Five months to the General Election, DP William Ruto’s popularity appears shaky and his grip uncertain in counties that supported him, URP and Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013.
Ruto, who has already declared his run for the presidency in 2022, has had a major falling out with a number of Rift Valley leaders since becoming Uhuru’s DP.
Currently the man who would be kingpin is feuding with Baringo senator and Kanu boss Gideon Moi over who will rule the Rift Valley roost. Gideon said Kanu would support Uhuru but not Ruto in the polls.
Gideon too aims for State House in 2022.
Despite protestations from Jubilee, counties now in play include Baringo, Kericho, Nakuru, West Pokot, Bomet and Narok.
Expert comment: Ruto’s leadership style has created many enemies
Those with whom he has parted ways include Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto, Kuresoi South MP Zakayo Cheruiyot, Emurua Dikkir’s Johanna Ng’eno. Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter and Kapseret’s Oscar Sudi had also fallen out with him but they have since reconciled.
The fallout is believed to have resulted from Ruto’s plans to isolate some leaders, assert himself and dissolve URP to merge with 10 other parties to form the mega Jubilee Party.
Ruto was an unwelcome visitor in Central Kenya during the first few months after the 2007 polls because some residents blamed him for what they perceived to be his hand in the 2008-08 PEV.
Many people, especially Kikuyus not originally from the area were driven away, attacked and even killed after Mwai Kibaki was declared winner of the hotly disputed election.
However, five years later Ruto received a hero’s welcome in the region after teaming up with Uhuru to deliver a Jubilee government.
The leaders developed a stronger bond — and emotive campaign issue — after they were indicted by the ICC for their alleged roles in the PEV.
Today leaders from Central Kenya have quietly been expressing discomfort with Ruto. Peter Kenneth’s decision to run for Nairobi governor, with Central backing, is seen a plan to stop Ruto from succeeding Kenyatta in 2022. The governor’s office could be a springboard to State House.
Kiambu Governor William Kabogo openly told Ruto last year that he was not guaranteed Kikuyu support in 2022.
“Kabogo spoke for many Kikuyus who were not bold enough to speak for themselves. The main reason for this discomfort is Ruto’s plans of imposing leaders in Nairobi, Kiambu and other parts of Central,” a Nairobi MP told the Star yesterday. He requested not to be named.
In the last four years Ruto has faced numerous challenges to his grip on nearly five million votes in the Rift Valley and they seem to have weakened him.
There has been a general complaint that Rift Valley has not benefitted as it should from Ruto’s influence in government.
While opinion is evenly divided over whether Ruto still rules Rift Valley, opposing forces in the vote-rich region are coalescing around Gideon Moi and Isaac Rutto who establishing new centres of power.
Right now, the Baringo senator appears the most potent threat to the DP’s ambitions.
Apart from openly telling off the DP, as he did during the Mark Too burial on January 9, the younger Moi struck the deal to back Uhuru — pointedly not Ruto. Uhuru had pleaded with him not to side with NASA and his acquiescence could well be richly rewarded din 2022.
Gideon’s profile in Rift Valley is rising, especially because the DP has spared no effort in in telling people that Moi cannot be better than he.
“The President should come and talk to us directly if he wants our votes,” Gideon said during Mark Too’s burial.
Gideon and Rutto, among other anti-Ruto crusaders in Rift Valley, have hatched an elaborated plan to hive-off the DPs support base in Baringo, Kericho, Nakuru, West Pokot, Bomet and Narok.
In the run up to the 2013 polls, Ruto consolidated his hold on the Kalenjin, but he also spread his influence amongst the Maasai and other pastoralists.
Ruto’s command came in handy for Uhuru who had to garner 25 per cent of votes in at least 24 counties — and bag more than 50 per cent plus one of total votes cast. It was a razor-thin victory.
His URP not only won several seats across the Kalenjin-populated Rift but also four of the eight National Assembly seats in Narok, the Senate, woman representative as well as the governor’s seat. It won seats in far-flung Teso and Mandera regions.
The new anti-Ruto force now aims to capitalise on his weakness of failing to keep friends and listen to advice from those who have stood with him.
Governor Rutto says Ruto’s first mistake was to dissolve the URP to join Jubilee in September. That left a lot of URP leaders out in the cold and anxious about their future.
Thus, the DP lost his strong bargaining position and opened a door for people like him to form new parties — such as Rutto’s Maendeleo Chap Chap — since they opposed the DP’s direction.
“Let us tell each other the truth. He will soon learn the hard way that a politician cannot enjoy sleep when he or she doesn’t have a safety net in form of a political party which he can use to bargain with,” Rutto told the Star.
Ruto’s opponents also accuse of him of arrogance especially since becoming DP.
But last weekend, Rift Valley JP leaders said the party’s grip cannot be shaken.