Uhuru casts his net wider Published on 14/05/2011 Related Stories Uhuru walks tight rope as deficit widens When does public interest override an individuals? Guard against violence in Ikolomani, Kamukunji By-elections a litmus test for ODM, PNU Parties battle out for city honours from Kamukunji by-election Sigh of relief for Ocampo Six By Oscar Obonyo He may be the Kanu party chairman, but Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenya has emerged more as the face of President Kibaki's Party of National Unity than the independence party. It is a political strategy the Gatundu South MP has technically embraced for two major reasons to fish from a wider pool and not from the shrunken Kanu, and to inherit President Kibakis political constituency in Central Kenya. For all practical purposes, Uhuru has long discarded the cockerel mascot for PNUs twin burning torches. In fact, the question political pundits are raising is whether Uhurus Kanu has been swallowed by PNU or it is Uhuru who is in the process of ultimately swallowing PNU. "By disregarding Kanu and embracing the PNU umbrella party, Uhuru is projecting himself as the face and unifying factor within PNU. This is the politically correct thing to do as PNU accords him wider national space as opposed to Kanu that has greatly lost ground," says Macharia Munene of United States International University (USIU-Kenya). Uhuru is not the first key political figure to discard his party for bigger coalition partnership in the recent past. President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have been on this path as well. After staging two unsuccessful presidential bids on the Democratic Party ticket in 1992 and 1997, Kibaki became the beneficiary of the Narc movement that was cobbled up out of DP, Ford-Kenya, Social Democratic Party and Liberal Democratic Party outfits, among others. He repeated the trick in 2007 under PNU and when he failed to secure enough numbers in Parliament, he even roped in Vice-President Kalonzo Musyokas ODM-Kenya. But it is the PM who kicked off this trend in the second multi-party era during the Eighth Parliament through a political marriage of his National Development Party (NDP) with retired President Mois Kanu. He soon abandoned Kanu for Narc and later the giant Orange party. Political progression Prof Munene, who teaches history and international relations, explains that changing of parties by political leaders is part of the natural political progression, which in Kenya has peaked since the re-introduction of multi-party politics in 1991. As the political temperatures rise over parliamentary by-elections in Kamukunji and Ikolomani, the independence party has no candidate on card. Instead, Uhuru has opted to support PNU umbrella party candidates. Even as the Kanu boss gives his party a wide berth, his co-officials are yearning to have the party back from Uhuru and rebuild it. It remains unclear, though, why Uhuru will not let go. "He has completely neglected the party and worse still, he is ironically using the powers we gave him under the partys constitution to suffocate its very operations and survival," says Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat. Mr Salat claims party officials and members have not met with Uhuru over the last three years as he has reportedly declined to call for meetings, including one for the National Governing Council. Countless roadblocks "We do not know the whereabouts of our chairman as we only see his image occasionally on television. And my correspondence with him is as thick as the Bibles New Testament, all which he declined to respond to," says Salat. Noting that the DPM is a powerful individual in Government, the former Bomet MP claims the party has faced countless roadblocks in its quest to gain control of the party courtesy of the Registrar of Political Parties and the Interim Independent Electoral Commission. "All we are asking of Uhuru is to give us back our party since he seems to no longer value Kanu. It is wrong for him to insist on sitting on two stools at the same time," says John Osogo, a member of the National Executive Council of Kanu. Osogo, the partys Western Province representative, blames Uhuru for quietly killing the party at the expense of his personal political career. While Vice Chairman Gideon Moi and Salat have been holding rallies to re-energise the party, Uhuru has been engrossed in building political alliances with VP Kalonzo Musyoka and Eldoret North MP William Ruto. That Uhuru may be shedding off the tag of "the political project" is welcome news to his supporters. Not long ago, he was the perplexed novice being led by the hand and imposed on Kanu by retired President Moi. Three years on after failing to capture the Presidency in 2002, Uhuru kicked off his schemes in earnest by resisting Railas political dominance within the original ODM-Kenya, of which he was a member. Whether relinquishing Kanu leadership or holding on and squeezing its political life to the very end will help his overall cause is the sole dilemma.