Deputy President William Ruto has been caught in the matrix of Kenya’s political debt which in the past has been characterised by complaints of betrayal and backstabbing.
Although Ruto attempted to halt the debate over whether he is owed any political debt by voters in Mt Kenya region owing to the support he and his Rift Valley base gave President Uhuru Kenyatta in the last two elections, the debate is far from over. Some of his supporters are still anxious.
Last Sunday, Ruto uncharacteristically waded into the debate when he told a church gathering that he was not owed any debt by people in Mt Kenya or any other region as he prepares to contest the presidency.
The Deputy President was apparently prompted by demands by a section of MPs from Rift Valley who had been insisting that President Kenyatta publicly declares his support for their man as his preferred successor once his term ends in 2022.
The debate on whether the DP should be the automatic choice for the Mt Kenya voting bloc in 2022 was first broached by former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and Kieni MP Kanini Kega when they, on separate occasions, said Ruto should not expect blind support from the region. Former Nominated Senator Paul Njoroge also threw the spanner in the works when he made similar statements in the run up to the 2017 elections, earning the wrath of Jubilee and its supporters who denied him a ticket for the Nakuru gubernatorial race.
Although Kega would later back Ruto, the undercurrents of his earlier statement has gained momentum to a point of a pop singer Kimani Wa Turacco composing a song to the effect that he and other residents of Central Kenya had no political debt.
This debate is igniting the tension which erupted in 2003 after President Kibaki was sworn in for his first term, amid speculation that he would later back Raila Odinga who had sacrificed his ambition in 2002 to give the opposition a chance to oust Kanu.
The debt debate is not unique to Ruto. Former Vice Presidents Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi at one time hoped to cash in on the support they had given out.
Kalonzo had hoped that Kibaki would reciprocate after he gave supported him after the controversial elections in 2007. Mudavadi was Uhuru’s running mate in 2002.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria has repeatedly said the only way for the Mt Kenya region to be trusted politically is to ensure their tacit support for the deputy President come 2022. As the debate rages on whether there are rifts in Jubilee or a plot to torpedo Ruto’s dreams, a joint meeting of legislators from Mt Kenya and Rift Valley next week will have it as one of their main agenda.
“We will try and have a brotherly talk. I am confident that we will iron out the issues amicably. Those differences will be sorted out in a friendly,” said Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny.
In the meeting, issues of 2022 and the need to have President Kenyatta assure the agitated Ruto base of Uhuru’s support will likely come up.
This meeting comes against the backdrop of similar attempts to reconcile the emerging differences between the groups which appear to be divided on whether Ruto had loaned any “political credit to Uhuru in 2013 and 2017”.
Last month, Kalenjin MPs met at a Nairobi hotel and agreed to reach out to the Mt Kenya region but to also intensify their visits to other regions.
The resolution by the Rift Valley lawmakers signaled cracks in Jubilee between and the need to find alternative support bases for Ruto.
During the 2017 campaigns, Uhuru and Ruto created the impression that there was a pact that after Uhuru cleared his two terms at State House, he would hand over the key, baton and Mt Kenya support to Ruto so that he too can rule Kenya until 2032. “Ruto should operate on an assumption he will not get from the Uhuru’s backyard, it will help him to be politically safe as far as his quest is still valid, he actually seems to have come that realisation,” said Dismas Mokua, a political analyst.
Change of tack
According to an MP from Rift Valley who sought anonymity, the DP’s camp has resolved that moving forward, they will put more interests in Coast, Western and Upper Eastern regions as they seek to substitute Central Kenya which is “fluid and unreliable”. “We cannot stay unprepared when they are our colleagues telling us every day that we should not rely on their support. We must be creative and seek more reliable political friends,” said the MP.
To illustrate the MP’s argument, Ruto who has hardly missed a visits to Mt Kenya region almost every week, has not toured the region for the last two weeks. Friday, Ruto addressed gatherings in Modogashe and Lagdera along the Isiolo-Garissa border.
He was accompanied by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Marsabit Governor Mahamud Ali and Isiolo Deputy Governor Abdi Ibrahim and a host of local legislators. Conspicuously absent was his retinue of legislators from Mt Kenya who have been accompanying him in his visits across the country. Only Laikipia Woman Rep Catherine Waruguru was in Isiolo.