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Payback time: Mt Kenya's expectations from William Ruto

President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua (right) pose for a photo with their spouses Rachel Ruto and Dorcas Rigathi, respectively, at Kasarani on September 13, 2022. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

A tabulation of the results of the August 9 presidential elections shows how important Mt Kenya region was to William Ruto’s win.

The UDA presidential candidate polled 3.5 million votes in the region, almost double the 1.9 million he got in his Rift Valley backyard.

Dr Ruto received 7,176,141 (50.49 per cent) of the votes, narrowly beating his rival, Raila Odinga, who managed 6,942,930 votes (48.85 per cent).

The two other candidates, Roots Party George Wajackoyah and David Waihiga of Agano Party, had a combined 0.6 per cent or 93,956 votes.

A keener look at the Ruto numbers reveal interesting details.

In the Mt Kenya counties of Meru, Embu, Tharaka Nithi, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Murang’a, Kiambu and Nyandarua, Ruto had 2,219,715 votes.

He also managed another 455,864 votes in Nakuru, 119,142 in Laikipia, 148,310 in Narok, 148,449 in Kajiado and 562,775 in Nairobi.  

It is those figures that are being used to claim that Mt Kenya may have given the president up to 3.5 million, dwarfing 1,678,142 million that the President received from his main backyard in Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi, Kericho, Bomet, Baringo, West Pokot, Samburu and Turkana counties.

Top four counties

The 630,282 votes that Ruto polled in Western Kenya counties of Busia, Kakamega, Bungoma, Vihiga and its diaspora in Trans Nzoia is almost a sixth of the Mt Kenya votes.

The Central Kenya figures are a statement on how the region turned the tide in favour of Dr Ruto and probably an expression of the expectations the region has from the so-called hustler government.

Dr Ruto himself on Sunday, at a thanksgiving prayers in Maua, Meru county, recognised Mt Kenya’s contribution to his vote basket, saying Nairobi, Kiambu, Nakuru and Meru were the top four counties that gave him statement votes.

Other than Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, Mt Kenya has already benefited from the position of Deputy Speaker of Senate Kathuri Murungi (Meru senator) and several others are looking forward to prominent positioning in the Ruto administration.

They include Kithure Kindiki, the former Tharaka Nithi senator, former National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and United UDA Meru gubernatorial unsuccessful candidate Mithika Linturi.

Rewarding allies

Prof Kindiki was long promised a top position in Ruto government since he was persuaded not to oppose Muthomi Njuki in his gubernatorial reelection bid.

Other Mt Kenya leaders eyeing top positions include former Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and economist David Ndii.

Also expected to benefit are those who joined Ruto’s camp after election like former Meru governor, Kiraitu Murungi and his Devolution Empowerment Party leadership, and Kenya Kwanza alliance partners such as Mwangi Kiunjuri’s The Service Party of Kenya, the Democratic Party (DP) and Farmers Party.

Will it be difficult for Dr Ruto to manage the Mt Kenya expectations?

President William Ruto signs a certificate during his inauguration at Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi County. [DPPS]

No, says political commentator Prof Gitile Naituli of the Multi Media University.

“Mt Kenya people have tasted the presidency thrice and they know there is no much magic in those senior appointments. Rather, they realise it is the policy of the government that matters,” says Prof Naituli.

He argues that the region will not give much thought to who is picked as long as their economy is safe and the promises on supporting trade and agriculture are delivered.

“The Mt Kenya population is self-reliant and hardworking and only need a working economy so that they can take care of their welfare and destiny,” he argues.

He advises Ruto to hire competent people who can deliver his promises if he is to ring-fence his votes in a region that has shown loyalty.

The chairman of the Federation of Evangelical and Indigenous Churches of Kenya Bishop Samuel Njiriri party agrees, saying the hold of Ruto’s government in the region will mainly depend on how he delivers promises to empower farmers, traders and the youth.

“We have high expectation after contributing 48 per cent of his vote as a region, but we are also confident that this is a man who cannot forget his promises,” he says.

The pressure for the President to deliver and especially complete the ongoing projects in the region will also be immense.

Mr Kiunjuri acknowledges the enormity of the task facing Ruto in crafting his new government.

“It will no doubt be a delicate balancing act - a tough act that takes care of not only the 39 counties where the new president received over 25 per cent of the vote but every corner of the country,” says the Laikipia East MP and former Cabinet Secretary.

Dr Ruto’s allies say he has already demonstrated his will to keep his promises so far, citing the election of Moses Wetang’ula and former Kilifi governor Amason Kingi as the National Assembly and Senate Speakers respectively.

President William Ruto's motorcade snakes along Ngong Road ahead of his inauguration at Kasarani Stadium on September 13. [Stafford Ondego, Standard] 

“In the run-up to the parliamentary elections, Kingi’s election was facing considerable setbacks with at least one senior parliamentarian and UDA insider being propped by some quarters until the President-elect vetoed what would have been the first betrayal,” says a UDA insider.

It is also expected that ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi will be taking over the Chief Cabinet Secretary post as per the Kenya Kwanza agreement despite a poor showing in his Vihiga and Kakamega backyard.

Lowering expectations

Political commentator Edward Kisiangani, however, says there is need to temper expectations with reality. He says the last thing the new government would do is compromise competence to reward loyalty, and that leaders understand it is about the national cake.

According to Prof Kisiangani, even Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula should lower expectations on the promises made before the elections. The Kenya Kwanza MoU stated the two leaders and their parties would get 30 per cent of government positions.

“Did they deliver? When it comes to Western, only Bungoma gave us a shot in the arm. Can you talk about Busia? Ruto is a gentleman and he will give them the seats he promised individually. But on Cabinet slots how do you give western seven seats when they failed to deliver and you have a whole country to consider?” he says.

At the end of the day, he argues, it is a delicate balancing act that should see service delivery prioritised, loyalties and effort rewarded.

There are murmurs that Mt Kenya East counties of Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Embu will each get a Cabinet slot, with the most likely beneficiaries being Mr Linturi, Prof Kindiki and Mr Muturi.