Deputy President William Ruto is facing a legal battle over the ownership of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).
This is after the party’s former chairman Mohamed Abdi Noor, moved to the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal seeking to wrest the party ownership from the DP’s allies led by former senators Johnstone Muthama, Boni Khalwale and Secretary General Veronica Maina.
In papers lodged at the Tribunal, Noor accuses Muthama and Maina of illegally taking over the party leadership without regard to its constitution.
He wants the Tribunal to rescind the changes made to UDA and reinstate him as the bona fide chairman.
“I am aware on my own knowledge that the Registrar of Political Parties unlawfully made changes to the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) officials through Gazette Notice No. 1233 dated January 29, 2021, and 2739 published on March 19, 2021,” Noor says in a sworn affidavit.
He adds in the affidavit dated July 12, 2021: “The Registrar deliberately ignored complaints and reservations leading to the change of officials.”
He argues that suspended secretary general Mohamed Sahal called a meeting on December 11, 2020, where the officials signed the PP10 forms to change the name of the party from Party for Development and Reforms (PDR) to UDA, which was agreeable and signed accordingly.
The officials later realised that the signed forms were to be used to also effect changes in the party officials who are NEC members, he says.
The new twist comes barely a week after the party bagged its first parliamentary seat after its candidate, Njuguna Wanjiku, trounced Jubilee’s Kariri Njama in the Kiambaa parliamentary by-election in what was billed as the ultimate supremacy contest in the Mt Kenya region pitting Ruto against his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta.
While celebrating Wanjiku’s victory, Ruto said it was a clear indication that the people of Kiambaa had chosen “the future (UDA) over the past (Jubilee)”.
While initially cagey about his links with UDA, Ruto has in the recent past come out openly to declare it will be his political vehicle in the 2022 General Election.
He has also seen it launch a nationwidemembership registration campaign, netting more than 2.6 million members.
The membership registration is free and is also done online to ensure the party reaches as many people as possible.
In May, the party embarked on registration of aspirants for various elective positions.
This is, however, not the first time that Ruto is fighting for control of a political party. In 2012, Ruto saw his then chosen political vehicle for the 2013 General Election, the United Democratic Movement (UDM), wrested from his grip by General (Rtd) John Koech, who has since died.
Ruto had then bolted out of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) after falling out with its leader Raila Odinga over the Mau evictions dispute.
The then Eldoret North MP moved quickly to form the United Republican Party (URP) which he used to team up with Uhuru’s The National Alliance (TNA) to clinch the presidency in 2013.
In the petition before the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal, Noor has listed the Registrar of Political Parties and UDA as the respondents.
The case is listed for mention on July 28, 2021, when the Tribunal will issue directions.
In his affidavit, Noor claims the party and its officials came to learn about the changes recently as they had all along believed that Muthama and Maina were only “masquerading” as officials.
He says it came as a shock to them to discover that the leadership changes had been effected.
“It has also emerged that the secretary general was a public/civil servant being a chief officer at Nairobi City County which had prompted the NEC to suspend him,” he says.
“At the time the secretary general was submitting the forged signatures for changes made on the two gazette notices, he was under suspension and could not, therefore, undertake any official duty on behalf of the party while undergoing a disciplinary process.”
Noor states that it is public knowledge that Sahal was working with “outsiders who are now gazetted as officials of the party such as SG Veronica Nduati and Muthama who as early as December 2020 were appearing in the media as officials of UDA”.
“It is, therefore, proper that the honourable tribunal reverses the irregular changes made by the said suspended officials without satisfying the party’s constitutional requirement. The changes made were never advertised in the local dailies as required by law since only a few people could access the Kenya Gazette publication to know about the changes,” he adds.
Noor wants the Tribunal to declare that the Registrar erred in effecting the changes and that Sahal was a public or civil servant who could not transact party affairs.