What you need to know:
- Mr Murathe said that once the new political dispensation envisaged in the BBI report comes into force, Mr Kenyatta will have the right to vie for any post.
- Lawyer Waiganjo notes that it is silent on governance structure and whether one can serve as a prime minister or deputy prime minister after being president.
President Uhuru Kenyatta might remain in power, but in a different capacity, after the expiry of his presidential term in 2022, former Jubilee Party vice-chairman David Murathe told the Nation on Sunday, opening a controversial front on the Uhuru succession debate that will raise political temperatures in the coming days.
Mr Murathe said that once the new political dispensation envisaged in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report comes into force, Mr Kenyatta will have the right to vie for any post since he will remain the de facto leader of Jubilee Party, and could even claim the proposed post of Prime Minister.
His argument was that the political alignments that will arise once the BBI proposals are implemented will see the leader of the majority party in the National Assembly form the government, in a coalition with other parties, and that this has the potential to ensure President Kenyatta does not disappear from the radar after the 2022 polls.
“The only thing the President can’t do is to run for Presidency but, under the new political dispensation envisaged by the BBI team, we anticipate new political formations that will be all-encompassing and inclusive,” said Mr Murathe.
“Nothing stops the President, as the leader of Jubilee, to head the government as the Executive Prime Minister as long as the party remains the largest in Kenya.”
His comments, coming just a day after Jubilee Party Secretary-General Raphael Tuju said corrupt members of the party will not be allowed to vie for leadership positions in the New Year, could be interpreted to mean that President Kenyatta intends to retain control of the party and oversee its transition beyond his presidential term.
That, also, will be viewed by politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto as a blow to his presidential ambitions.
Mr Murathe was categorical about that, saying “sorry” to the Tangatanga brigade that has been clamouring for Jubilee Party elections and cautioning them that the party leader’s post will be reserved for Mr Kenyatta.
It is not clear yet as to whether Mr Ruto wants to assume leadership of Jubilee next year, even though his lieutenants have given that indication in informal gatherings and addresses across the country.
“Why is the clamour for elections coming from them?” asked Mr Murathe. "Them” in his question referring to Ruto allies.
“Let them know and understand that the President will remain the party leader come rain or shine and, if they have plans to contest that, let them bring it on. The earlier, the better.”
LAWSUIT AGAINST RUTO
Mr Murathe resigned from Jubilee Party leadership in January this year in the wake of intense infighting after he vowed to do everything possible, including going to the Supreme Court, to stop Mr Ruto from becoming the country’s fifth President.
His sentiments will be interpreted as a continuation of that hardline stance against the Deputy President.
When he resigned, he cited conflict of interest in his bid to block Mr Ruto’s presidential bid.
He explained at the time that it no longer made sense for him to attack the DP, then sit around the same table with him.
“I now find that it is no longer tenable to stay on as the party vice-chairman, given that I will have to sit in the same National Executive Council with a man I am taking to court to block from running for president,” he told journalists at his Garden Estate home in Nairobi at the time.
His views, however, are likely to be taken seriously by both camps within Jubilee as he remains a close ally of President Kenyatta.
After his exit from the Gatanga parliamentary seat, Mr Murathe has been a campaign strategist for Mr Kenyatta and is said to have played an integral part in the President’s 2013 and 2017 races.
His interview with the Nation came just a month after the President told Mt Kenya leaders at Sagana State Lodge that he would not mind if a constitutional amendment was done and he became the Prime Minister.
“I do not know the contents of the BBI report yet,” President Kenyatta said in Sagana.
“I hear people claiming I want to become the Prime Minister of Kenya. I wouldn’t mind being in leadership in such a post, although we should deal with the current situation first.”
This is not the first time leaders allied to the President are speaking about the possibility of him remaining in power after the expiry of his term.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary-General Francis Atwoli was the first to test the waters when he said President Kenyatta will be the next Prime Minister after his term ends in 2022. He was echoed by Nominated MP Maina Kamanda.
But former Presidential candidate and long-standing Member of Parliament for Gichugu, Ms Martha Karua, warned President Kenyatta against taking up the PM role, saying that would be unconstitutional as the two-term limit set by the 2010 Constitution was designed to ensure that no leader stays in government for more than 10 years.
“As a good friend, I’m telling the President to not be tempted to preside over an unconstitutional post. Finish your term and let somebody else take the mantle,” Ms Karua, an advocate of the High Court and a former Justice minister in the Mwai Kibaki government, said.
Political analyst and former Ol Joro Orok MP John Muriithi Waiganjo said the fresh push by Mt Kenya leaders allied to President Kenyatta for the creation of a powerful PM post underpins the dilemma the region faces due to lack of a “clear and strong” presidential candidate in the 2022 race.
The region feels it could be locked out of power when Kenyatta’s term expires, he said.
Although the law is clear on the presidential term, Mr Waiganjo notes that it is silent on governance structure and whether one can serve as a prime minister or deputy prime minister after being President.
The Mt Kenya region, considered the President’s backyard, is divided on who to back for the presidency in 2022, with the Tangatanga team allied to DP Ruto calling on President Kenyatta to reciprocate his number two’s support in 2013 and 2017 and back him for the top seat.