Former President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday broke his silence over “persecution” by President William Ruto's regime, warning the government that he is no pushover and will not be cowed into submission.
Mr Kenyatta, who reaffirmed his position as the Jubilee Party leader, said he had wanted to retire from active politics and focus on other things but was forced to return due to persistent attacks by the government.
Speaking at a special National Delegates Convention (NDC) at the Ngong Racecourse in Nairobi, party rebels led by nominated MP Sabina Chege and East African Legislative Assembly MP Kanini Kega were kicked out, Mr Kenyatta said he would not be intimidated into dropping his quest for multi-party democracy.
"I wanted to leave politics and deal with other issues and had hoped to relinquish my position in such an NDC but some people have decided to issue threats and use violence against us."
"Today I want to tell them to look for someone else to intimidate, not Uhuru wa Kenyatta," the former president charged.
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He said all Kenyans deserved respect, adding that his silence should not be misconstrued as weakness.
"Act like leaders and you will be respected. Behave like thugs and you will be treated like thugs," he said to cheers from the crowd.
Mr Kenyatta, who was flanked by Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party honchos Raila Odinga, Martha Karua, Kalonzo Musyoka and Eugene Wamalwa among other leaders, said he would continue to lead the Jubilee Party until members ask him to relinquish his position.
Mr Odinga issued a warning to President Ruto, saying, Azimio planned to take decisive action against his alleged invasion of its member parties to co-opt them into his camp, including pulling out of the inter-party talks and possible resumption of mass protests.
The Opposition leader said some Kenyans felt discriminated against when Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua likened the country to a company with shareholders, with those who voted for the Kenya Kwanza Alliance having a bigger stake than those who didn’t.
"If the bipartisan talks fail to address our concerns, we will resort to the self-determination process due to statements like Mr Gachagua’s," Mr Odinga warned.
He also hinted at the possible resumption of street protests as a means of exerting pressure to ensure the resolution of critical issues affecting the country, including the reduction of the high cost of living. Ms Karua accused Dr Ruto of trying to wrestle Jubilee from its rightful owners.
"Jubilee is an integral part of Azimio and, when you touch it, you touch all of us. You must respect the law or we as Kenyans will force you to respect the law because the Constitution gives Kenyans the sovereign power and we can exercise it directly," said the Narc-Kenya leader.
Mr Musyoka said Azimio would not allow aggression against registered political parties.
"If they allow the other Jubilee faction to hold another illegal NDC, we will stop the talks because it's an attack on multi-party democracy," Mr Musyoka declared.
"We won't give an inch of our democratic gains," the Wiper leader added, stressing the importance of preserving the hard-won democratic progress in the country. He underscored the need to respect democratic principles and ensuring a level playing field for all parties involved in the bipartisan negotiations.
Mr Wamalwa said blackmail and threats against former President Kenyatta and his Jubilee Party won't work.
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"The blackmail against Uhuru to force him to retire must stop because he has every right under Article 38 of the Constitution. So don't threaten Uhuru by linking his benefits to his retirement," said Mr Wamalwa, alluding to the law that gives every citizen the freedom to make political decisions and the right to form or participate in the formation of a political party, to participate in the activities of a political party or to recruit members for a political party, or to campaign for a political party or cause.
In a bid to restore party discipline and strengthen its ranks, the Jubilee Party yesterday expelled several party rebels, including nominated MP Sabina Chege, Eala MP Kanini Kega and former national chairman Nelson Dzuya.
Former MPs Jimi Angwenyi, Naomi Shabban, Joshua Kutuny, Mutava Musyimi and Rachel Nyamai were also expelled.
Mr Kenyatta was accompanied by party officials including Jeremiah Kioni (secretary-general) and David Murathe (deputy chairman).
Party leaders expressed concern over the continued defiance of rebels, who had fanned internal divisions and hampered the party's ability to effectively pursue its goals.
To fill the leadership vacuum created by the expulsions, Jubilee announced several significant changes within its ranks.
Former Planning Principal Secretary Saitoti Torome was appointed as the new national chairman, replacing Mr Dzuya.
Mr Yasin Noor was named deputy secretary-general, replacing Mr Kutuny. Former MP Jamleck Kamau was appointed national director of elections, replacing Mr Kega. Jubilee Party also appointed Ms Pauline Njoroge as its new deputy organising secretary. Ms Maison Leshoomo was named national chair of the Women's League.
"The Jubilee Party leadership strongly believes that these leadership changes will help restore unity, discipline and focus within the party," said Mr Kioni.
The NDC gave Mr Kenyatta an opportunity to stamp his authority on the party amid an onslaught by Ms Chege and Mr Kega. The duo had teamed up with a section of Jubilee MPs to oust Mr Kenyatta from the party leadership alongside Mr Kioni, Mr Murathe and national treasurer Kagwe Gichohi.
The rebels had named Ms Chege as the new party leader and Mr Kega the secretary-general.
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Yesterday, a defiant Mr Kega rejected the NDC, insisting that the event lacked the official endorsement of the Jubilee Party members and should not be considered a legitimate meeting.
He also expressed concern that the meeting could lead to further internal divisions within the party and called for the ongoing dispute to be resolved through proper channels.
"The meeting held today at Ngong Racecourse was not a Jubilee Party NDC but another political rally which has no legal consequences. The Internal Dispute Resolution Committee in its ruling stayed and suspended the notice issued by former President Uhuru Kenyatta pending hearing and determination of the dispute challenging the legality of the purported NDC," he told journalists yesterday.
Former United Democratic Alliance (UDA) national chairman Johnson Muthama also weighed in on the NDC, urging Mr Kenyatta to shun politics and emulate his predecessors.
"Both [former Presidents Daniel arap] Moi and [Mwai] Kibaki chose to retire peacefully at the end of their terms to allow for a smooth transition of power while demonstrating their commitment to the well-being of our country," said Mr Muthama.
At the NDC, however, Mr Kenyatta remained adamant that he would continue to lead the party until members asked him to leave.
"You gave me the leadership mandate as party leader and as president, I did my best and completed my term in peace and handed over power in peace in broad daylight even when they insulted me."
"I later took a back seat and kept quiet but the result was more insults, theft of my goats, burning of my farm ... I'm telling them to continue," he said, recalling an attack on his Northlands farm at the height of anti-government protests by the Opposition.
He said Kenya was a democratic country and everyone had the right to join a party of their choice. He told the party rebels to leave because they had failed to deliver on the mandate given to them by party members.
"Their role when they were elected was to protect the interest of the party members, the party manifesto, but if they cannot do that, let them step aside and let us have those who are ready to serve."
"But if there is a change of heart, do the respectful thing, just go and leave us in peace and allow us to give those positions to other people,"Mr Kenyatta said, adding, Jubilee would continue to advocate for peace.
"Our symbol is a dove because we are peace-loving Kenyans. But our love for peace does not mean that we are cowards. No. If we are going to talk, let's talk in peace."
Mr Odinga also took on the President, accusing him of orchestrating the illegal Jubilee takeover to gain a super-majority in Parliament to enable him amend the Constitution to suit his ends, including the possible removal of presidential term limits.
"The regime is treading a well-trodden path. Kenya Kwanza is working on an arrangement similar to that of 1964 when Kadu [The Kenya African Democratic Union] crossed the aisle and joined Kanu [The Kenya African National Union] without its MPs having to seek a fresh mandate."
"Kenya Kwanza wants to ensure that Jubilee as a party does not continue to exist on the other side of the aisle," Mr Odinga said.
He accused the President's camp of destroying Jubilee "not because it is weak, but because they realise that Jubilee is a force now and could be an even bigger threat in the years to come". He urged party rebels to resign and seek a fresh mandate from the people instead of rocking the ship from within.