President Uhuru Kenyatta has told MPs in the Jubilee Coalition to support the new Jubilee Alliance Party, saying it has his personal endorsement and is part of a longer-term plan to keep the coalition in power.
The President spent about two hours on the final day of the Jubilee Parliamentary Group retreat listening to entreaties from the MPs’ representatives, and about an hour talking to them.
He asked the National Assembly to nominate five members and the Senate three to a committee that would come up with ways the Executive and the Legislature could work together without hitches.
But his main point was about the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP), and to drive home his point, he spoke at length about the creation of the party, using anecdotes and personal experiences.
He said the conversion of the Conservative Party to JAP was rushed because of the urgency and importance that the coalition principals gave to capturing the Kajiado Central seat.
To avoid the notion that one party was campaigning for the other, he said, they speeded up the creation of JAP to use the by-election as a test. And if they win, as a statement of intent.
“Tukishinda, itaweka signal kubwa sana ya Jubilee,” (A win will be a big signal for Jubilee), he told the retreat attended by 225 MPs, with 14 Cabinet secretaries sitting in on the last day when performance of the coalition was under review.
BASE TO START FROM
President Kenyatta said if the party wins the by-election in the constituency previously represented by Interior Cabinet Secretary Maj-Gen (Rtd) Joseph Nkaissery, it would form a good base to start from.
With the coalition using the by-election as a litmus test for the new party, the contest takes on greater signficance, setting the stage for an interesting fight with Cord.
“When we go to the next election, why don’t we go as a powerful and strong force?” he said, adding that the long-term objective would be to have a strong party without the rifts that often threaten to arise between The National Alliance (TNA) and the United Republican Party (URP).
“Every single day, our detractors’ main agenda is to drive a wedge between URP and TNA,” he said in an apparent reference to the Opposition.
He noted that with the formation of JAP, “We are clear who we are, where we are and where we are going.”
He also sought to placate members of affiliated parties who have complained about the formation of the party without their consultation and have been jittery about their prospects under one party in which they don’t have a stated stake.
“We want discussions na watu wa Bus, na watu wa GNU na wote wengine,” said the President at the session closed to the press.
He said a key aim would be to not only win the next elections but to form the government beyond the 2022 elections.
The President drew from examples such as Kanu — which he said was able to hold on to power because of its unity as a party — and spoke of being told when he visited Tanzania last week that Chama Cha Mapinduzi, which has governmented the country since independence, was the only vibrant political party.
Endorsement of the new party and a decision to support one Jubilee candidate were among the five resolutions read out at a press conference at the end of the two-day retreat.
“To ensure that no one is left behind, the Parliamentary Group shall consult all constituent and affiliate parties in developing a roadmap towards the ultimate merger into the new party,” they said in a statement read by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale.
Alliance Party of Kenya leader Kiraitu Murungi told the Sunday Nation the explanation about having to form JAP in a hurry because of the Kajiado Central by-election made sense.
“I am happy that all parties will be included in JAP. We are happy with the explanation by the President, and we’ll support him. We’ll await the consultation.”
Moyale MP Roba Duba called the President’s assurances helpful. “Parties that do not evolve will die. We need strong parties that are not fractional or fragmented; that can stand the test of time. In my opinion, formation of the new party will not kill the spirit of optimism,” said Mr Duba, who is from the United Democratic Forum.
Mr Boniface Otsiula (Bumula, New Ford-Kenya) said the decision is timely. “After the withdrawal of the case against Mr Kenyatta at The Hague, there were jitters in URP. After this, those jitters in URP are expected to end. This puts these guys together,” said Mr Otsiula, who has authored the Bill to repeal the International Crimes Act and trigger Kenya’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute.
Although withdrawal from the Rome Statute merely requires a letter from the State party, Jubilee is hoping to use the repeal of the Act and the passage of another Bill to give the Deputy President immunity from prosecution as the political pressure on the ICC to drop the cases against Mr Ruto and former radio journalist Joshua arap Sang mounts.
Creation of a joint party would be a departure from Kenya’s recent history, where coalitions have been the driving forces behind the presidency since Narc in 2002, PNU in 2007, later the Grand Coalition and the creation of the Jubilee Coalition in January 2013.
Before he spoke about the new party, MPs were given an opportunity to talk about the performance of the coalition.
Many directed their criticism at Cabinet secretaries, whom they accused of being aloof, parachuting into their constituencies willy-nilly, and failing to tell the public about the projects they were undertaking.
President Kenyatta defended them, saying with the large size of Parliament and the small number of ministers — who don’t have assistants — it is impossible to expect them to relate with each other as happened in the past.
“As much as I hear you, I want you to understand the circumstances we work under,” he said. “We must find a way to restructure the system in such a manner that we get the political mileage.”
The Parliamentary Group also resolved to have the National Assembly and the Senate teams work together.
“This will enable the alliance to develop greater synergies and accelerate the Jubilee Alliance’s transformational momentum. A united Parliamentary Group will effectively drive government agenda in both houses of parliament,” the coalition said.