Why Uhuru put off Jubilee PG meeting
President Uhuru Kenyatta called off today’s Jubilee Parliamentary Group meeting because he does not want to be drawn into discussing anything other than his Big Four agenda.
According to confidential sources, going ahead with the meeting would have created an opportunity for Jubilee leaders to canvas issues that the President has already made up his mind on and is committed to implementing.
“The Big Four and the fight against corruption is what the President wants to focus on. He wants to ensure that all energies and resources are mobilised towards realising the two main issues,” a high-ranking source within the party told the Star.
“He has already pronounced himself on those matters and vowed there is no turning back. Anyone raising other issues is on on his own,” the source added.
Yesterday Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju called a press conference to deny that the party had called a meeting with its MPs in the first place and accused the media of “creating its own meeting”.
“I would like to assure members that there is nothing, even remotely close to a crisis in the party,” Tuju said.
According to multiple sources within Jubilee, some of the issues that MPs had wanted put on the agenda for discussion or to raise include the use of disrespectful or derogatory language towards Ruto.
Ruto’s allies also want the President to reveal the “full details” of the March 9 unity deal with Opposition leader Raila Odinga that has become a sore within the party.
They also wanted clarification of what is described as involvement by State House officials and the President’s relatives in activities that undermine the DP as well as an assurance by the President that he will still support the DP to succeed him after the end of his term in 2022.
Uhuru’s succession as party leader is also causing jitters, the Star has established.
The truce, and Raila’s newfound status as a partner with the President in the Building Bridges Initiative, are seen as an obstacle to Ruto’s succession path.
It has not been helped by conflicting signals from the the party’s Mt Kenya stronghold, where the President calls the shots. The party’s soldiers have been reading from different scripts, with some promising to stand by Ruto while others openly saying they will negotiate for the best deal in 2022.
There has been increasing discomfort within the party since the President announced that he and the Deputy President would lead all public servants in undergoing a lifestyle audit. Some MPs allied to the DP immediately jumped to the conclusion that the audit was targeting their man.
The DP seemed to lend credence to the perception when he joked in his address to a meeting of school heads in Mombasa two weeks ago that since the media had began auditing him, he expected it would move on to others. He said he was ready for the lifestyle audit but behind the scenes, his supporters were reading malice.
Two weeks ago, Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen claimed in a prime-time interview on Citizen TV that senior civil servants were using their offices to influence policy and divide Jubilee.
“There is an actual existence of people who work in the Office of the President who are busy supporting an agenda to divide the President and his deputy…Unfortunately, because these people have a responsibility on policy direction of government, we have a situation where things like policy on lifestyle audits are announced without the knowledge of anybody governing Jubilee,” Murkomen said.
His comments elicited mixed reactions within Jubilee.
Before Murkomen’s remarks, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi had said in a public function that the audit should extend to the late President Jomo Kenyatta, in a jibe interpreted to send a message that not even the President was clean enough to audit others.
Yesterday Tuju contradicted Jubilee vice chairman David Murathe who announced last Friday that the PG would take place today and warned MPs against fighting the President and government policies.
“I’m able to confirm that there will no Jubilee PG meeting tomorrow (today) and any media reports to the contrary have no basis,” Tuju said.
Instead, Tuju said, the party secretariat has planned a three-day bonding retreat for its governors, MPs and senators next month.
The retreat to be attended by all the party’s leaders including county speakers is intended to forge unity and address indiscipline within its ranks following weeks of squabbling.
The party’s constitution requires the President, who is the party leader, to convene a PG at least twice a year for MPs to set the legislative agenda and align with other party positions.
However, MPs have previously complained that such forums end up being lecture sessions by the President rather than an opportunity to ventilate.
The last PG meeting in February was boycotted by tens of Jubilee MPs. Those who attended lamented that Uhuru had “lectured” them and warned of stern action against the no-shows. The MPs said they were browbeaten into who to vote for in the committees of Parliament.
Jubilee has 170 MPs — 164 elected and six nominated — but less than half are said to have attended the first post-2017 election PG meeting held at State House, Nairobi. Tuju disputed the figure at the time.
Yesterday Elgeyo Marakwet Senator and key Ruto ally Murkomen told the Star that it was within the President’s powers to convene such a PG as and when he deems necessary and convenient for the party.
He said, however, that the President had not formally convened the PG meeting, contrary to claims by a section of MPs.
Murkomen said that both the PG and the retreat were critical.
“A retreat is also good because it will enable members focus on the issues that are related to our manifesto,” he said, signalling the need for more time for members to freely express their views in view of the simmering discontent.
“You know a PG is usually brief, a retreat might even be better for more bonding,” the Majority leader said.
Kajiado North MP Joseph Manje concurred.
“In a PG, it is like members go to get directions on the party position. One or two people will speak and then the President will give directions. But a retreat will be a bonding session,” he said.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei noted that while there was no official communication on the meeting, it was timely to have it.
Cherargei, who is allied to Ruto in the party ranks, has previously warned of a scheme to use the lifestyle audit to block Ruto’s 2022 bid. He said the retreat would be a good idea to cement ties in Jubilee.
“As our SG Tuju has announced, we look forward to that retreat, hopefully it will happen as soon as possible. We need to assure our supporters that our house is intact and that meeting will help in doing so. Also the issues of the handshake between the President and Raila Odinga,” the outspoken senator told the Star.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech, another ally of the DP, said the retreat should be held as soon as possible to “diffuse unnecessary confusion which has given rise to all sorts of propaganda”.
“We know our friends in the Opposition are praying day and night for Jubilee to disintegrate. They think by causing all these confusion, they will frustrate the DP’s plans,” he said.