The Jubilee Party’s symbol is two clasped hands, signifying unity.
But currently, the hands have turned into clenched fists as various groups in the party and their financiers lock horns in what is turning out to be a fight for the heart and soul of the party.
The party is split into three factions. One is the pro-William Ruto team Tanga Tanga. Then there is the Kieleweke group, calling for a stop to campaigns for 2022 but insists that the DP will not be the party’s automatic candidate.
It is led by Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri. The third group oscillates between the two, with its focus on the presidency, within or without Jubilee.
Its members include Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria, and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth.
Some have backup plans, just in case the Jubilee marriage ends in a messy divorce.
Team Tanga Tanga is being led by youthful lawmakers under the “hustlers” tag.
They include Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, and MPs Didmas Barasa (Kimilili), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), and Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu).
The Kieleweke group is perceived as anti-Ruto and comprises mostly political veterans, including former Jubilee Vice-Chair David Murathe, and MPs Maoka Maore (Igembe), Maina Kamanda (nominated), Paul Koinange (Kiambaa) and Muturi Kigano (Kangema).
Most of Central Kenya’s 2017 losers are also in this group and blame the DP for their loss in the party’s primaries.
They include former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and former Mukurweini MP Kabando wa Kabando.
Most of the elected leaders in the larger Mt Kenya region owe their allegiance to Dr Ruto, while the losers in the last General Election have thrown their weight behind the President, hoping that his rapport with Mr Raila Odinga will give them a lifeline.
Just how did the clasped hands become clenched fists a year after the elections?
The starting shot was fired by Mr Ngunjiri and Mr Kuria early last year.
Shortly after the dust of the 2017 polls settled, Mr Kuria attended a Ruto rally in January 2018 and assured the DP of Mt Kenya region’s votes.
He said it was akin to the region giving the DP a post-dated votes cheque, which would be cashed in 2022.
“He wanted to promise our votes to Dr Ruto without us discussing what was in it for the community.
“For Dr Ruto to support Uhuru in 2013, the President made several promises, which he kept. What has Ruto promised us in 2022 so we can support him?” Mr Ngunjiri, the face of the Kieleweke squad, asked during an interview Thursday.
He says the meaning of the group’s name is obvious. “It means, ‘Why don’t you guys see the impact (of your early campaigns)? If you don’t get it now, you will soon get it, utaelewa baadaye (you will understand later) and thus kitaeleweka (it will be understood),”‘ he explained.
During a parliamentary group meeting on August 30, 2017, President Kenyatta asked Jubilee MPs not to campaign for the next four years and pledged to campaign for Dr Ruto towards the end of his term.
“After four years, I will lead the campaign for Ruto,” he said. But that was before his election was nullified the next month as the country went back to campaign mode.
The Nyeri Town MP and his group have three conditions they want Dr Ruto to fulfil to earn their support: He must let President Kenyatta finish his term in peace; tell Mt Kenya voters what they will get in return for their support in 2022; and promise to ensure the country remains peaceful whether or not Mt Kenya voters back him.
“Most of those terms can be evaluated only as we get closer to 2022. That is the point we are trying to make,” Mr Ngunjiri said.
The group is perceived to have the backing of powerful State House operatives, who feel the early campaigns are undermining the presidency.
“We are not a creation of State House. But, of course, every president has his men and women interested in ensuring he succeeds.
Our interests and their interests converge so we work together,” he offered.
The emergence of the Kieleweke group has led to the crystallisation of team Tanga Tanga, a fiercely ambitious mix of youthful politicians backing Dr Ruto.
They got their name when President Kenyatta remarked that Dr Ruto goes around the country akitanga tanga (roaming around), in what was interpreted as a rebuke to Dr Ruto, but which they took as a licence for him to tour the country.
With no clear leader except the DP himself, and as slippery as a Mt Kenya trout, the group harangues anyone perceived as a threat to the DP. Their political machinery is well-oiled.
Every weekend they put up posters online outlining Dr Ruto’s activities, their message backed by bloggers across the jungle that is social media. They have cash and splash it at harambees.
Tabulations by the Nation mid last year showed that the team was contributing at least Sh7 million a month, mostly during church harambees.
Dr Ruto has also gone on overdrive to launch projects across the country, unavailability of cash notwithstanding.
They have also launched a dynasty versus hustlers political storyline, insisting that those opposing a Ruto presidency are the old-guard who do not want the son of a peasant to ascend to power.
The other main political figures in the country, including President Kenyatta, Nasa leader Raila Odinga and ANC chief Musalia Mudavadi, come from aristocratic and mostly wealthy families with name recognition, a privilege Dr Ruto does not enjoy.
“Rich political brokers are only thinking about how to grow their wealth and do not trust the hustler son of a peasant. But votes belong to the common hustler and Wanjiku, who will back Ruto in 2022,” a member of team Tanga Tanga said.
Their aim is to ensure that the DP becomes president in 2022. “Our business is Ruto and Ruto is our business. He brings development to us,” Mr Nyoro added.
But Dr Ruto’s allure goes beyond development.
They argue that Dr Ruto is more accessible and pressures ministries and parastatals to fast-track projects, while getting an appointment with the President is not easy.
“The DP is more available. He even picks our calls,” Mr Linturi said.
Others, like Mr Gachagua, accuse the Murathe group of fronting Mr Mudavadi to succeed President Kenyatta.
“The same fellows who were pushing for Mr Mudavadi in 2013 are back. They want to edge out Dr Ruto the way they tried to keep Uhuru from the Presidency,” he added.
The third force comprises those eyeing the Presidency in Jubilee but are prepared to bolt if the party “shortchanges” them.
As the only governor who was re-elected in Central Kenya, Mr Wa Iria has set his eyes on the presidency or deputy presidency.
His allies have registered the Civic Renewal Party and are marketing the new political outfit.
Others are reviving old parties like PNU (Party of National Unity) and DP (Democratic Party). Though some remain cagey about their plans, Mr Kuria has come out in the open.
“I will run for the Presidency in Jubilee as a progressive candidate who offers practical solutions, not theories and dreams,” he said early this week in an interview with this writer.
But critics accuse him of running half a race, with the aim of being appointed deputy president or CS in the next government. “Why can’t someone be my deputy? I am not going to be anyone’s running mate. Wacheni nyinyi,” he responded, in typical Kuria style.
But Mr Ngunjiri has a political punch for the Kieleweke operatives.
“The people who will move ahead with Jubilee are those who toe the line and support the anti-graft war, “handshake” and reduction of political noise,” he added.
The infighting was further fuelled by the March 9 “handshake”. Political analyst Philip Kamau and former Subukia MP Koigi Wamwere said the making of the rebellion started when the President made peace with his competitor and accommodated him in government.
“The President and other Jubilee leaders were elected on the platform of an anti-Raila campaign.
President Kenyatta was not elected on the platform of development legacy or anti-corruption war,” Mr Wamwere said.
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