April 27th 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Jubilee in crisis as Uhuru, Ruto face angry crowds and supporters defect

Tensions had been building in the region from Friday night, when suspected goons destryoyed billboards of the Party of National Unity (PNU), which is associated with Governor Peter Munya.

By Free Press Correspondentnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comSunday, 22 Jan 2017 14:40 EAT

One of the PNU billboards which was destroyed on Friday night.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto met hostile crowds in three regions where the Jubilee leaders received massive support and votes in the 2013 elections. The leaders came face to face with disappointed youths in Mt Kenya region, Isiolo and Narok where they had visited to commission development projects and campaign for the Jubilee Party.

In what some have viewed as signs of a new assertiveness by young Kenyans exasperated by rampant corruption ahead of the August general election, the two leaders were heckled in three countries that voted solidly for the Jubilee coalition, choosing Jubilee governors, senators and MPs almost to a man. In Narok County on Thursday, Mr Ruto was heckled at an event where he had gone to launch the voter registration exercise and the Last Mile electric connectivity project.

The deputy president was addressing residents at Sogoo trading centre in Narok, an event that had gone well until he asked the youths to register as voters. The youths rose in unison, telling the DP to his face that they would never vote for Jubilee Party again. The DP, who was accompanied by Energy cabinet secretary Charles Keter and other local leaders, heeded their concerns and cut shot his talk on politics.

The next day, President Kenyatta travelled to Isiolo Town to officiate at the opening of the new Isiolo International Airport, which will open up the Isiolo and surrounding counties to local and international trade. He also wanted to address a public meeting in the town but this came a cropper as disgruntled youths roundly rejected attempts by their governor Godana Doyo to address them. The governor, who is a member of the Jubilee Party, was riding in the president's convoy, with his car right behind the president's.

As the president was acknowleding greetings from the residents in advance of his address, shouts of "Doyo Must Go" rented the air, forcing the governor to recline back into his car. But the jeers were not all aimed at the governor. Raw footage from the event shows that the president never had an easier time either, as the youths complained that the government was "all talk and no results". The youths were shouting slogans against both the governor and the entire Jubilee leadership.

Saturday brought only more heckling when the President visited Meru region to sensitise his supporters to register as voters. Apart from Meru Town, the trip took him to various trading centres including Laare, Maua, Maili Tatu, Kangeta, Kianjai and Mikinduri. At numerous stops, the residents refused to be addressed by local senator Kiraitu Murungi, the president's main ally in the region who is running for the Meru gubernatorial position.

Mr Murungi is seeking to depose Governor Peter Munya, who recently took over the Party National Unity (PNU) and has rolled out an aggressive ground operation he wants to consign Mr Murungi to political obscurity. Tensions had been building in Meru from Friday night, when suspected goons destryoyed billboards of the PNU. As news filtered from Saturday morning that PNU's billboards had been destroyed, some youths took Jubilee T-shirts, caps and posters and set them on fire just before the president arrived at the town.

Some of the youths can be heard saying they would support the president’s main opponent, CORD leader Raila Odinga. “Utatukana Raila... lakini niyeye ataingia (You can insult Raila, but he will win the race”.) Anticipating a replay of the Isiolo trip where negative news of the heckling had dominated social media, pro-government bloggers undertook a vibrant campaign in support of the president's visit, with a Twitter hashtag #UhuruTenaMeru through which they highlighted the positive expectations of the region's voters from the president's second term after the upcoming election.

The events come in the week after former TNA secretary general Onyango Oloo defected from the party.

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