Deputy President Ruto in coup bid at Jubilee Party headquarters
George Kebaso and Anthony Mwangi
Deputy President William Ruto yesterday staged what amounted to a party coup when he camped at Jubilee headquarters and held a meeting with his allies.
The move, which is seen as an unofficial takeover of the ruling party, happened at a time when its leader President Uhuru Kenyatta is away in France on official duty.
Ruto, who is the Deputy Party Leader, arrived at the party offices in Pangani at 9am and held a closed-door meeting with more than 30 legislators and a section of Members of the County Assembly (MCAs).
Secretary-General Raphael Tuju, who oversees the party day-to-day operations, was said to be out of office for the day.
Last evening, Ruto sought to downplay his visit, tweeting: “These are interesting times indeed!
That working from Jubilee HQs where am the duly elected deputy party leader is considered news.
Our focus is on efforts that are complementary to achieving our shared aspirations while ensuring that no one is left behind for whatever reason.”
The MPs’ meeting with Ruto ended at 2.30pm, when the legislators stepped out for a media briefing and denied claims of an attempted coup.
“In front of you are members of the Jubilee Party. We were having a small consultative meeting about the party.
We did not have a structured meeting that could have paved the way for a press briefing, but because we have heard and seen on social media that we came here to stage a coup, we find it appropriate to talk about it,” Meru Senator Mithika Linturi said.
“We came here, and we want you to get us clearly that there is no such thing as a coup in the party.
How can you stage a coup in your own house? This is our party and a party that we love.
We have every reason to always consult on matters that touch on the well-being of our party.”
But his Kimilili counterpart Didmus Baraza, was more candid: “We have formally taken over the party from the ODM surrogates.
The deputy party leader will now be operating from the headquarters as we plan elections.”
According to Baraza, Tuju and party vice-chairman David Murathe had decamped to the opposition and that their terms had expired in March and, therefore, they were no longer officials.
Baraza said deputy secretary general Caleb Kositany would be the acting head of secretariat pending elections for new officials.
“The deputy party leader will be operating from the headquarters at least twice a week,” Baraza said, adding that he will be vying for the position of secretary general.
Earlier, Ruto’s spokesman Emmanuel Talam said; “The MPs called the Deputy President in the morning asking for a meeting with him.
He acceded to their request and told them he would be at the party headquarters so they went there and held the meeting.
They have discussed various issues affecting the party including the long-overdue party elections.”
Asked how his boss could reclaim the leadership of a party where he is the deputy leader, Tallam said: “As you know Tuju and Murathe are no longer party officials, they went to ODM, they have even said that their candidate for Msambweni is at Orange House.
Their terms expired and the members want fresh elections to have new officials who are elected.”
Yesterday’s was the third time the DP was appearing the premises of the party in which he has increasingly been outwitted by a cabal of powerful party officials led by Tuju and Murathe.
While Ruto’s decision could be seen as an act of provocation for a full-blown war with his boss, the President, other observers reckon that with the Tuju-Murathe axis holding instruments of the party, the DP was a paper tiger.
Ruto was last week forced to eat humble pie after Tuju thwarted his efforts to field a candidate in the Msambweni by-election.
The DP, who was accompanied by his preferred candidate for the mini poll, got a rude shock when Tuju announced that Jubilee will not field a contender in the poll and will throw its weight behind the ODM candidate, a move that left Ruto infuriated.
Yesterday’s declaration that Tuju and Murathe were in office illegally could open another battlefront in the party.
Political analyst Michael Mugo, the DP’s efforts to take over the party will not be a walk in the park.
“If you start fighting from within and the leadership of the party does not want you like it appears in the case of the Deputy President, most likely the next option should be moving out especially in a fight where no one is answering you back,” he said.
“It’s a kind of shadow boxing because when he went there to meet with his allies, what would be the positive outcome?
It’s the same thing they say in funerals and other platforms. It doesn’t help.”
In his press briefing yesterday, Senator Linturi said that apart from the President and his deputy, no other person in the party had been elected.
He said the other officials have been serving at the pleasure of the two leaders, and therefore, time had come to take the party to its members.
“We must now ensure that Jubilee from the village level up to the national level, we have members of the party who are recognised as leaders of the party, and that’s why we were meeting here as Members of Parliament.
Remember these members sit in the national government council, and for that matter discussions that we had have legitimacy,” he said, adding that as legislators they were happy that they had met the deputy party leader in the office.
“We have consulted with him; we have shared our issues with him, and we are happy that he is back in the office trying to organise himself and the team so that the issues we are raising would have a definite answer that’s reliable, bankable and that can be told in a manner that’s understandable to the members,” he said.
He said the party was focused and was keen to regain power in 2022 and is well represented at the grassroots.
The third reason she said is the dissolution of Parliament which they are preparing to discuss in the next one week.