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Why Ruto has one foot out of Jubilee's door

THE STAR 09/25/2020

His latest moves indicate he is fed up with the ruling party

Msambweni MP Suleiman Dori during a fund raising ceremony at Mtongwe Girls in Likoni, Mombasa county,on September 24, 2016. A by-election will be held to replace him after his death in March. View pictures in App save up to 80% data.

Deputy President William Ruto has indicated he is on his way out of Jubilee as he assembles his own political machine to run for president in 2022.

A day after President Uhuru Kenyatta's confidants thwarted his spirited efforts to have Jubilee field a candidate in Msambweni, Kwale, a defiant Ruto has rolled up his sleeves for a political showdown.

Raring for a duel with his boss President Uhuru and ODM chief Raila Odinga, Ruto has decided to support an independent candidate for the December by-election in Msambweni.

The move will complicate Raila's bid for an easy win in Msambweni, a seat his ODM party held until Suleiman Dori died in March.

Ruto's no-holds-barred approach to take on the two 'brothers' in the December 15 by-election suggests the DP is fed up with the ruling party.

Daringly, Ruto on Thursday presented Feisal Abdallah Bader, a former aide and Dori's relative, as his candidate in the by-election.

The move by Ruto to flex his political muscle sets the stage for an epic battle for control of the Coast, one of Raila's strongholds.

On Thursday, Ruto's allies warned Raila and his backers to prepare for a titanic fight in Msambweni, saying ODM's influence at the Coast region was waning.

“We are ready to pull out all the stops to ensure Team Feisal captures the seat by a landslide,” said Nyali MP Mohamed Ali, a key Ruto ally.

The DP on Thursday hosted Feisal alongside MPs Athman Shariff (Lamu East), Owen Baya (Kilifi North), Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga), Aisha Jumwa  (Malindi) and Ali.

The meeting at his Karen residence was seen as a bold display of rebellion by the DP's camp, hours after the President's men shocked him with Jubilee's withdrawal from the Msambweni race, clearing the field for Raila.

“Met an aspirant for Msambweni parliamentary seat Feisal Abdallah Bader in company of Coast MPs....” Ruto tweeted before he stormed Kajiado for grassroots meetings.

The DP is journeying across the country in a charm offensive to consolidate his backyards and penetrate new territory.

His presenting a parallel candidate for the by-election is one of many calculated manoeuvres, sending signals he could be plotting to exit Jubilee.

Only last month, the DP hinted he would be ready to seek an alternative political party for his 2022 presidential bid if he fails to reconcile with the President.

"If ... Jubilee is hijacked by the brokers, then, as they say, the breaking of a cooking stick should not be the end of cooking,” he said in a TV interview on August 27.

The DP's grip on the Jubilee structure was loosened by a ruthless purge by the President who shoved Ruto from the heart of state power.

The President's allies have warned the DP will have to fight it out for the Jubilee presidential ticket with others. There are reports of a scheme to further diminish his clout by splitting his deputy party leader's functions into four.

The split is aimed at bringing on board key regional bigwigs, including one from Ruto's Rift Valley backyard, to vanquish him.

Having indicated his opposition to the Building Bridges Initiative-driven referendum to amend the Constitution, the DP is ready for a dress rehearsal with his rivals in Msambweni.

However, the Raila-Uhuru axis has warned the DP it won't be a walk in the park as Raila is determined to consolidate his key Coastal bastion.

On Thursday, influential Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe told the Star Ruto was free to support a candidate of his choice in Msambweni.

“The party position is that Jubilee will not field a candidate in Msambweni. However, the deputy president can go ahead and support whoever he wants,” Murathe said.

Defending Jubilee's decision to pull out of the by-election, Murathe said the verdict was informed by a number of factors shared with both the President and the DP.

“The DP was briefed about the scenario but has chosen to back an independent candidate, that is within his right,” Murathe, a key Uhuru confidant, said.

A confidential letter to President Kenyatta by Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju, which has been seen by the Star, cites the party's dismal performance in the 2017 polls as the main reason for pulling out.

“The behaviour of the candidates on the ground shows that it is unlikely that we can increase the Jubilee votes from 5,656 to overcome the 22,564 votes that ODM got,” the letter also copied to Ruto reads.

The letter goes on: “The Jubilee Party sponsoring of a candidate may only be premised on other political considerations. The experience in the Kibra constituency by-election is an important backdrop.”

According to the letter, Jubilee chairman Nelson Dzuya who also hails from the region, was sent by the party on a fact-finding mission to Msambweni.

“We have examined the comments of our Chairman Dzuya whose conclusion is that the Jubilee Party stands no chance of winning the by-election," the letter reads.

In the letter, it was National Assembly Majority leader Amos Kimunya's conclusion that could have tipped the scales in favour of ODM.

“It would undermine the cordial working relationship between ODM and Jubilee. ODM has in the recent past supported government motions with close to 70 MPs,” Kimunya said.

He added, “... it will form another rallying point to create further division within the Jubilee Party where we already have to deal with the challenge of the so-called Kieleweke and Tangatanga wings.”

Jubilee deputy secretary general and Ruto's de facto spokesman Caleb Kositany said the party performed well in 2017 at the Coast and the decision not to field a candidate was denying supporters and members the right to vote.

He dismissed Murathe, saying no party is entitled to any seat in the country.

“This issue of saying this and that party should not participate in a democratic process is very retrogressive. What we are seeing is zoning the country along party lines, which is dangerous for our democracy,” he told the Star.

Dori who died in March was elected on an ODM ticket but before his death, had switched his allegiance to Ruto.

Last year, both Dori and Jumwa were investigated and censured by ODM for advancing the interests of Jubilee and campaigning for Ruto to succeed Uhuru in 2022.

In the run-up to the 2017 General Election, Ruto led an aggressive campaign to make inroads in the region that overwhelmingly voted for ODM in 2013.

In Kwale county, Jubilee party won the gubernatorial seat through Governor Salim Mvurya who defected from ODM after a falling out with the party leadership.

Jubilee also won the Lunga Lunga parliamentary seat through Khatib Mwashetani who had been elected on a Ford Kenya ticket in 2013.

In 2017 during the Msambweni elections, Dori of ODM won with 22,564 votes, Boga Omari ldd running as an independent got 10,275 votes.

Idd is now in ODM battling against Nicholas Zani for the party ticket. 

Kilalo Mohammed of Jubilee got 5,656 votes, Mwakulonda Hassan of WDP got 3,354 votes, while independent Mwero 'Dicky' Chikoza got 291 votes.

After the March 9, 2018, handshake between the President and Raila, Ruto has visited the Coast several times to drum up support for his State House race, promoting the 'hustler versus dynasties' narrative.

(Edited by V. Graham) 

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