Uhuru kicks out Jubilee officials allied to Ruto in major comeback plot

Uhuru at Jubilee headquarters

Jubilee party leader Uhuru Kenyatta holds a meeting with fellow party members at the party headquarters in Kileleshwa, Nairobi, on April 26, 2023.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta has controversially kicked out top Jubilee officials perceived to be allied to President William Ruto using undated “secret” resignation letters even as he convened a special national delegates conference in a major comeback plot to the political scene.

This comes ahead of fresh threats by Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga, whose coalition says Jubilee membership is intact, to resume protests.

In what is an escalation of the wrangles rocking the former ruling party, Mr Kenyatta reportedly fired Jubilee Chairman Nelson Dzuya and Executive Director Wambui Gichuru using undated letters of resignation they had allegedly signed when they were appointed.

The decision was taken during a National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held on Friday as the former President seeks to reclaim control of the former ruling outfit. Removal of the two is seen as a key step in initiating a purge against perceived rebels.

The key officials are allied to the faction led by Kanini Kega, which has declared that the party is working with President Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza administration. Mr Kenyatta had largely kept off the wrangles—leaving factions led by Mr Jeremiah Kioni and Mr Kega each claiming to be the secretary general to fight it out— until last Wednesday when he appeared at the party’s offices in Nairobi’s Kileleshwa to declare he would not allow a takeover.

In an interview with Sunday Nation, Jubilee Vice Chairperson David Murathe disclosed that all top party officials signed the undated resignation letters when they were appointed and were told the party leader could act on them whenever necessary.

He said the agreement was that Mr Kenyatta only needed to date the letters to make the resignations effective.

“In those senior positions, when you sign an appointment letter you also sign an undated letter for resignation. This is a normal practice even in government. All those people serving as Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries signed their resignation letters,” said Mr Murathe.

The NEC meeting is said to have settled on Mr Murathe to act as the party chairperson until May 22 when the party holds its NDC. Both meetings are disputed by the Ruto-allied faction.

Mr Kenyatta yesterday issued a 21-day notice to the party members of the special NDC. The meeting is set to review, formulate and approve Jubilee party policies as well as receive a status report from the NEC.

Sources told Sunday Nation that Mr Kenyatta plans to kick out all officials perceived to be allied to President Ruto during the convention.

It also emerged that the fate of Mr Kega, who is a legislator at the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), and Jubilee MP Sabina Chege, hangs in the balance after the party threatened to revoke their nomination to Parliament.

Mr Murathe said Dr Ruto’s allies had taken advantage of Mr Kenyatta’s silence in the fight for control of the outfit even as he linked the ruling Kenya Kwanza top brass in the plot to forcefully take away the party.

“The Party Leader has the powers to summon any organ of the party at any time. There was a ruling by the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal for the party to resolve the disputes internally. One of the ways is to call for the delegates. The current officials were elected during a delegates’ conference and can only be removed through such a convention,” explained Mr Murathe.

“I don’t want to speak about the former President’s plan but I can tell you that it has gotten to the point where his silence has been taken advantage of. Enough is enough,” said Mr Murathe.

But Jubilee factions led by Mr Dzuya yesterday dismissed their purported resignation as party officials and accused Mr Kenyatta of forgery.

Deputy Secretary General Joshua Kutuny told Sunday Nation that they have since reported the matter to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

“They faked resignation letters of the party chairman and the Executive Director. We have reported this to the DCI to launch investigations. We are aware their intention is to take control of the Party’s bank accounts. The two officials are signatories to the accounts,” said Mr Kutuny.

Kutuny and Dzuya also said Mr Kenyatta ceased being Jubilee Party leader thus cannot purport to convene a meeting.

They also claimed that the NEC meeting by Mr Kenyatta was null and void as it did not attract a quorum. Jubilee NEC has 28 members. Mr Kutuny said only eight members attended. But Murathe said that a total of 10 members attended the meeting. He says the NEC meeting requires a quorum of seven members.

Sunday Nation has learnt that the meeting that was chaired by Mr Kenyatta was attended by Mr Murathe, Mr Kioni, Kagwe Gichoi (Treasurer), Garissa Senator Abdulkadir Haji, National Chair of the party’s persons living with disabilities Wanja Maina, Ex-Molo MP Njenga Mungai, former nominated MP Maison Leshomo and Lamu East MP Ruweida Obo Mohammed.

“The former party leader ceased being the party leader in March, 2023 by operation of section 6(1) of the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act, which provides that a retired president shall not hold office in any political party for more than six months after ceasing to hold office as president,” Mr Dzuya said.

“We have also learnt that purported resignation letters of some of the party officials were tabled in the said meeting to create the impression that they had voluntarily resigned from their respective positions with the intention to submit that information to the Registrar of Political Parties (RPP) and any other relevant public agencies,” he said.

Mr Dzuya added that there have been no such resignations and any such letters of resignation that may come to light would be fraudulent.

At the same time, both factions are planning to move the party headquarters from Kileleshwa following the Wednesday fracas that saw deployment of dozens of police officers. The office is located in a residential area.

Mr Kutuny said they have started scouting for a new office while Mr Murathe indicated that they have talked to the landlady to give them more time as they scout for a new location. Jubilee relocated to the new address in February this year from a six-floor building in Pangani.

“The intention of our detractors was to cause chaos and disturb people residing in the area. We have talked to the landlady and she has agreed we can continue operating as we look for a suitable place,” Mr Murathe told Sunday Nation.

Mr Kenyatta’s move to intervene in the supremacy battle signaled an all-out war against the government.

Wednesday’s move is also seen by President Ruto’s side as a confirmation that Mr Kenyatta will go against the provision in law requiring retired presidents to relinquish party leadership posts six months after leaving office.

The Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) told Sunday Nation that Mr Kenyatta was yet to communicate formally of plans to resign as the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition chairman.

Unlike former Heads of State Daniel Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki (both deceased) who largely kept off active politics and went into a silent retirement without antagonising their successors, Mr Kenyatta continues to be in public limelight, with the recent storming of his Jubilee party headquarters to salvage the party from alleged takeover plans by a rival camp demonstrating his major dabbling in politics.

Save for Mr Moi’s support for the No side in a constitutional referendum in 2005—which Mr Kibaki lost—both former presidents largely kept off politics after their tenure.

Yesterday, COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli accused Mr Kenyatta of taking sides in the current political confrontation pitting President Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

“I would want to appeal to our retired President, he should be a peacemaker. It is Uhuru (Mr Kenyatta) who should be reconciling them (Ruto and Raila) because once you become a retired President, you don’t need to take political sides,” Mr Atwoli said.

But party officials have defended his move, saying that he has every right to defend Jubilee as its party leader.

According to Section 6 (1) of the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act, 2003, a retired president “shall not hold office in any political party for more than six months after ceasing to hold office”.

But Mr Murathe argues that the Act does not hold water because the Constitution is supreme. “Every Kenyan has a right of political association and that is clear in the Constitution of Kenya 2010,” Mr Murathe says.

The former Head of State has not hidden his support for Mr Odinga even in public, something that continues to put him at odds with the Ruto regime.

In February, while addressing the public in Luanda market shortly after attending the late Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha’s burial in Siaya, Mr Kenyatta took a swipe at President Ruto, saying Mr Odinga had the country’s best interests at heart. Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has accused Mr Kenyatta of funding unrest to unsettle their nascent administration.