.”

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said the plan was to project the party as the only saviour for Kenyans, especially the youth, who “feel disappointed” by the ruling alliance.

“The response to the ongoing registration has been enormous, especially from the youth who want to identify with ODM, which is the only known progressive party,” Mr Wandayi told the Nation.

“There is massive voter discontent following the disappointment that they have witnessed in UDA.”

President Ruto’s UDA has also been on a charm offensive in Odinga’s political bastion since January, recruiting new members.

The outfit, which was formed in the run-up to the 2022 polls, is targeting at least 40 per cent of registered voters in Nyanza, a region where Ruto performed dismally in the 2022 elections.

UDA Secretary-General Cleophas Malala claimed that the party had recruited 360,224 new members in the last six months alone. The Nation could not independently verify Malala's figures.

He claimed that the party had 139,224 new members in Homa Bay County, 91,000 in Siaya County, 71,000 in Kisumu County and 59,000 in Migori County.

The four Luo Nyanza counties have a total of 2,126,989 registered voters according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) 2022 voters' roll. The UDA's plan is to increase its membership to 15 million before the next elections.

“The drive is countrywide but we are going into areas where we did not get votes and that is why we have given a lot of emphasis to Luo Nyanza, Western, Coast and North Eastern regions,” said Malala.

At the same time, Kenyatta's Jubilee Party has also activated political activities, especially in the Mt Kenya region.

Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni said the party had embarked on major activities in a total overhaul of its old networks and structures.

The party, however, said it has no plans to hold elections this year after it elected the current office holders in March 2022.

The decision not to hold elections could also be the result of a legal battle over the party's legitimate officials. Kenyatta's camp is locked in a bitter leadership battle with another camp led by nominated MP Sabina Chege and EALA MP Kanini Kega.

“For Jubilee, our elections are not due but we have aligned major activities to ensure we revive our structures across the country,” said Kioni.

Kioni claimed that some political parties were using fake membership figures to claim strength. He called on the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties to publish the membership registers of all political parties.

He said Jubilee had lined up a series of meetings in Mt Kenya as part of a plan to rally the restive region to take advantage of the unrest in Kenya Kwanza.

The series of meetings will culminate in a major gathering planned for April that will bring together grassroots leaders from the vote-rich region with the intention of setting the tone for the New Year and chipping away at the UDA's dominance.

In mid-December last year, Kenyatta met Jubilee politicians from Kiambu County in a meeting attended by his political foe and friend Raila Odinga, in what was seen as an indication of his intention to return to active politics after handing over power in September 2022.

The former ruling party is also planning to go door-to-door and reach out to like-minded political leaders within and outside government in a bid to regain its past glory in the region.

Jubilee also plans to lead a backlash against the current regime over increased taxation and the rising cost of living.