Party politics the Kenyan way as politicians prepare for 2017 poll

If money could buy votes – and, let’s face it – then the newly formed Jubilee Party is in poll position for the 2017 presidential election

The Jubilee Party was created from the former Jubilee Alliance, a coalition of smaller parties that helped President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, into office in 2013, and was launched last weekend in a lavish three-day bash that cost a whopping two billion Kenyan shillings (that’s $19.7-million, or R283-million).

So what kind of party does two billion shillings buy you these days? There was music, there was dancing, and there were plenty of speeches at the Moi International Sport Complex in Kasarani, a Nairobi suburb. There were also 47 shiny new Land Cruisers to prowl around the city – one for each of Kenya’s counties – and a whopping 20,000 shillings in cash ($197, R2,800) for each of the estimated 500,000 delegates who attended.

The new party also unveiled a new, luxuriously appointed nerve centre in the heart of Nairobi, the eight-storey Jubilee House.

President Uhuru Kenyatta – also Kenya’s richest man, which might explain how a new party pulls off such an extravagant launch – described his newborn baby as a new era in Kenyan politics, terming it an expression of “our unity, our oneness, our togetherness”. The visibly emotional president pledged that the Jubilee Party will prevent Kenyans from going through post-election violence as witnessed in 2007/2008. “The pain of the past means that all of us have to work for reconciliation,” he said.

Not all of Kenyatta’s allies were in attendance at the extravaganza. Key party officials, such as tourism cabinet secretary Najib Balala and water cabinet secretary Eugene Wamalwa (who is also the party candidate for Nairobi governor) were notably absent.

These outspoken Jubilee figures, who held key positions in the current government, deliberately shied away from the launch to avoid being criticized by Kenyans. The constitution does not allow for ministers to engage in active politics.

Top Kenyan musicians including Jaguar, Bahati and Mercy Masika graced the occasion, with reports suggesting they were paid five million shillings each (R700,000).

Opposition leaders were quick to criticise the Jubilee Party spending, with some demanding an audit into where the funding came from. Others said the money could have been better spent on addressing Kenya’s high poverty rates and poor health system
The ODM celebrated its 10-year anniversary by flying delegates to a huge rally in a public park in Mombasa, complete with multimillion shilling performances from local musicians and 47 vehicles branded in ODM’s signature orange.Odinga also took a dig at the perceived values of the Jubilee Party supporters at the launch in Nairobi. “Today we are here to say thank you to those who have showed up without asking for money, without asking whether it is safe, for transport, for food, when the party has called on you to respond to the distress call of our nation,” he said.



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