The gloves are finally off. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have unleashed their troops on each other as long-simmering tensions burst into a political showdown.
Last Sunday’s resignation of former Jubilee Vice Chair David Murathe, who also said he would lead a “Stop Ruto Movement”, essentially kicked off an all out, no-holds-barred political duel.
The leadership in and outside Parliament in Mt Kenya is split into three groups: The first one comprises vocal and unapologetic pro-Ruto allies opposed to what they see as a cold Machiavellian attempt to eject the DP from the Kenyatta succession line-up.
And this after helping Mr Kenyatta secure two terms in office.
The second group comprises a calculating lot that won’t show its hand too soon, waiting for a signal, possibly from the President, who has said his sole focus is on his legacy — the “Big Four” economic agenda, namely universal health, affordable housing, industrialisation and food security.
To these, he has since added uniting Kenyans and fighting corruption as the things he would want to be remembered for.
Then there is the third group under the umbrella of Former Parliamentarians Association (Fopa), whose members blame Mr Ruto for their losses in the 2017 Jubilee primaries.
Most of those who trounced them are believed to owe their election and plum parliamentary committee memberships to Mr Ruto rather than the President.
The Fopa members have been vocal and visible, visiting ODM leader Raila Odinga in support of the “handshake”, and publicly wooing Amani Coalition leader Musalia Mudavadi to join other Nasa principles Kalonzo Musyoka and Mr Odinga in the Building Bridges Initiative.
That will make 2019 an annus horribilis (terrible year) or annus mirabilis (wonderful year), depending on who wins the battle for the hearts and minds of voters in central Kenya.
There are only two standpoints: vindicating Mr Ruto and rebelling against the President, or rejecting Mr Ruto.
Murathe’s departure, coupled with the newfound warmth between Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) core support base in Nyanza, point to a near-complete split in Jubilee between the pro-Uhuru and Pro-Ruto forces.
Indeed, Murathe last weekend publicly invited ODM Chair John Mbadi to crossover and form a “Jubilee National Coalition”, which he later equated to a “Stop Ruto Movement” to drive constitutional amendments that would undermine the DP’s quest for the presidency.
The stand-off is now expected to escalate to the National Assembly and the Senate when they resume work after the Christmas break.
Although parliamentary business is affected by the Jubilee wars, the House leadership appears firmly on Mr Ruto’s side, with Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka leading a goodwill delegation to the DP’s Sugoi home.
National Assembly and Senate majority leaders Adan Duale and Kipchumba Murkomen have called for Jubilee Party elections so that party leaders be mandated by members to make decisions.
Mr Ruto and his axis have been ambivalent about the whole “handshake” and calls for constitutional amendments, which they view as schemes to scuttle his presidential ambitions.
Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, a Ruto supporter, says the move by some Jubilee leaders to launch “unrestrained hostilities” against Mr Ruto are not surprising.
“We have been aware of these manoeuvres and only the patience, diligence, political maturity and statesmanship of the DP has brought us this far.
“This is why personally, many of my colleagues and I were opposed to to the merger of United Republican Party (URP) and The National Alliance (TNA) in 2016,” he said in an interview on Monday.
Mr Linturi said his reservations about the dissolution of the Jubilee Alliance Party (Jap) to from the Jubilee Party was informed by undisguised hostilities and wars of attrition the TNA leadership had waged against URP since 2013.
These wars burst into the open when Mr Linturi collected signatures to censure then-Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru, who eventually left office under a cloud related to the National Youth Service.
She is now Kirinyaga governor and has since buried the hatchet with Mr Ruto and Mr Odinga.
He was elected to the National Assembly in 2013 on the defunct Alliance Party of Kenya (APK) ticket that had resisted a strong TNA wave in Meru under the leadership of now current governor Kiraitu Murungi.
Mr Linturi says most URP associates believed their party was more popular than TNA, and had better prospects in any competitive process.
Mr Ruto stood his ground, insisting on a single outfit, arguing that approaching 2017 as fragmented parties was a recipe for disaster.
His reference was how former President Mwai Kibaki won the election in 2007, but without a majority he could count on to influence policy.
“Even many TNA MPs were spending more time with us than in their own party.
“The DP was easily accessible, available, and never failed to pick anyone’s call or attend to their concerns in case one needed government intervention. Their leader was always unavailable and inaccessible. The situation has not changed,” Mr Linturi said.
Apart from reacting to attacks or provocations from defunct Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), and later Nasa, Linturi says Mt Kenya leaders rarely voice their views over any issue of note since they are never sure of their leadership’s position.
He creates a bleak picture of an unhappy house that has never known peace since it was hurriedly cobbled together in the trenches of self-preservation from International Criminal Court (ICC) threats against the President and his deputy.
He says some Jubilee members openly opposed the merger, but there were no painless options for extricating themselves from the arrangement imposed by Mr Ruto.
They had to stick together and keep up appearances, lest the opposition capitalised on the fissures before the 2017 election.
Internal friction would end in the monious resignation of former senior Presidential Adviser on political affairs Nancy Gitau in mid 2016, and her departure from her State House-based office.
“My final fears that this marriage was headed for the rocks were vindicated at a meeting convened by officials at the Aberdares Country Club in Nyeri County and attended only by elected leaders from Mt Kenya region.
“I was shocked when Murathe made a presentation that we should always bear in mind that the formation of Jubilee was not our idea. It was, he said, the DP’s idea to bring everyone under one roof to serve his presidential ambitions,” Linturi recalls Mr Murathe saying.
Mr Linturi said he later raised concern over Murathe’s sentiments with the President and the DP at a Parliamentary Group meeting at State House.
But they reassured the MPs that all was well, and urged them to ignore detractors.
“I am not surprised it has come to this. The DP is also not really surprised. He knows better. Now we are going to push for party elections so that officials have the member’s authority to act. The Mt Kenya region is also not going to take imposed persons or positions we have not discussed and consulted on,” he added.
Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto surprised both friend and foe by coming together in 2012 as UhuRuto (Kikuyu and Kalenjin coalition) to gun for State House in 2013 in a whirlwind campaign with the sloganTuko Pamoja (we are together) and clasped hands as an emblem.
The symbols had been created by the defunct United Democratic Forum (UDF), which failed to patent them.
The National Alliance (TNA) and the United Republican Party (URP) used them to replace their former red dove (TNA) and bull horn (URP, symbols when they merged to form the Jubilee Alliance Party (Jap), later converted into the Jubilee Party to accommodate the disbanded small parties.
By Daily Nation