Ruto heads to Central amid jitters over proposed dialogue with Raila

When President William Ruto, shared a light moment with other leaders during the retreat for Cabinet and Senior Ranks of the Executive at Fairmount Mt Kenya Safari Club in Laikipia County on Jan 7, 2023. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

President William Ruto will camp in Mount Kenya for five days, starting Saturday, at a time the region is restive following a secret meeting between him and and Azimio leader Raila Odinga.

According to State House insiders, the President had planned to tour Mount Kenya in September but the political anxiety triggered by his meeting with Raila forced the change of plan.

Ruto and Raila coalitions have picked five members each to spearhead the peace talks. 

The President is expected to stay at the Sagana State Lodge where he will meet governors, Members of Parliament, MCAs, the clergy and opinion leaders.

Political deal

The meeting, sources said, will seek to allay fears of a political deal with the opposition after secret talks that were facilitated by former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo at State House in Mombasa, last week.

According to a schedule released by State House, Ruto will begin his tour of the region on Saturday with a road trip from Nairobi, marked by stop-overs in Githurai and Kenol and later at Kagio Trading Centre, where he will open a water project before addressing wananchi at Baricho in Kirinyaga County. Later, he will commission the Marua-State Lodge Road.

On Sunday, the Head of State will attend an interdenominational prayer service at Sagana State Lodge. Ruto will head to Mukurweini on Monday where he will commission road construction and later launch water projects in Tetu and Othaya and end his day in Nyeri town, where he will open a bus park.

On Tuesday, he will open New Kenya Co-operative Creameries facility in Kiganjo and thereafter host Mt Kenya leaders at the Sagana State Lodge to deliberate on agriculture, infrastructure, health and education, among other sectors.

The Mt Kenya tour will come to an end on Wednesday when the President is expected to open 175-bed capacity Naromoru Level IV Hospital, launch affordable housing project in Gichugu and Thika town and launch the Karimenu dam water supply project.

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah said that the president will kick off a development tour of Mount Kenya.

“The President is visiting the region, just a week after he camped at the Coast. Anyone claiming that the President is there because of the handshake jitters is overthinking,” said Ichung’wah.

He noted that Ruto has been in Mombasa, Nakuru, and Kisii coordinating development and therefore it was turn the for Central region and he will camp at Sagana.

Jitters in Rift over PM, Ruto ‘secret’ talks

Ichung’wah revealed that Ruto will visit Kiambu, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Laikipia and Embu given that he had previously visited Murang’a, Meru and Tharaka Nithi.

Secret talks

But days after the secret talks between Ruto and Raila, a section of Mount Kenya leaders led by Council of Governors Chairperson and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru met in Runda and Karen to deliberate on the matter that has raised speculation that it could lead to a political deal that may exclude them.

A source privy to the meeting said the leaders were concerned that after campaigning for Ruto to win the 2022 General Election, the Azimilo leader was trying to find a way to join the government through a handshake.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has vehemently opposed any possible handshake with Raila and has publicly registered his displeasure with anyone habouring the idea.

In May, while in a tour of Embu County, Gachagua claimed that the Azimio leader is bothering the President for a handshake but he was a very intelligent man who will not yield to pressure to share his government.

“Our President is not a fool, he won’t bring on board the handshake people and destroy his government,” he said.

The DP, who spoke when he addressed a roadside rally in Embu town, said the former prime minister is scheming to sabotage Kenya Kwanza administration.

Opposition leader

He urged the opposition leader to reconcile with the reality that Ruto is the president after beating him in the August 9, 2022, General Election.

“That man of protests has started disturbing our President and wants a handshake, will you accept? In any case, when voters rejected the man of riddles (Raila), they knew the kind of person he is,” Gachagua said.

The DP said they have urged the Ruto to reject the political manoeuvres by the opposition saying the handshake destroyed former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.

“We have asked that man to take a walk to Bondo and leave us alone because that handshake destroyed Kenyatta’s government,” he said.

Raila has on several occasions declared that he was not interested in a handshake with the Kenya Kwanza government and has even picked Wiper leader, Kalonzo Musyoka to head the Azimio team in the talks.

The fear of the Kenya Kwanza leaders in Mt Kenya is that a political deal that embraces Raila will likely lead to the sidelining of Gachagua.