In January 2006, 14 Rift Valley MPs converged in Koibatek, Baringo County, and announced that they would support William Ruto for President in 2007.
The man behind the ‘Eldama Ravine Declaration’ that culminated in Ruto being crowned the Kalenjin spokesman was former Cabinet Minister Musa Sirma, who was then Eldama Ravine MP.
Twelve years later, Sirma is back with another planned political declaration that he says will “shake to the core politics of the country”.
“As a community we are now ready to chart a different political path for our people in Rift Valley,” says Sirma who seems to have fallen out with Ruto again. After the Eldama Ravine Declaration, the Kalenjin community rallied behind Ruto to support ODM’s Raila Odinga to the last man in 2007 and also deliver the presidency to Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013 and 2017. The installation of Ruto as a Kalenjin elder played a major role in his ascendancy to power.
It was the second such ceremony -- the first was in 1962 when former President Daniel Moi was installed as a Kalenjin elder in Kapkatet, Kericho District. Of course Ruto’s installation was not without controversy, given his uneasy past with Moi and the ambition of Moi’s son Gideon – the current Baringo senator.
The former president denounced the ‘Eldama Ravine Declaration’ as a “tribal bandwagon hurtling down to destruction”.
As a result of the declaration, Kalenjin politicians were divided into two distinct camps. In one, Moi loomed large with MPs who had remained in Kanu and their new Party of National Unity (PNU) associates.
The other camp was headed by Ruto who had risen to become an elected MP in 1997 and a leading member of Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential campaign team in 2002.
Ruto had the support of majority of former Kanu MPs. Sirma says Ruto’s popularity and charisma confirmed him as the dominant Kalenjin politician of the post-Moi era.
“Ruto’s stature then was being reflected in popular Kalenjin songs and his comparison to famous figures, from Nandi leader Koitalel arap Samoie to Martin Luther King,” recalls Sirma.
Fast forward to 2018 and Sirma is playing a different tune. He says Ruto can no longer be trusted to lead the Kalenjin community. Sirma says Senator Moi is his choice for presidency in 2022.
Moi is yet to personally make public his intention to contest the presidency in 2022 but his close allies say he is set to join the race and will make that announcement at the appropriate time.
Ruto is expected to take over from President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022. He managed to rally the Rift Valley region to overwhelmingly vote for Uhuru in the 2013 and 2017 general elections.
But as Ruto expects the President to return the favour and rally the Mount Kenya region to support his presidential bid, the Kalenjin community may prove a challenge to marshal this time round, with the entry of Moi into the race. Sirma says Moi is his close friend and he would not abandon him. “We will soon converge where it all started in Eldama Ravine and make that announcement. Our people are waiting for directions. We are consulting widely,” Sirma says, promising to issue a more comprehensive statement on the matter.
Veteran politician Koigi Wa Wamwere is the latest politician to pour cold water on Ruto’s 2022 ambition.
He says Kenyans should be wary of the Deputy President because he is “overly ambitious and power-hungry”. “I do not believe Ruto has everything wrapped up for him to be president. If you see someone too ambitious for power, be very worried,” Wamwere told a local television programme recently.
But Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen dismisses those against Ruto’s presidential bid. He rubbishes Sirma’s move to try and install Moi as the Kalenjin spokesman, saying it will not amount to anything. “They have been running around trying to discredit others, we are not cowards to be threatened, we are prepared for the battle,” Murkomen tells the Sunday Standard.
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