Deputy President William Ruto’s big fight for the soul and heart of Jubilee has exposed his long-standing battles to control strategic political parties.
From the Independence party Kanu, ODM, United Democratic Movement (UDM), United Republican Party (URP) and now Jubilee, the DP’s political career is laden with battles to control parties.
While the DP has lost at least two such battles in the last 10 years, his current situation — in which he appears to have been cornered by his rivals — puts him in a much more complex political fix with limited options.
As the 2022 presidential race gathers pace, the DP is walking a political tightrope that could completely deflate his State House chances should his enemies manage to push him out of Jubilee.
The DP’s current political predicament has rekindled memories of his past in which he was successfully kicked out of ODM, and UDM 10 years ago.
Following his sacking from President Mwai Kibaki’s Cabinet on October 19, 2010, the then Eldoret North MP led a massive exit of Rift Valley MPs from the ODM party.
The party was led by Raila Odinga, who was the Prime Minister in the grand coalition government formed after the disputed 2007 presidential election.
Ruto’s eventual exit was preceded by vicious wars with Raila.
Their differences were attributed to collision over the Mau Forest evictions and the handling of tens of youths who were arrested during the post-election violence that followed the 2007 polls.
Although Ruto’s sacking from the Cabinet was linked to a constitutional court ruling on a six-year-old corruption case in which he was accused of illegally selling land to a state corporation, political undertones were cited.
In a famous quote while announcing his decision to quit ODM alongside some political heavyweights from his backyard, Ruto declared that he was not an ‘invitee’ to the party.
He declared Raila a dictator who was rewarding sycophants at the expense of party loyalists.
“We formed ODM, we were not invited to join it,” Ruto declared at a press conference on October 25, 2010 just three days following his sacking from the Cabinet.
“We thought it (ODM) will stand for the values and principles in our manifesto, unaware that we were being led by a tyrant and dictator who rewards sycophants,” he fired at Raila.
The DP then managed to walk out of ODM with at least 25 MPs largely from his Rift Valley bedrock, a move that would later chip away Raila’s popularity in the region.
While Ruto is walking a beaten path, politicians and analysts claim his current political predicament is his toughest fight ever given his elevated position as the country’s second in command.
“This is Deputy President’s toughest political fight,” former Cabinet Minister Franklin Bett said.
Bett told the Star the DP has made many political enemies within and without his Rift Valley turf, further compounding his woes even as he stakes bid for the country’s top job.
“The DP needs to listen keenly to the voices of his people. He needs to rally the Rift Valley behind him by bringing all leaders on board so as to insulate himself from the incessant attacks,” Bett, the former Belgut MP, said.
Following his exit from ODM, Ruto would later plunge into uncharted political waters that nearly left him without a party as the 2013 presidential campaigns gathered momentum.
The DP found himself scouting for a political vehicle after he lost control of UDM, an outfit that temporarily housed him after ditching ODM.
UDM was then under the control of retired General John Koech, a native of the DP’s Rift Valley but who was allegedly bankrolled to put up a spirited fight against Ruto’s ‘illegal’ takeover of the party in 2011.
Raila is said to have funded the retired general in an elaborate political plot to keep Ruto from taking over the party.
Raila’s former adviser on coalition affairs and exiled lawyer Miguna Miguna writes that he was part of a plan in which the ODM leader gave Koech money to fight Ruto.
The political plot was allegedly an ODM project on which Miguna worked with Nairobi lawyer Mugambi Imanyara.
“As Ruto announced that he would run for the presidency on the UDM ticket, we resolved to lock him out of both parties,” Miguna writes in his explosive autobiography, Peeling Back the Mask.
This, he adds, was done through Koech filing a petition with the Political Parties Tribunal, challenging Ruto’s “irregular takeover of UDM”.
Ruto was forced to retain lawyers for a battle with Koech at the tribunal and the High Court, Miguna writes.
While Miguna claimed that Raila funded Koech’s litigation through Orange House, the ODM national office, Koech would later dismiss the claims as “total propaganda.”
KICKED OUT OF UDM, FORMS URP
Out of frustration arising from the cases, Ruto abandoned UDM and registered his own United Republican Party ahead of the 2013 presidential contest.
Ruto managed to successfully market the party across the Rift Valley and in the Northeastern region, posing a political nightmare to Raila who was initially enjoying massive support there.
One of his key point man in Northeastern was Aden Duale, the current Majority leader in the National Assembly.
URP would later team up with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA party in a contest that annihilated Raila’s 2013 presidential ambitions.
Fast forward, and following the TNA-URP merger and nine other political parties to form the Jubilee Party in 2016, the DP is walking the beaten path once again.
He has found himself at the edge of being pushed out of the ruling party, in an elaborate scheme aimed at vanquishing his 2022 presidential ambitions.
The President’s confidants have launched an all-out war to edge Ruto out of the Jubilee, a party he spiritedly fought for formation in 2016.
Now seen as a stranger in his own party, the DP’s allies are fighting a move allegedly by the President to make far-reaching changes to the Jubilee Party’s national management committee, a key organ of the party.
Lucy Nyawira Macharia, Prof Marete Marangu, Walter Nyambati, Jane Nampaso and James Waweru have been proposed to the membership of the Jubilee NMC in place of Veronica Maina, Fatuma Shukri and Pamela Mutua.
The changes have stoked tensions in the party and further worsened the frosty ties between the DP and his boss, the President.
“The system is determined to stop Ruto from ascending to the high office in 2022. It is clear that the decision to make changes to the NMC is part of an elaborate scheme to chip away Ruto’s grip of the party organs with the ultimate game plan to kick him out,” political analyst Felix Odhiambo says.
According to Odhiambo, the writing is on the wall that some influential people would not be comfortable with Ruto as President in 2022.
“The die is cast and the battle has just but begun. We expect more nasty wars in the coming months,” Odhiambo says.
Albert Nyaundi, the chairman of the Jubilee National Advisory Council, an organ of the parties that merged to form Jubilee, told the Star that Ruto’s problems are of his own making.
“Jubilee structures are very clear. The party leader is the supreme leader of the Jubilee Party. We should follow what the party leader advises us to do. It is unfortunate that some people are creating unnecessary friction in the party,” Nyaundi said.
He added, “The President can make any changes that he deems fit and as the NAC, we support his efforts to strengthen the party organs.”
NOT A GUEST IN JUBILEE
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria on Thursday told the Star that the DP was aware of the machinations to edge him out of the Jubilee but maintained that the DP was not about to abandon an outfit he formed.
“We are not guests in the Jubilee Party, nobody invited us to Jubilee. We are key shareholders of the party. The DP will remain in the Jubilee Party,” Kuria said.
The vocal MP and Ruto’s key ally in Central Kenya said the DP’s presidential bid was unstoppable because of his massive popularity across the country.
Siaya MP Christine Ombaka said Ruto is well-known of changing political parties and whatever is happening to him is his own making.
“Ruto has in the past ditched Kanu, ODM, UDM URP and now wants to run away from the Jubilee Party. The DP’s history on political parties is well documented,” she said in a blistering attack on Ruto.
Analysts say that should the DP successfully maneuver the ongoing political fights in Jubilee and manage to retain the party, he is likely to give his opponents a run for their money in the 2020 polls.