THE STAR 09/6/2021
Deputy President William Ruto's Tangatanga camp is on the brink of an implosion as internal feuds over 2022 nominations and the place of small parties threaten its future.
This even as former Agriculture Cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria continued playing hardball, issuing a warning to the DP and his UDA troops.
For the first time, Kiunjuri, The Service Party leader, openly told Ruto that he has a long way to go in conquering to support the mountain to support his 2022 presidential bid.
It has also emerged that there are simmering tensions among aspirants eyeing UDA tickets as sitting MPs insist on being handed direct tickets.
Current MPs are said to be keen on securing direct nominations as a reward for their "persecution", triggering a war with their opponents who are pushing for free, fair and credible nominations.
Some of Ruto's allies say they don't need to be subjected to nominations to Johnny-come-latelies when they have borne the brunt of “state intimidation and harassment" for standing with Ruto.
Worse still, the move to lock out small parties affiliated to the hustler nation from an alliance with the UDA party has resulted in rancour that could split Ruto's Mt Kenya support.
On Sunday, Kiunjuri warned Ruto that he must embrace other parties and individuals of interest if he has to win the Mt Kenya bloc.
“It is too early to say you have scaled the mountain. The mountain is so high, there is also ice up there. The weather can be very rough," Kiunjuri warned.
His remark came on a day the DP made a chaotic entry into President Uhuru Kenyatta's Central Kenya backyard, with some churches declining to host him.
Chaos erupted in Kieni hours before a scheduled church event as protesters tried to block the DP from making his way to Mbiriri Church. He diverted to Mbiriri Full Gospel Church.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is going flat out to prepare Mt Kenya for ODM leader Raila Odinga, setting the stage for a big scramble.
There is a feeling within Ruto's inner circle from Mt Kenya that he doesn't need to form a coalition with other small parties, which have refused to dissolve and join UDA.
However, Kiunjuri maintained that he will not fold his party for any other formation and remains open to coalition-building should there be a need.
“I am not very stupid to have TSP. This will enable the region to have bargaining power when it comes to demanding a fair share," he said during a church service at St Andrew's ACK, Nanyuki.
The DP is banking on Mt Kenya to propel his 2022 presidential dream. However, the nature of the framework of engagement could spoil the party for the nascent outfit, 320 days to the polls.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria has fired salvos over what he has called attempts by UDA to stifle democracy.
“The truth of the matter is that the United Democratic Alliance, which they purport to portray as the only vehicle in the region, is only one member of the hustler nation,” Kuria protested.
The vocal lawmaker, who is the leader of Chama Cha Kazi, revealed for the first time that sitting MPs are trying to personalise UDA for their own political preservation in next year's polls, thus stirring conflicts.
“It is also a fact that UDA is perceived to be dominated by incumbent MPs who are hell-bent on locking their potential challengers out of the 2022 race,” he said.
Kuria's CCK and Kiunjuri's TSP are some of the parties strongly pushing for a space to field parallel candidates, especially in Mt Kenya. They have insisted that the DP should allow other parties which support him to field candidates and compete with UDA.
But Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua maintained that Mt Kenya leaders have agreed to support the DP on the platform of UDA. He denied the existence of squabbles in Tangatanga.
“At least for now, and as we said on Saturday after the meeting in Nanyuki, UDA is the platform upon which we are going to prosecute our engagement with the Deputy President ahead of the 2022 polls,” he said.
The legislator is widely seen as among the front-runners for Ruto's running-mate position.
On Saturday, during a meeting with Ruto in Nanyuki, they announced plans to market UDA as the only hustler nation political party.
“We have resolved that we shall canvass the agenda of the people we represent on the platform of UDA, a political party we have formed together with other Kenyans from across the nation,” they said in a statement.
The 46 MPs resolved to rally behind Ruto's 2022 presidential bid under UDA.
“We commit to mobilise and urge our supporters, as we do all Kenyans, to be part of the new non-tribal, non-sectarian political dispensation under the UDA party anchored on the new progressive and revolutionary bottom-up economic model,” they said.
The decision appeared to throw Kuria and Kiunjuri under the bus, despite their insistence that they are supporting the DP's State House quest.
“This is the kind of hubris and chest-thumping that destroyed the Jubilee Party, which we formed with so much hope and enthusiasm. It is the clearest attempt to take us to the days of the one-party state and the dark Kanu era,” Kuria said in a statement.