Kenya's Most Authoritative Political Newspaper

Citizen Weekly

Thursday, 12 March 2015

RIFT VALLEY DIVIDED OVER JAP AHEAD OF 2017 ELECTIONS



The political landscape in Rift Valley is being shaped by emergence of three centres of power, courtesy of recent formation of the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP). The birth of JAP, which mainly brings together The Nation Alliance (TNA), United Republican Party (URP) and willing affiliates in the Jubilee alliance, has received tacit approval and outright rejection in equal measure from key leaders in the region, setting the stage for fresh political realignment. To his credit, Deputy President William Ruto, the URP leader, has convinced a significant number of politicians to join the party he and President Uhuru Kenyatta plan to use to recapture power in the 2017 General Election. But not all key leaders have agreed to join the new outfit. Within URP, elected leaders are blowing hot and cold over the matter, with some expressing fears the President and his TNA captains might not be placing all their cards on the table. Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, along with senators Charles Keter (Kericho), Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) Isaac Melly (Uasin Gishu) and a host of MPs from the North and South Rift have pledged their full support for the new political party, which is fielding its first candidate in the March 16 Kajiado Central by-election. “We are fully behind JAP because it will effectively accommodate all affiliate parties including New Ford Kenya, URP, TNA and Alliance Party of Kenya among others,” Mandago said last week during a church function attended by the Deputy President at Arnesens Secondary School. See also: Uhuru campaigns for JAP candidate in Kajiado Central At the same time, Ainabkoi MP Samuel Chepkonga said the new party had come at an opportune time. He described it as a strong party that would ensure Uhuru and Ruto are re-elected. Also declaring support for JAP, Kesses MP James Bett said it would bring together all affiliate parties and foster unity among all Kenyans. But the chairman of the Governors’ Council, who is also Bomet Governor, Isaac Ruto, has been categorical in his rejection of the new party, dismissing it as a wave he will not follow. “We were not consulted before the party was formed; we have just heard people saying the party will bring us together. How will that happen when there was no consensus in the first place?” he asked. The Bomet Governor is largely perceived as a rebel in the ruling Jubilee alliance because he has openly criticised the coalition’s top brass from time to time, accusing them of attempting to reverse the gains of devolution. He is the face of the dwindling Pesa Mashinani campaign, aimed at a referendum to increase revenue allocation to counties from 15 to 45 per cent. The campaign has been resisted by the central government.
His allies include Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony and Kuresoi MP Zakayo Cheruiyot. As URP leaders who support JAP seek to popularise the party in the region, a group of elected leaders allied to the Bomet Governor is said to be seeking an alternative party for their 2017 bids. A close ally of the Governor says JAP is not on the table. Mid last year, in one of his statements after he was accused of not toeing the line, Ruto (the Bomet Governor) said he had vied through different parties in his political career, so no one should threaten him with being kicked out of URP. The third force that is flexing its muscle and seeking to recapture the support of the populous Rift Valley voting bloc is the independence party, Kanu (Kenya African National Union). The party has said it will provide a political home for those disgruntled by the movement from URP to JAP. And in an official communication, Kanu has declared it will not merge with any other party, but will embark on a country-wide rebranding ahead of its 55th anniversary in June. See also: Uhuru campaigns for JAP candidate in Kajiado Central “We want to have a headstart in readiness for 2017. We want to put our house in order starting from 2015, through a SWOT analysis to identify our strengths and weakness,” said Nick Salat, the Kanu secretary-general. He maintained that Kanu and JAP were different political parties working on different political platforms, but said his party had a working arrangement with the national government following a 2013 post-election memorandum of understanding. “We want to be a unifying factor. Most parties have gone regional and tribal. Kanu wants to embrace nationhood through its peace, love and unity slogan,” Salat said in a telephone interview with The Standard on Sunday. Changing parties He said members of other parties, including some who were not comfortable with JAP, had been making inquiries about rejoining Kanu. “We are receiving a lot of inquiries from supporters who are considering returning to Kanu. Kanu belongs to all Kenyans and we are asking those tired of changing parties to come back home,” he said.