How Ruto has silenced political rebels in his Rift Valley backyard

President William Ruto, former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto and former Bomet Central MP Ronald Tanui at a past event. [File, Standard]

Unlike in the Mount Kenya region where President William Ruto’s administration has experienced a political rebellion, the Rift Valley has remained solidly behind Kenya Kwanza.

This is after the president managed to ring-fence his support from the region that introduced him to national politics in the 1990s.

Save for a few instances of political bickering and sibling rivalry among his troops, the president has managed to silence nearly all his critics in the region.

Most of them did not support his presidential bid and were vocal about their discontent with his leadership.

But as the president trudges on with his presidency, the tactics he has employed alongside his most trusted allies have forced his critics to take a backseat.

Some of his critics have either been silenced with government appointments or disappeared into political oblivion after losing in the last General Election.

In the South Rift region, former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, who was the fiercest critic and a long-time political nemesis of the President, went silent after being appointed as a member of the Judicial Service Commission for a five-year term.

The Chama Cha Mashinani party leader has completely fallen off the country’s political radar and focused on his new mandate.

Another key critic of the President from the South Rift, former Nakuru governor Lee Kinyanjui, went silent after losing the governorship seat to Susan Kihika.

Kinyanjui has resorted to occasionally posting cryptic messages on social media on the performance of Kenya Kwanza government.

Recently, he appeared at a burial of a prominent Nakuru businessman where he and a section of elected Nakuru leaders attacked the Kihika administration over its decision to forcibly take over the War Memorial Hospital following disagreement over a lease of the 25-acre land on which the hospital stands.

Analysts observe that it will be difficult for any political leader from the region to go against the President.

“It is the view by the majority of the people in the region, including their leaders, to rally behind President Ruto. This is informed by the thinking that it is another chance for the community to enjoy power,” observes Gitile Naituli, a professor of management and leadership.

Naituli further observes that it would be foolhardy for any ambitious politician in the region to try and disrupt the political order in the region this early.

“They have to toe the line, and support the president or just stay silent until the right time comes. Maybe towards the next general election and thereabout,” he says.

In the North Rift region, the branded rebels included former Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter, Silas Tiren (Moiben) and Joshua Kuttuny (Cherangany).

Former Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos, former Kesses MP Swarrup Mishra and former Ambassador Stephen Tarus also broke ranks with him and instead backed then President Uhuru Kenyatta’s side of the Jubilee administration at a time they were at loggerheads with then DP Ruto. 

Kuttuny is now the chairman of the Kenya Copyright Board and is full of praises for Ruto’s administration.

“The government is making strides in the right direction. It has managed to lower food prices, business is catching up and investment growing after impacts of Covid-19, political campaign period, and prolonged droughts,” he said.

Kuttuny added: “President Ruto brought on board the Jubilee Party, including us, to the government among other parties. This has helped ease pressure and brought harmony to the country. Raila is being brought in through the President’s support for his bid for African Union (AU) post and this builds bridges.”

Positive criticism 

He also said there has been positive criticism that is putting the government to task.

Tolgos, on his part, said, unlike Uhuru who was silent, Ruto is a strong politician and one may not know the tact he has used to manage any revolt. 

But the former governor said noise is not a revolt but an effort to put government in check.

“Criticism does not mean you do not support government. If leaders remain quiet, it means they have left everything to the President. They need to come out and check; even President Ruto has once stated that some of the members of his Cabinet do not know their work,” Tolgos said.

Tarus, who was Azimio’s pointman in Nandi, said he believes Ruto’s regime is still on the wrong path.

“They have failed even to stick to its manifesto, hefty taxes raiding people’s pockets and soon, leaders will come out championing citizen’s rights,” he said. 

He puts the government’s scorecard at 30 per cent.

In a recent interview, Keter claimed that he will continue to agitate for the citizens’ rights and accused Ruto’s administration of failing to manage the high cost of living.

He said Ruto’s administration is not committed to implementing its campaign pledges. “Kenya Kwanza leaders used propaganda to propel themselves into government, but they have no plan to implement what they pledged,” he said.

Keter said he would soon mobilise ‘like-minded leaders’ to press for good representation and oversight from the current administration.

He accused some current leaders of allegedly failing in their oversight, representation, and legislative roles.

“I am not about to change and I have no apologies to make. Unless you say it as it is, many people will suffer. This country needs prayers as the cost of living hits high levels,” said Keter.

On Thursday, the president received a heroic welcome in Kericho as he embarked on a development tour of the region.

However, during the visit, Governor Erick Mutai was subjected to boos by residents over claims he has failed to live up to the Kenya Kwanza dream by implementing development.

[Additional reporting by Steven Mkawale and Nikko Tanui]