Uhuru steps in to avert ‘coup’ at Jubilee Party
Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta — also the Jubilee Party chairman — yesterday stormed the party headquarters in Nairobi to stop its forcible takeover by rebel officials.
Uhuru, in the company of embattled Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni, walked for a distance to the party premises escorted by a group of party supporters.
Police manning the entrance dispersed after the retired president threatened to stand at the gate until they left.
“Harakisha muende. Nitasimama hapa mpaka mutoke (Hurry up and leave. I will wait here until you leave,)” the former Head of State told the officers, who left at once.
Once they were out of the way, Uhuru walked into the party premises from where he addressed a gathering of his supporters.
In what appeared to be a dress down to the legislators who had earlier stormed the offices to eject the current officials, he warned that those who wanted to leave the party should do so in peace.
“We don’t want to fight anybody. If someone wants to leave a party, you leave it in peace. We want peace and we are here to protect our rights and our party,” Uhuru said in a veiled reference to attempts by President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance to co-opt Jubilee into government.
“We want them to give us our rights as the party members because we follow our Constitution. This is a rented building and it is unfortunate that police hurled teargas which caused disturbance to the neighbours and that is not right.”
This was the first time the retired President was engaging in a direct political activity involving his party since he handed over to Ruto, last September.
Jubilee is a member of the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition, which has accused Ruto of poaching its legislators, including those elected on Jubilee ticket.
Earlier in the day, East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) MP Kanini Kega, Sarah Korere (Laikipia North), John Waluke (Sirisia), Kwenya Thuku (Kinangop), Sabina Chege (nominated), Adan Keynan (Eldas) and Rachael Nyamai (Kitui South) had stormed the party headquarters in an attempt to claim control of the party.
Chaos erupted when the MPs stormed the offices to evict current officeholders and in the ensuing melee some protesters and a journalist were injured.
The inclusion of Adan Keynan in the Kenya Kwanza team for the bipartisan talks between the ruling and opposition coalitions has rocked the two formations in the recent past. Azimio wants Keynan ejected from the talks, saying the government side cannot pick someone from the opposition to represent Kenya Kwanza in the talks aimed at ending street protests called by Azimio over a raft of demands, including formation of a new electoral commission.
On its part, Kenya Kwanza has protested the inclusion of Pokot South MP David Pkosing in the Azimio team, arguing that his party, Kenya Union Party (KUP), had left the Raila-led coalition.
Jubilee is torn down the middle, with some of its leaders voting to join the ruling coalition and others to remain in the opposition. The retired President is aligned to the latter.
And in solidarity with Uhuru, Azimio leaders Kalonzo Musyoka, Martha Karua, Eugene Wamalwa and Wycliffe Oparanya accused Kenya Kwanza of polluting the political environment and stalling the bipartisan talks. They have rallied their supporters for planned protests slated for Tuesday next week.
Kalonzo said the latest tiff would only harden the opposition’s resolve to hold protests next week.
“This aggression on Jubilee is a result of the differences witnessed due to the composition of members of the delegates for bipartisan talks. It affirms what we have been saying that the government does not have good faith in participating in national dialogue,” Kalonzo said.
Karua condemned Kenya Kwanza for trying to take over Jubilee through its rebel members.
“At a time they are lying to Kenyans that they have good faith in whatever negotiations were to be between Azimio and Jubilee. This is a direct attack to multipartism and a declaration of war on Azimio. It is an expression of bad faith,” the Narc Kenya party leader said.
She was responding to Kanini Kega’s team’s attempt to eject Kioni from office.
Kega claims to be the bona fide secretary-general while Keynan is the national vice-chairperson.
“The judgment of PPDT delivered in February was very clear that the resolution of NEC remains in place unless determined by the party’s internal dispute resolution mechanism,” Kega said, arguing that the tribunal allowed him and his allies to replace Kioni, vice-chairman David Murathe and Kagwe Gichohi.
“The party disciplinary committee has already been convened and we expect it will give a fair hearing to parties concerned. All party leaders are obligated by law and our party constitution to give the committee time to complete its work without undue interference,” Kega said.
He accused Kioni of attempting to interfere with the mandate of the committee to resolve the grandstanding rocking the party.
“From what we have seen here, the former Secretary-General (Kioni) doesn’t want to give the Dispute Resolution Committee a good environment to execute its mandate,” Kioni claimed.
Police had to lob teargas to restore order when Kega’s and Kioni’s supporters hurled stones at each inside the premises.
This prompted neighbours in the residential area to beseech the retired President to relocate the party headquarters.
National Assembly Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi and Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang both of ODM — an Azimio member — had arrived at the Jubilee headquarters saying that their visit was to stand in solidarity with the Kioni team.
In a rejoinder, Keynan asked Wandayi and Kajwang to stop meddling in the internal affairs of Jubilee.
“This party has a constitution. We ask members of other political parties to desist from interfering with the internal affairs of Jubilee. We want the police to remove Kioni and his cohort as a matter of urgency,” Keynan said.
Nyamai faulted Kioni for creating a wedge between Jubilee MPs and leaders from other political parties.
Meanwhile, three Nairobi MCAs allied to Jubilee — Karura’s Kamau Thuo Fiu Fiu, Kariobangi South’s Robert Mbatia and Nominated MCA Wanjiru Kariuki — were de-whipped from their committees for their involvement with Kenya Kwanza.
The de-whipping from the assembly leadership came after a letter from Kioni, dated April 20, asked Majority Whip Moses Ogeto to de-whip the MCAs for associating with Kenya Kwanza.
“I am in receipt of official communication from the Jubilee party, documenting the various unethical dalliance and open affection towards our rival coalition Kenya Kwanza Alliance. You are hereby given notice of discharge from Assembly House Committees,” a letter from Ogeto said.