President William Ruto

President William Ruto addressing delegates during the UDA National Governing Council meeting at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on September 29, 2023. 

| Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

Why Ruto was forced to postpone UDA elections

What you need to know:

  • Senate Majority Leader Boni Khalwale insists the person to take over from President Ruto must be from Western.
  • Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga says DP Gachagua must be strong enough to contest the presidency in 2032.

A demand by Mt Kenya leaders to amend the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party constitution to provide for a single deputy party leader forced President William Ruto to postpone the planned grassroots elections, the Sunday Nation has established.

A UDA National Steering Committee meeting chaired by President Ruto on Saturday pushed the elections which had been scheduled for December 9, to April next year.

Challenges in registering members seeking to participate in the polls, escalating infighting, fierce regional power plays and fears of apathy over reports of hostility as a result of the current high cost of living have also been cited for the postponement.

The UDA constitution provides for three deputy party leaders – one in charge of policy and strategy, another in charge of operations while the third is responsible for the party programmes.

Politicians from Mt Kenya are said to be pushing for an amendment of the provision to have a single deputy leader position, which they want reserved for Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

The meeting also resolved to have the exercise staggered in three dates instead of being conducted in a single day.

“Following a deliberative meeting of UDA’s National Steering Committee chaired by the party leader, President, William Samoei Ruto, the party has resolved to postpone the scheduled December 9 elections to April 12, 19 and 26, 2024 respectively,” said party Secretary-General Cleophas Malala in a statement. 

“All candidates and members of the party are encouraged to continue sensitising and recruiting members to the Party.” 

A UDA official who spoke off record told the Sunday Nation that the party IS likely to convene another National Governing Council (NGC) meeting to change the constitution before the elections.

“The postponement was inevitable because we had not prepared well. Registration of candidates through our digital system has been a challenge. The system requires candidates to upload their photos, which we have found to be a big challenge especially in the rural areas,” said one of the officials.

President William Ruto

President William Ruto (right), Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwale and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua at the Bomas of Kenya during the UDA National Governing Council meeting on September 29, 2023.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

“There is also a push from some quarters to first amend the party constitution to clarify some positions. Currently, the law provides for more than one deputy party leader position that some members are not comfortable with. Some also want provisions touching on People Living with Disabilities changed. There is no provision for their election at the grassroots.”

A host of Mt Kenya leaders, among them Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga and Mathira MP Eric Mwangi, recently claimed that having more than one deputy party leader could be a wider plan targeted at clipping the influence of Mr Gachagua in the 2032 succession politics.

Governor Kahiga said the position of deputy party leader should be reserved for DP Gachagua and that the secretary-general’s position be given to a leader from Mt Kenya. 

“There must be a party leader and a deputy party leader. The rest can be whatever they want...” he said on Sunday. 

Mr Mwangi made similar remarks.

“We only have one President who is the party leader and one Deputy President who should be the only deputy party leader,” the Mathira MP said.

The demand to reserve the position for Mr Gachagua was triggered by Senate Majority Leader Boni Khalwale remarks after he told the DP to prepare for a western region takeover of State House at the end of the Ruto presidency. 

MPs from western Kenya are in support of an expanded party structure, with Dr Khalwale being fronted to take up one of the seats.

“Mr Gachagua should listen to me. Whether he likes it or not, 2032 is time for a Luhya presidency. Just like President Ruto took over from Uhuru Kenyatta, so shall it be when a Luhya will be inheriting President Ruto,” Dr Khalwale said.

There is also a line-up from aspiring leaders drawn Ukambani and lower Eastern regions. 

According to Kitui East MP Nimrod Mbai, leaders from the region are working on a coalition of aspirants to guarantee them a win in the elections.

If their strategy work, Mbai said it may see the coaleasing partners front Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire for party chairperson and Mwala MP Vincent Musyoka as National Organising Secretary.

Mr Mbai will be contesting for the party chairmanship in Kitui county.

With all these hurdles, an MP who sought anonymity told the Sunday Nation that their members are also having trouble with voters over tax measures introduced by President Ruto.

The lawmaker said registration of those seeking to run for various seats has been low due to the hig fees demanded.

“I don’t think it will even take place in April. Ask any elected members. We have difficulties engaging UDA supporters. Some party officials cannot go to the ground,” the lawmaker said. 

“Many people feel we and the party have betrayed them..”