This Jubilee merger is about locking unwanted candidates from the Mt. Kenya region and Kalenjin Rift Valley out of the general elections. It is not about uniting Kenyan tribes. Indeed, the profiles of the merging parties do not reflect any useful ethnic convergence. TNA is almost exclusively a Central Kenya outfit. So, too are GNU, JAP, DP and FPK. APK is also a Mt. Kenya outfit as is the ambiguous PNU. The only exceptions are the insignificant New Ford Kenya of Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and Ford People with unclear ownership.
In their political backyards, President Kenyatta is likely to make some political gain from this effort than is Deputy President William Ruto. For a start, there are only two parties on this raft from the DP’s slew of the Rift Valley. Apart from his URP, there is the not so significant UDM. The UDM, with some vestigial association with the DP, is not bringing anything new on board. The parties to worry about in the Rift Valley are Kanu of Gideon Moi and the emerging Chama Cha Mashinani of Isaac Ruto.
While those not getting the JP nomination in Central Kenya are likely to accept defeat and grumble quietly on the fringes of competitive politics, it is unlikely that the same will happen in Kalenjin Rift Valley. By embracing this merger, the DP might very well be setting himself up for failure. Disaffected political losers and their followers will to troop into Kanu and CCM like tornadoes. Others will even engage in anticipatory migration. The DP can do nothing about this, apart from verbally attacking them. That will not stop them from migrating, or even winning seats.
Sitting MPs are for their part cast between the proverbial rock and the hard place. Jubilee proposes to bar party primary losers from getting alternative party tickets, or even running as independent candidates. To secure this, they must push it through Parliament. They are possibly counting on the infamous “tyranny of numbers” to do this. If you don’t vote for it, you are disloyal. If you support it, you might just be spelling political doom for yourself.
The MP who votes in support of this proposal may just be signing his own political death warrant. There are no guarantees about securing party tickets. Accordingly, you embrace the politics of “let’s lock them out” at your own risk. For, when the “lock them out” bell tolls, it tolls for you. This includes you who for the time being might imagine that you are the darling of the party leaders.
The one thing that the professed reasons for the imminent merger confirms, however, is that there are no such things as political parties in Kenya. We only have tribal political movements. The leader moves and the tribe moves with him. It is a tribal movement in the physical sense. The leader is fashioned in the image of a dreaded political demi god, directing the tribe howsoever he wills.
Those venturing into competitive politics must never forget this. They need to bend backwards over to fawn before the ethnic demi god. They must flow within the tribal movement and excel in sycophancy. Each time they open their mouth, only the hot air of leader worship and tribal fudge should flow out. If not, they should prepare to kiss their political ambitions goodbye. The political class lives under pathological fear of the tribal leader. The members follow and support the leaders not because they love them or believe in them, but because they are afraid them and of their own tribe.
The tribe moves from one political formation to another in each new electoral season. Where the leader moves becomes a party, so to speak. The space he vacates ceases being a party. Hence, four years ago, people were falling over one another in The National Alliance Party and in the United Republican Party. The democratic virtues of these outfits were extolled from rooftops and mountaintops. In the coming few weeks TNA and URP will be empty shells, in the dustbin of history. The narrative will be on the Jubilee Party.
The country is a graveyard of erstwhile popular political parties. Once upon a time there was the Liberal Democratic Party of Raila Odinga and allied Kanu rebels who abandoned the cockerel party in 2002. It was a popular electoral machine that year. Before that Raila had the National Democratic Party, which was essentially a Luo political shopping basket. Then there was the Ford Asili Party in Murang’a, Laikipia, Kiambu and parts of Western. The kingpins were Ken Matiba and Martin Shikuku. There was at the same time Mwai Kibaki’s Democratic Party in Nyeri and parts of Ukambani and Kisii. And of course it is almost impossible to believe that Ford Kenya was once the party in Luo Nyanza and Kisii.
Elsewhere, Cord leader Raila Odinga has rubbished the Jubilee merger as killing multiparty democracy. But are Raila’s own avowals about multiparty democracy above board? Political party democracy seems to be fine for Raila when it does not happen in his political strongholds. Alternative opinion in his strongholds must be demonized and bashed ruthlessly with political allegations of “Jubilee sponsorship.”
You have no right to freedom of thought, opinion or conscience in Raila’s political backyard, just as in President Kenyatta’s Mt. Kenya region and DP Ruto’s Rift Valley. You have no freedom of political association, no right to form or belong to political parties other than their own. For, there is only one virtue in each of these spaces – the tribal virtue. The political leader is at once the embodiment and owner of the tribe and its virtue. In the end, this Jubilee merger is about gaining total control over the tribe and heightening the levels of political fear and loyalty within the tribe. It is about totalitarianism in the tribe.