|Cabinet Minister Sam Ongeri, MP Aden Duale and URP Chairman Francis Ole Kaparo at the TNA-URP pre-poll coalition launch at Afraha Stadium, Nakuru, on Sunday.|
By Beauttah Omanga
Eldoret North MP William Ruto cut his political teeth working as member of the Kanu Youth League then under the leadership of Prof Julia Ojiambo.
Prof Ojiambo was instrumental in the consolidation and formation of the once powerful Kanu women and youth leagues.
Youth for Kanu 92 (YK 92), whose other members were Cyrus Jirongo and Gerald Bomet, was instrumental in the re-election of president Moi in the first multiparty polls in 1992.
Kanu trounced a powerful but fragmented opposition led by the late Oginga Odinga (Ford Kenya) and Kenneth Matiba (Ford Asili).
But it is the wresting of the position of Uasin Gishu Kanu chairman from former assistant minister Reuben Chesire before and later Eldoret North parliamentary seat from him that marked his entry into the region’s – and by extension – national politics.
He was later appointed Kanu’s Director of Elections, an influential position, which gave him a leading role in shaping of the Moi succession.
He was in charge of the list of delegates who participated in the infamous March 18, 2002, National Delegates Conference at the Kasarani gymnasium.
Change of guard
While presiding over a funds drive in Chris Obure’s Bobasi constituency, Ruto had declared “Kanu is not going to carry out nominations for a flag bearer because a decision had been made” that it will be Uhuru Kenyatta.
During the Kasarani meeting, Uhuru Kenyatta was nominated presidential candidate and party chairman, with Julius Sunkuli taking the secretary general post and Ruto the organising secretary slot.
The change of guard led to disintegration of the alliance between Kanu and Raila Odinga’s National Development Party (NDP).
Raila also trooped out of the pact with other high profile names such as the late Prof George Saitoti and Kalonzo Musyoka.
Even though Kanu resoundingly lost in the 2002 presidential poll, Ruto retained his seat.
In January 2006, Ruto declared publicly that he would stand for the presidency in the next General Election, scheduled for December 2007. His statement rubbed some Kanu stalwarts tthe wrong way, including former president Daniel arap Moi.
He resigned from his post as Kanu secretary general on October 6, 2007.
Ruto would later seek the nomination of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) as its presidential candidate alongside ODM party leader Raila Odinga and Sabatia MP Musalia Mudavadi.
Although he lost the contest to Raila, he decided to throw his weight behind him in the hotly-contested poll. Indeed Ruto was instrumental in rallying Rift Valley voters behind ODM and Raila although the December election ended in an impasse.
In the grand coalition Cabinet named on April 13, 2008, Ruto was appointed Minister for Agriculture. He would later be moved to Ministry for Higher Education, swapping places with Dr Sally Kosgei.
But two months later after he was served with summons to appear before the ICC for crimes against humanity charges he had to quit the Cabinet.
That notwithstanding, Ruto has dominated the political scene with his ability to campaign aggressively.
As he leads his supporters mainly in Rift valley to a pact with TNA with Uhuru as a presidential candidate, his opponents in the region led by Cabinet Ministers Franklin Bett, Henry Kosgey, Dr Sally Kosgei and Magerer Langat are strategising on how to counter another Ruto wave across Rift Valley Province.