DP William Ruto

DP William Ruto who is eyeing the presidency in 2022.

| File | Nation Media Group

William Ruto’s about-turn on party merger

Deputy President William Ruto is now a changed man.

From a staunch advocate of merging political parties to form one strong monolith with a national outlook, the DP has now surrounded himself with political party leaders that appear to have no plan to dissolve their outfits as happened when 12 parties gave way for the formation of Jubilee in 2016.

Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) leader Isaac Ruto, The Service Party (TSP) boss Mwangi Kiunjuri and Omingo Magara of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) have all announced that while they support the DP for the presidency in 2022, they intend to keep their parties.

And although still members of Jubilee, Tharaka-Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria are also expected to back Dr Ruto’s presidential bid in their new outfits in next year’s elections.

Mr Kuria is already associated with People's Empowerment Party (PEP), whose candidate he is campaigning for in the upcoming Juja parliamentary by-election, while Prof Kindiki in January signalled he will be in a new party for the 2022 polls.

Small parties

“I support Deputy President William Ruto, but I will not join UDA because I am in TSP,” Mr Kiunjuri, the former Agriculture minister, told Inooro TV last week.

Arguing that many small parties are not a problem, Mr Kiunjuri said: “Our people have awakened. They don't choose parties, they choose the most suitable person.”

Prof Kindiki, who was kicked out of the Senate Deputy Speaker position for his association with the DP, says Jubilee Party has taught them a lesson on being used and dumped once a purpose has been achieved. For this reason, he said, they would be apprehensive of a proposal to fold their parties to form a monolith.

“We keep our word. We shall rally behind William Ruto for president in 2022. But, as they say, once bitten twice shy. When it comes to political parties, we will not repeat the mistakes we did in 2017. We must come together and then tell Ruto from which party we will support him,” Prof Kindiki said in January this year.

The DP’s dalliance with party leaders who are keen on keeping their outfits is a departure for a man who went round the country in 2016 campaigning for an idea whose time he said had come – a national party that brings together all small, often regional outfits under one roof.

 “I have seen people complain and say, ‘If we dissolve our parties, we are setting ourselves up for ridicule and being taken for granted in future.’ But what does that say about you, that you think someone will con you out of your party? Isn’t that really stupid?” Dr Ruto asked in mid-2016, as the Jubilee merger debate raged on.

Jubilee Party

Throughout the merger discussion and long after the September 2016 formation of the Jubilee Party, Dr Ruto became the face and the voice of the need to form one “truly national party”.

Barely five years after the pompous launch of the Jubilee Party, Dr Ruto is hanging by a thread in the ruling party he touted as the solution to Kenya’s perennial political woes.

Yesterday, Elgeyo-Marakwet senator Kipchumba Murkomen and his Murang’a counterpart Irungu Kang’ata said the discussion on whether or not the DP will have those leaders supporting him fold their parties, was premature.

“Our focus now is on building this new party, but we cannot block anybody from supporting the DP. We are not in a fight. We may convince them at a later date to join UDA, or not, but we will try as much as possible to get people to support us and the DP’s presidential bid,” Mr Murkomen said.

Mr Kang’ata said there was nothing out of the ordinary in party leaders seeking to retain their outfits even as they back the DP.

“It is illogical of any person to think that there will be only one party affiliated to Ruto in Mt Kenya region. It didn’t work in 2002 and 2007 under Kibaki and 2013/2017 under Uhuru.

“We shall only strive to make UDA the party and others our sister parties helping us for the larger cause. Kuria and Kiunjuri parties will exist in the Ruto political wing,” Mr Kang’ata said.

Jubilee’s make-or-break moment, it appears, came after the March 2018 Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga.


Dr Ruto has alleged the deal was meant to give the former PM an easy ride in his fifth stab at the presidency.

Isolated from the running of Jubilee party and government, Dr Ruto and his Tangatanga wing of Jubilee, have found a home in UDA, a rebranded version of the Jubilee-affiliated Party of Development and Reforms (PDR).

UDA fielded candidates in Matungu and Kabuchai parliamentary by-elections as well as the Machakos senatorial one.

Top Jubilee officials have revealed intentions to have President Kenyatta remain party leader beyond the end of his presidential term in 2022.

 But even as Dr Ruto further drifts towards the newly formed UDA, he says he still stands by the original vision of Jubilee.

“The biggest regret I will ever have as a politician is losing the Jubilee Party. The kind of emotional, political and financial investment we have put in building Jubilee is immense. A strong national party is the only insurance against politics of tribalism and conmanship,” Dr Ruto said last year.

Formed in September 2016 after the merger of 12 parties, Jubilee Party has at least one elected representative in 41 of Kenya’s 47 counties.

Jubilee boasts 171 seats in the National Assembly – 140 in the 290 constituencies, 25 of the country’s 47 county woman representatives, and six of the 12 nominated MPs – coming just 62 shy of an absolute two-thirds majority in the House.

25 governor seats

The party also won 25 governor seats, and 34 of the 67 senator seats, 25 of them elected, thus cementing its foothold as Kenya’s largest political party.

But with just over a year to the next election, the President’s party, which was launched with much fanfare and a promise to right all the wrongs committed by ruling parties in Kenya, is staring at the same fate: A murky end, a one-election cycle and the unenviable tag of a special purpose vehicle with no further use once the rulers rise to power.

And is Jubilee a victim of its own success and ambition? Jubilee secretary-general Raphael Tuju seems to think so.

“We are victims of the challenges we have as a country. We took two bold gigantic steps in the last few years: the folding of 12 parties to form Jubilee Party and the March 2018 Handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga. What we need to do is ask how we can take advantage of those gigantic steps because, in the end, Kenya is a project in the making,” Mr Tuju said in an earlier interview.

Mr Tuju believes the problems bedevilling the Pangani-based Jubilee are representative of Kenya’s own challenges in its journey towards having truly national political parties as Jubilee had hoped.

“Parties in Kenya, Jubilee included, are facing transitional challenges that need to be addressed legislatively and with constitutional provisions to strengthen and give them the teeth to enforce discipline and create structures,” Mr Tuju then said.