Recent events in the ruling Jubilee Party have rattled the political order in Rift Valley as Kanu prepares to reap from its newly formed coalition with Jubilee.
Since 2013, the unlikely political partnership of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto has kept the region firmly behind Ruto who until recently appeared to be the front-runner in the race to succeed President Kenyatta.
That arrangement now appears to be falling apart and it is highly likely that Kenyatta and his supporters will renege on their promise to support Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid.
President Kenyatta’s decision to enter into a post-election pact with Kanu, which is headed by Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, has renewed political rivalry between Gideon and Ruto.
Leadership for Kalenjins
Gideon’s man, West Pokot Senator Samuel Poghisio, is the new Senate Majority leader after replacing Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen - a political ally of the deputy president.
The newfound political arrangement may shake things up a bit more with a now emboldened Kanu chairman, according to Herman Manyora, a University of Nairobi lecturer and a commentator on political affairs.
“Kalenjins in the Rift Valley overwhelmingly supported Uhuru both in 2013 and 2017 largely with the understanding that voters in Mount Kenya would return the favour for Ruto in 2022. Now, that seems to have changed and the Rift Valley is likely to react,” Prof Manyora said.
He says that Gideon is likely to capitalise on the new political arrangement and move to seize a chunk of the Rift Valley voting bloc ahead of 2022, while Ruto must go back to the drawing board.
“The deal here is simple: offer Gideon as an alternative leadership for Kalenjins and at the same time weaken Ruto. That way, Kalenjins will not feel left out of the next government,” he said.
He added: “There’s definitely going to be heightened political activity in the region ahead of 2022 and Gideon will be a key player in this. Those underrating him should be prepared for a surprise.
On options the deputy president has, Manyora said Ruto should either resign or seek reconciliation with Uhuru and complete his term.
Gideon and his Kanu brigade have for long been scheming how to wrestle the Rift Valley voting bloc from Ruto’s grip.
On February 12, during the burial of his father Daniel arap Moi, the symbolic anointing of Gideon as a political leader of the Moi family served as a checkmate against Ruto.
Members of Moi’s Chepkeres clan handed over a baton to Rongai MP Raymond Moi, who swiftly passed it to his younger brother, Gideon.
The baton, synonymous with Moi during his quarter century tenure as Head of State, was a symbol of power and authority.
The fervent support Gideon has received from former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli, is a clear indication of a wider political scheme at play.
In the Rift Valley, Gideon has managed to reach out to politicians who have in the past politically fallen out with the deputy president.
His close working relationship with the likes of Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos, Moiben MP Sila Tiren, Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany MP), former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, businessman Bundotich Buzeki, former MPs Musa Sirma, Zakayo Cheruiyot and Franklin Bett, has fuelled speculation about his ambition to succeed Kenyatta.
Tiaty MP William Kamket is upbeat that Kanu is gaining control of Rift Valley politics. “What we have now is a Jubilee coalition with Kanu as a strong partner. Senator Gideon is now a key pillar in the current arrangement,” he said.