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Why Ruto faces headwinds selling UDA in Mount Kenya

By Eric Wainaina
Friday, July 23rd, 2021 00:00 | 4 mins read
Kiambaa MP-elect Njuguna Wanjiku with Kikuyu Mp Kimani Ichungwa and Gatundu South’s Moses Kuria (right) celebrate moments after Wanjiku was declared the winner in Banana town, Kiambu county, last week. Photo/PD/Kenna Claude

Eric Wainaina @EWainaina

Deputy President William Ruto faces an uphill task selling the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) in Mt Kenya after some of his allies resisted calls to fold up their political parties and join the new outfit.

Instead, some of his kingpins in the region have kicked off a campaign to persuade the DP’s supporters not to join UDA for fear of either being rigged out in nominations or having their parties muzzled.

Ruto, who is banking on solid support from the region in his State House bid, has been keen to make inroads in his political friend turned foe President Uhuru Kenyatta’s backyard and put it in his basket, as he seeks to advance his chances.

Revelations of fears by parties allied to Ruto in central Kenya to fold up comes a day after revelations that UDA’s former chairman Abdi Noor had moved to the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal seeking to revert its ownership.

Party constitution

Noor argues that Ruto’s allies Johnstone Muthama, Boni Khwalwale and secretary general Veronica Maina illegally took over UDA in disregard of the party constitution.

But yesterday, Muthama dismissed Noor’s attempts as futile and malicious manoeuvres by Jubilee Party.

“I can only see Jubilee hand in it. Gazettement of changes to the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) officials through Gazette Notice No.1233 dated January 29, 2021, and published on March 19, 2021, was within the law,” Muthama posted on his twitter.

Pundits have argued that the recent Kiambaa by-election where UDA candidate Njuguna wa Wanjiku won and the Muguga and Rurii ward mini-polls where the party performed fairly well were yardsticks for 2022.

But even as the DP celebrates the Kiambaa and Rurii outcomes as well as a good performance at the Muguga ward where UDA’s Peter Thumbi garnered 4,062 against 4,089 by Mung’ara Githinji of Jubilee, he is now confronted by a fresh headache of his allies developing cold feet about UDA.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria said while they back the DP, it would be “risky” for the region to join UDA, but should instead form its own political party.

This, Kuria observed, would enable local leaders to negotiate for a place in the next government.

Joining UDA, Kuria who is associated with People’s Empowerment Party (PEP), which vanquished Jubilee in Juja mini-poll, said joining UDA was akin to a bride’s family riding in the groom’s car while travelling to a dowry negotiating ceremony which weakens the family’s bargaining power.

“If you see people going for a dowry ceremony  travelling in the groom’s Mercedes car, will they be respected?

Will they be given a tangible bride price?   Therefore, even though we are ready to give out (our support), we will not accept to travel aboard the groom’s vehicle.

I will not accept it at all,” said Kuria, who was among central Kenya MPs who camped in Kiambaa to campaign for the UDA candidate.

This comes at a time former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, another DP ally who leads The Service Party (TSP), has gone overdrive to popularise his party.

This week, Kiunjuri unveiled several candidates expected to square it out with UDA in various regions, including central Kenya.

“We had a consultative meeting with party members from Kabete constituency, Kiambu county, led by aspiring MP Eddah Wambui,” Kiunjuri, who has been jostling to be Ruto’s running mate, said on Wednesday. 

Several politicians

On Tuesday, Kiunjuri, who is among leaders eyeing the Mt Kenya kingpin position, hosted several politicians from Wajir county who he said had expressed willingness to contest through TSP.

But yesterday, Kiunjuri declined to be drawn into the issue of whether the region’s leaders should flock to UDA or use other parties in the 2022 polls.

He said he was busy firming his TSP, which, he noted, currently has presence in 19 counties, and is keen to have a network across the country.

“For us, we have a party, we know what we are doing, and my current attention is on strengthening the party.

It’s already an established party and can field candidates in more than 19 counties.

We are working on building networks nationally because for us, what we are looking for is partnership,” said the former CS.

According to Kuria, MPs mobilising the electorate in Mt Kenya should recognise they are pushing issues that will affect 10 million people in the region.

“If we start organising ourselves and having our own party, we should not be branded tribalists because it’s very easy for me and another leader to talk about wheelbarrow.

We have very many people behind us and if things go wrong, they will blame us. We shall face questions from their children, grand children and even before God,” the MP said.

“We have done what many people thought was impossible; after 30 years, we have agreed to support someone who is not from our community (as President), and if we plan for that journey, let us not be described as tribalists.

My friend, Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, let me tell you something. These days women no longer move to their husband’s home with a bed, and the beds are no longer burnt...”

Bargaining power

Some of Ruto’s key allies from the region, People Daily has learnt, are scared of being shortchanged in UDA primaries as happened in the 2017 Jubilee nominations when some big wigs from Mt Kenya were thrown into political oblivion.

“Some of the DP’s allies from the region are already viewing UDA as a party that is being controlled by the DP and his backers from the Rift Valley.

They are apprehensive that it’s the DP and his people who will decide who will get the nomination tickets, and that some of them could get shortchanged.

They argue that it also denies them bargaining power because by joining UDA, they will have to agree to the terms and conditions given,” a lawmaker from Central Kenya said.

However, Kang’ata who is one of the DP’s pillars in Mt Kenya region, disagreed with Kuria, saying their support for Ruto was unconditional.

“We are supporting DP without conditions. We do not have an intermediary.  We are in UDA without reservations. If Kuria goes on that trajectory, we shall not follow him,” the Murang’a Senator said.

Politician Chege Gitau, who is eyeing the Kabete constituency seat and supports the DP, said it would be misguided for him to back Ruto under UDA considering the misfortunes that befell Jubilee.

MPs Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira) and his Kikuyu colleague Kimani Ichung’wa, Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Wangui Ngirichi (Kirinyaga County MP), and Ngunjiri Kimani (Bahati) are among those insisting that Ruto’s supporters must work under the UDA umbrella and not coalition of parties.

Eric Wainaina

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