Former President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday stormed Jubilee party headquarters to stamp his authority following a day of chaos as factions allied to him and his successor William Ruto fought for control of the former ruling party.
In his first public dabbling in Jubilee politics, since he handed over power to Dr Ruto, who beat his preferred successor Raila Odinga in last August’s presidential vote, Mr Kenyatta visited the party offices in Kileleshwa in solidarity with former Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, who is fighting to secure his post as Jubilee secretary-general.
Mr Kioni, who has consistently attended anti-government protests led by Mr Odinga, is fighting ouster alongside vice chairman David Murathe.
The two have been targeted by a faction led by East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) lawmaker Kanini Kega who recently staged a coup to take over as secretary-general alongside other rebel Jubilee leaders who have switched loyalty to President Ruto’s ruling coalition.
Once staunch allies of Mr Kenyatta, Mr Kega, Jubilee nominated MP Sabina Chege and Eldas MP Adan Keynan, whose nomination to represent the government in the bipartisan talks has infuriated the opposition, have allied themselves with Kenya Kwanza.
The ruling coalition, keen to shore up its numbers in Parliament, has poached opposition lawmakers including Jubilee members, with the takeover of the former ruling party part of a strategy to facilitate legal recognition of the collaboration.
It also emerged that Jubilee is planning to withdraw Ms Chege’s nomination to the National Assembly and kick out Mr Kega from Eala.
Yesterday, the two factions engaged in running battles, forcing police to use tear gas canisters to disperse the warring groups.
It forced the former President, who is the Jubilee party leader, to visit its seat of power in Kileleshwa, to intervene in solidarity with Mr Kioni as he dared the rebels to quit without causing chaos.
The former Head of State said he had been called by Mr Kioni, following what he termed as an invasion into the party headquarters by a faction.
“I was called by SG (Kioni) and he informed me of what’s happening. I said I have to come to stand in solidarity with him and party members to protect our party,” Mr Kenyatta said.
The former President, who is also the chairman of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition’s top decision-making organ — The Council — said party members must uphold the law in settling disputes.
“We want our rights. When they attempted to take our party we followed the law until we got justice. Why must they storm here to cause chaos?” Mr Kenyatta posed, in reference to Mr Kega’s faction.
He was referring to a contentious ruling by the Political Parties Dispute Tribunal (PPDT) that both groups have claimed victory.
The Kega-led faction held a National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Nakuru County that resolved to kick out Mr Murathe and Mr Kioni but PPDT recently quashed the letter by the Registrar of Political Parties Ann Nderitu recognising the changes but equally directed the Kioni group to pursue internal party dispute resolution processes.
Yesterday, Mr Kenyatta, who also addressed party officials flanked by Mr Kioni among other party officials, dared those dissatisfied with the party to defect instead of causing chaos within.
“Let anybody who wants to leave a party leave and go to another party in peace. I thank you for protecting your party. We have no fight with anybody, only telling those who don’t want to belong to this party that they are free to leave and not to disturb peaceful people here,” said Mr Kenyatta.
He also took a swipe at the police, telling them to concentrate on their duties to protect the public instead of being drawn into politics to cause chaos.
“Police have several duties, not to come here to cause chaos. We are warning those attempting to take this party by force that we will protect it,” added the former President.
Resolve issues internally
He said Jubilee members are able to resolve their issues internally without being pushed by the police on what to do.
“I ask Kenyans to live in peace. Let’s not accept to be incited among ourselves,” he said.
It also emerged Mr Kega and Ms Chege’s fate hangs in the balance after Jubilee leadership threatened to revoke their nomination to Parliament.
The Jubilee faction allied to Mr Kenyatta led by Mr Murathe confirmed that the party will initiate the process to revoke the nomination of Ms Chege in the National Assembly and recall Mr Kega from Eala.
“We cannot have our member nominated and even appointed as whip, only to whip for the other side. Once a member has shifted allegiance like in the case of Kega and Chege, they are deemed to have resigned from the nominating party,” argued Mr Murathe.
He went on: “Azimio had de-whipped Chege as deputy minority whip and Speaker Moses Wetang’ula should effect the changes. We are now going to initiate the process of revoking her nomination to the National Assembly.”
Mr Murathe argued that Mr Kega was nominated to Eala through Azimio but since he had opted to work with Kenya Kwanza, they will replace him.
“He was nominated for election by Jubilee and was elected on the Azimio ballot. There were two ballots. One for Azimio (four members) and one for Kenya Kwanza (five members),” recalled Mr Murathe.
“If he has joined Kenya Kwanza, we will demand his recall to send a new name to Eala to propagate their agenda,” he added.
Mr Murathe argued although Mr Kega’s election was through a vote in both Houses of Parliament, they will only send one name to replace him to sidestep a vote.
“They normally vote if you have more than one person. If we give only one name, there’s no voting. It will be unopposed,” said Mr Murathe.
Yesterday, other Azimio leaders including Ms Martha Karua, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Wycliffe Oparanya and Mr Eugene Wamalwa also visited the Jubilee offices and accused President Ruto of acting in bad faith, which undermined ongoing talks to resolve the political crisis.
“We are here on behalf of ourselves as leaders in Azimio but also on behalf of our principal Raila Odinga who is out of the country. It is clear that the order from the Political Parties Tribunal quashes the letter of the Registrar of Political Parties that was purporting to give a faction of this party power over these offices.
“It means Kioni is the bona fide secretary-general and those others, if they have any issues, they should use Jubilee’s internal dispute resolution mechanisms,” Ms Karua said.
She accused the police of being complicit in the Jubilee headquarters attack.
“Coming with a full battalion of police to take over the offices forcefully is not only disobedience of the court order but a breach of the law. Kenya Kwanza is trying to forcefully take over an affiliate of Azimio by using rebel members at a time they are lying to Kenyas that they have good faith in whatever negotiations we have,’ said Ms Karua.
She termed the invasion as a ‘direct attack on multiparty and a declaration of war on Azimio’.
“Anybody serious cannot discuss with a person who desecrates their foundation. One of the rules in talks is that you respect each other; not violate each other. It is the highest expression of bad faith and a clear indication that Kenya Kwanza is not interested in negotiations.”
Mr Musyoka accused Kenya Kwanza of disrespecting former President Kenyatta, the Jubilee party leader.
“You don’t even show simple respect to a former President who is the leader of Jubilee. We want to urge that these gerrymandering and shenanigans must stop because Kenya is a democracy,’ he said.
Mr Musyoka accused Kenya Kwanza of wrestling Jubilee in a bid to confirm Eldas MP Adan Keynan as its member.
“This is an attempt by KK to destabilise us ahead of our planned mass action on May 2 but we shall not be deterred. We are prepared to face them,” Mr Wamalwa said.
He pointed out that the move to “forcefully take over Jubilee is because of our objection to Keynan’s presence in the talks”.
Mr Oparanya said Jubilee can still use legal avenues to exit Azimio instead of using unorthodox means.
“Jubilee can still legally leave Azimio and there is a process which has not even commenced but they want to force it through illegal means.
“If they leave, we shall call for by-elections for all those MPs who shall have moved. We must respect the rule of law,” Mr Oparanya said.
He told the Kenyan Kwanza administration to deal with the high cost of living instead of sideshows.
Mr Kioni vowed to fight to the bitter end. “We will fight until the end. This was a complete illegality and Kenyans must be very cautious,” said Mr Kioni.
National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah declined to be drawn into discussing Mr Murathe and Mr Kioni.
“It is an insult to ask me anything about these people,” said Mr Ichung’wah, declining to comment on the issue of recalling Mr Kega from Eala.
His Minority counterpart Opiyo Wandayi said the Eala treaty on rules of nominations is not explicit on the same.
Mr Wandayi argued that the nomination is a preserve of parties and coalitions and, therefore, the process will be effected despite Kenya Kwanza’s majority in Parliament.
“We will go back to the treaty rules on the nominations,” said Mr Wandayi.
Mr Murathe criticised Mr Keynan’s representation of the ruling coalition in the bipartisan talks, arguing the lawmaker is one of the vice chairs of a subcommittee in Azimio NEC.
“Keynan holds an official position in Azimio. The registrar in her communication on Tuesday affirmed the parties under the Azimio coalition. No talks can proceed with him as a member. He cannot play for both sides,” said Mr Murathe.
He accused President Ruto of trying to cannibalise political parties instead of delivering on his agenda.
“This is dictatorship,” he claimed. “This government has sustained attacks against Uhuru and in seven months has nothing but go on a launching spree of his projects. They are demonising Uhuru yet they promised to come up with projects of their own,” Mr Murathe said.