The push for a constitutional referendum and the move by the Moi family to recognise Baringo Senator Gideon as the political heir is expected to shape the political landscape in the Rift Valley ahead of the 2022 General Election.
Already there are signs that Deputy President William Ruto’s reluctance to fully back the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, could have emboldened his political rivals in the battle to control Rift Valley politics.
The DP is battling to maintain a grip on Jubilee Party after some of his loyalists were cowed into silence over succession politics and flip-flopping on BBI.
Ruto’s reaction to BBI has seen President Uhuru Kenyatta pick governors from Rift Valley who have either fallen out with his deputy or fully embraced campaigns to popularise the BBI report.
Governors Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru) and Joseph ole Lenku (Kajiado) are in the forefront in pushing the BBI agenda.
Ruto’s team led by the Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen has not held any rally despite declaring in Naivasha in January that they will hold parallel meetings.
Their attempts to join the Raila-led BBI meetings have been characterised by drama and the organisers have been reluctant to allow them to address the meetings.
Some Ruto allies have gone quiet after President Kenyatta read the riot act. They include Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria, his Nakuru Town West counterpart Samuel Arama, Gilgil’s Martha Wangare and Kinuthia Gachobe of Subukia.
Now the BBI politics is what rivals are using the outdo each other. Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos and Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny who were picked by President Kenyatta to spearhead the BBI meetings in North Rift region are working closely with politicians to chart a different political path away from the deputy president.
Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat says the party is ready to work with all like-minded politicians from the region to ensure that the BBI is fully implemented.
“Our resolve is to mobilise our supporters across the country behind the BBI. Rift Valley is part of the country and therefore key to our political ambitions,” he says.
He observes that with Gideon Moi having taken the political mantle from his father, the DP has every reason to worry.
“He (Ruto) has been having problems in the Jubilee Party. Gideon has activated his father’s political connection across the country and we have even reached out to emerging political kingpins like Governor Tolgos,” he adds.
In the South Rift, Narok Governor Samuel Tunai, an ally of the DP is among the Maasai leaders who recently reached out to Raila to organise the Suswa BBI meeting.
Mr Tunai has teamed up with the Kajiado’s Ole Lenku to bring together politicians, youth, the clergy and residents to champion for BBI. Still in the South Rift region, Governor Kinyanjui is among leaders who have adopted a wait-and-see attitude in the ongoing political supremacy battle.
“It is too early to start 2022 succession politics. I have a role as the governor to spearhead development in my county and help the president deliver on his legacy projects. I don’t like to be drawn into the current succession debate,” he says.
He notes that Kenyans must be given a chance to air their views on the BBI agenda.
Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono, a Ruto ally dismisses the succession politics saying giving Gideon the leadership baton was a ‘family issue and not of the larger Kalenjin community.’ He explains that a ceremony to officially pass the leadership mantle for the Kalenjin community is yet to be conducted.
“Ruto led the community in voting to the last man for President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2002 then in supporting opposition leader Raila Odinga in 2007 before successfully backing President Uhuru in 2013 and in 2017 hence he still has a grip of the Rift Valley,” Mr Rono says.
The MP insists that Ruto has endeared himself to the Kalenjins and has been their political leader since 2002 when the late President Moi left office.
Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, an ardent supporter of the DP says his silence is strategic. “I don’t have to insult anyone so as to be seen as being vocal. No! I have decided to change my political strategy and approach to issues,” he says.
Mr Ngunjiri admits that some his colleagues who backed DP have gone silent for fear of being targeted by the authorities.
“I have lost my firearm license and the president traveled all the way from Nairobi to my constituency to reprimand me. “Yes, some of us have been cowed in to silence but we are determined to ensure Ruto succeeds Uhuru in 2022, as early agreed upon by the Jubilee leadership,” he says.