Kenya: Has Deputy President Ruto joined the new UDA Party?

By Victor Abuso

Posted on Thursday, 14 January 2021 10:26, updated on Wednesday, 17 February 2021 15:41
Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto speaks during a news conference in Nairobi, Kenya, October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

As Kenya heads towards crucial elections in 2022, the season has opened for political alignments and formation of new parties.

A new political Party, The United Democratic Alliance, associated with Deputy President William Ruto has been formally registered, ushering in some political glee.

Initially, the UDA party was formerly the Party of Development and Reform and later changed its name in accordance with the Political Parties Act.

Since September 2020, Kenya has 71 fully registered political parties, and these numbers are expected to increase as elections approaches.

The constitution of Kenya allows the formation of political parties, to promote democracy considering that the East African nation is a multiparty democracy, so long as the party does not promote tribal, regional and religious hate.

A political party, according to the law, should have:

  • A national character
  • A democratically elected governing body that promotes and upholds national Unity
  • Promote development if it wins elections
  • Form the government of the day

To show the seriousness of the new UDA party, its leadership has unveiled candidates for the forthcoming senate, Parliamentary and ward by election that is planned for February across the country.

Ruto allies sentiments on UDA

In his recent address to the nation, UDA chairman Johnson Muthama at the Party headquarters in Nairobi, said the party is a chosen bus to help drive the Deputy William Ruto to win the top seat in 2022, and currently, it’s a partner to the ruling Jubilee party.

“We sat down with people from all parts of the country and settled on UDA as one of the most democratic parties in the country,” said Muthama.

However, Ruto has not personally come out to identify himself with the UDA party. But those associated with the recent unveiling of the Party, including those who refer to themselves by the Hustler Nation slogan, along with the Wheelbarrow Movement that Ruto has been popularising across the country, cannot be separated from this new UDA.

The former Senate majority leader Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and close ally to Ruto says the new party provides enough room for anyone who is unhappy with the ruling Jubilee Party.

During a press conference in Nairobi on 9 January, Senator Murkomen said: “In our father’s house there are many rooms. We have just moved to the brighter, renovated, welcoming room that is UDA,” indicating they have indeed made the UDA their next stop.

While wearing a yellow cap, the UDA party colour, another Ruto ally, MP Kimani Ichung’wah said: “To those who declared us persona non grata in Jubilee … we are happier in our new home – the wheelbarrow movement that makes all Kenyans equal. With wheelbarrows, we shall rescue the sinking economy of this country.”

Parties feeling tribal?

With the UDA coming on board, many ordinary Kenyans feel that political parties across the country are becoming tribal, and are merely a vehicle to help politicians achieve their immediate interests during elections only to later move on to another party.

Michael Mutuli, a teacher at Nairobi School, says he sees nothing new about the new UDA Party. “I’m not surprised that we have a new party, we have such parties being formed ahead of elections in this country, I’m not excited at all, politicians are all the same.” 

This development is a clear indication that Ruto has finally fallen with his boss President Kenyatta in the Jubilee Party, says Brian Wanyama, a political analyst and lecturer at the University of Kibabii in Western Part of Kenya.

“All indications show that Mr Ruto is walking out of the Jubilee Party, there is no question about that, it’s a matter of when not if and the UDA is his new home, “ he says.

Wanyama sees no possibility of President Kenyatta honouring his promise of supporting Ruto during the 2022 election, after they differed on the Building Bridges Initiative project that aims to amend the constitution.

READ MORE Kenya’s 2021 referendum sharpens the Ruto/Odinga rivalry

“Of course, Ruto is worried that he might not get the Jubilee ticket and therefore, below two years ahead of the crucial election he has to position himself,” adds Wanyama.

Overview of Kenya’s political parties

During the negotiations for Kenyan independence, two political parties were formed: Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) and Kenya African National Union (KANU).

The first elections in Kenya were held in 1963 and KANU won the majority of seats in both the national assembly and the senate.

But in 1964, KADU was  dissolved and joined KANU. In 1966, the Kenya People’s Union (KPU) was formed as a result of ideological differences, leadership struggles, and the repression of dissent in the ruling  KANU.

However, the KPU was banned in 1969 and Kenya became a single state from that time until 1982 when the constitution was amended to make the country a single party state. But after both local and international pressure, the then President Daniel Arap Moi, in 1991 through Parliament, he repealed Section 2A of the Constitution, paving the way for the reemergence of multiparty politics and ending KANU’s monopoly in power.

Things became better, after the country enacted a new constitution  in  2010, that laid down the foundation for the legal framework of political parties, and through the enactment of the Political Parties Act,  of 2011 coalitions and mergers of political parties were introduced.


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