Uhuru Kenyatta to leave Azimio, focus on peace-building

Uhuru Kenyatta

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and Serge Tshibangu Nzenza, special envoy and advisor to the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo displaying an agreement during the East African Community-led Nairobi Process at Safaripark hotel in Nairobi on December 6, 2022.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Former president Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to resign as the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition council chairman to concentrate on his peace project, the Sunday Nation has established.

The coalition plans to convene a meeting of the top organ for Mr Kenyatta to formally relinquish his position in the union of parties that sponsored the presidential bid of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in the August polls.

From interviews with coalition officials, among them his long-time aide David Murathe, we learnt that Mr Kenyatta has already taken a back seat in the running of the coalition since he took up his new mandate of leading peace talks in the region as assigned by his successor, President William Ruto.

His planned resignation has also been informed by a legal requirement that he should not  hold any political party position for him to draw his pension.

Mr Kenyatta has until February 2023 to resign, according to the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act, 2003. The pending resignation comes in the wake of major pro-establishment defections of some of Mr Odinga’s key allies.

The defections and Mr Kenyatta’s set resignation is likely to occasion a major political setback for Mr Odinga, who is currently trying to align his troops to form a major anti-government movement.

The coalition, which brought together at least 26 political parties, formed two organs – the Coalition Council and the National Coalition Executive Council (NCEC).

Ahead of the August 9 polls, Mr Kenyatta was named the chairperson of the council – the coalition’s top decision-making organ – while Mr Raila Odinga was named the party leader and a member of the council.

Mr Murathe, the NCEC deputy chairman and also the Jubilee Party vice chairman, confirmed the planned resignation of Mr Kenyatta from Azimio.

Mr Murathe, a close ally of the former president, told the Sunday Nation that Mr Odinga will take charge of the coalition moving forward.

“We will be having a meeting very soon where he will formally resign as the chairman of the Azimio council. Obviously, you cannot have two drivers steering a bus. This vehicle called Azimio now has one driver and that driver is Jakom (Mr Odinga),” said Mr Murathe.

He said Mr Kenyatta has decided to focus more on his new role as a peace ambassador in the region.

“He is now above local politics. Going forward, everything is Jakom and the Azimio system. The council will sit and make a decision about who takes up the position but the overall leader of Azimio is now Jakom and there is no ambiguity about it,” said Mr Murathe.

Remained inactive

NCEC chairman and former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said Mr Kenyatta has remained inactive in the coalition affairs after Mr Odinga’s loss in the polls.

Mr Oparanya said the former Head of State is rarely consulted on political matters since “he has been very busy with his peace assignment in the DRC”.

He also made reference to the legal requirement that Mr Kenyatta has to resign before he can access his pension.

“If he does not resign, he cannot get his pension. Him resigning is not a big deal because we don’t expect him to be active in politics moving forward,” said Mr Oparanya.

“He has not been active, anyway, after the elections. Consultation with him on party issues has been very limited,” he disclosed.

Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni said although he was not privy to the resignation plans, he said it was natural that Mr Kenyatta cannot remain active in local politics because of his new role.

“Day-to-day activities of the coalition are currently run by those in active politics. I am not privy of any plans to have him resign. But naturally, he may not be active in politics because of his role in the regional peace mission,” Mr Kioni told the Sunday Nation.

Section 6(1) of the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act states that a retired president shall not hold office in any political party for more than six months after ceasing to hold office as president.

This requirement means he will also have to resign as the party leader of Jubilee by February, being six months since he left office.

Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu told the Sunday Nation that her office was yet to receive information about Mr Kenyatta’s resignation.

The Act adds that a retired president shall be expected to play a consultative and advisory role to the government and people of Kenya.

“A retired president may be requested by the government to perform specific official functions and shall be paid a reasonable allowance in respect of such official functions,” it adds.

Dr Ruto assigned the former Head of State a mandate to lead the peace talks in the region when he took office on September 13.

Mr Kenyatta has since been involved in peace talks between the Government of the Federal Government of Ethiopia, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Initially, the former president snubbed the preliminary meeting in South Africa but has since embraced his new role.

He is also involved in the facilitator of the East Africa Community (EAC)-led peace talks involving Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Government and M23, the Congolese rebel military group.

Recently, while speaking during the official opening of the Third Inter-Congolese Consultations of the Nairobi Peace Process, President Ruto disclosed how he convinced Mr Kenyatta to take up the role.

“After the election, I met my brother Uhuru, looked him in the eye and told him, ‘You have started an important mission in DRC and I’d like you to continue with it,’” Dr Ruto disclosed.

Apart from Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, other members of the council include Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Kanu’s Gideon Moi, former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, nominated MP Sabina Chege, former Taveta MP Naomi Shaban, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, and Narc leader and former Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu. Others are Wafula Wamunyinyi, Abdi Noor Omar Farah and Suna East MP Junet Mohamed who sits on the coalition council by virtue of his position as the NCEC secretary-general.