By Edwin Cheserek and Vincent Bartoo
If the political alliance between Prime minister Raila Odinga and Agriculture minister William Ruto was on the rocks then this weekend it sank beyond salvage, save for a miracle.
A day after Raila stomped through his Eldoret North constituency, to an unexpected welcome by a huge crowd given the Ruto-led boycott by several Rift Valley MPs, the minister was on Sunday in a fighting mood, declaring he was ready to face the PM in the 2012 presidential election.
"I am not afraid of anybody because he (Raila) is a man just like me. We will see each other at the ballot box," he said in his Kalenjin dialect. Agriculture Minister William Ruto. A day after Prime Minister Raila Odinga stormed his Eldoret North constituency declared he was ready to face the PM in the 2012 presidential election. Photo: Peter Ochieng’/Standard
Agriculture Minister William Ruto. A day after Prime Minister Raila Odinga stormed his Eldoret North constituency declared he was ready to face the PM in the 2012 presidential election. Photo: Peter Ochieng’/Standard
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He described Raila as ungrateful leader who after accepting his victory was stolen did not intervene on behalf of youths who protested against the results and were arrested.
"I told you last time that this man is not a straightforward and trustworthy person," he went on.
"Now that everybody knows that I am the leader of the ‘No’ campaign (on proposed constitution), people will want to know if I will change my stand. But I will campaign against the draft even if it means going it alone," said Ruto who added the outcome of the referendum will determine who between him and Raila is popular.
Ruto chose to downplay the psychological boost Raila’s visit could have handed those who still believe it is too early to write off the PM in Rift Valley, by declaring its influence insignificant and the ripple effect as unfelt.
Speaking in Turbo, the heartland of his constituency, Ruto declared he would fight the Proposed Constitution, whose ‘Yes’ vote the PM is leading in their Orange party, to the end even if it means he will be the last man left standing.
Ruto spoke as claims swept through Orange Democratic Movement that it was because of his betrayal in Naivasha that the party lost its bid for a three-tier type of government as a check against a powerful pure presidential system.
(Read separate story page 7)
After Ruto spoke, and going by Raila’s own harsh words against Ruto it was clear the falling out precipitated by the PM’s stand on handling of post-election suspects, Mau Forest evictions, the reversed suspension of Ruto from Cabinet and now the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ split, their alliance could be dead in the water.
It has not helped matters that Ruto appeared to seek refuge in a new tribal alliance — anchored by Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka — at the expense of ODM which prided itself as being in the league of America’s Democratic Party and South Africa’s apartheid crusher, ANC.
Two statements in Raila’s speech, the day before in Eldoret when the struck a reconciliatory tone, let out what he could be holding back from the public but is raging deep inside.
Buoyed and elated by the crowd despite the absence of many Rift MPs, he borrowed from his bank of figurative and analogous speeches: "This is a big sign. I can see clouds gathering and it is a sign rain will fall. Whoever has eyes should see and whoever has ears should hear."
Then in what could rekindle memories of his threat to reshuffle the ODM side of the Cabinet when President Kibaki reversed his suspension of Ruto he said: "There is a wind blowing and is going to sweep all garbage and take it to the sea."
But speaking in Bosiebor Anglican Church the Agriculture minister asked; "What was he (Raila) looking for? Does he have anything of his here? It does not add value."
Ruto spoke as his allies, mainly first-term MPs from Rift Valley, declared they were in the ‘No’ side, not because they were convinced it is the winning side, but to ensure they go down in history as having apposed the Draft Constitution.
Ruto, however, made no mention of the broadside delivered against him by Cabinet ministers Henry Kosgey and Dr Sally Kosgei, and the horde of Rift MPs who chose to accompany Raila.
They included Assistant minister Josphat Nanok (Turkana South) Musa Sirma (Nominated), Magerer Langat (Kipkelion), Julius Murgor (Kapenguria) and Wilson Litole (Sigor).
These included Dr Sally Kosgei’s advice to ODM supporters in North Rift on Saturday: "Claims the Prime Minister has lost popularity in the region are just misconceptions and lies peddled by those who want to lead you out of ODM."
She added: "ODM is not dead in Rift Valley. It is still strong. If there is someone leading you out of ODM, he has lost direction. He is going nowhere."
"I am here because the Pokot are solely behind the PM and they have sent us here to say ‘Yes’," said Litole.
Mr Kosgey who is the Industrialisation Minister, said those opposing the Draft in the province were taking locals for a ride.
"But we are not fools. They are the same people who did not oppose the draft when it came to Parliament for passing and they are now purporting to oppose it," he said.
He added: "We sent them there to champion our interests. But they came out of Naivasha saying they had a deal yet the draft did not have majimbo (Devolution)."
Nanok asked where the ‘dume’ (bull) of the homestead was and posed: "Why are some of our children choosing to stay outside ODM when there is a lot of cold out there and jackals?"
In response, Ruto’s confidants Mr Joshua Kuttuny (Cheragany) and Dr Julius Kones (Konoin), boasted they were not bothered by the final outcome of the referendum but want it remembered they warned Kenyans that the document was wrong.
"Ruto has not been abandoned by anybody. This has given him an opportunity to prove to Kenyans he is a principled man who takes a position and stands by it," claimed Kuttuny.
He added: "The draft as it is will be a recipe for chaos on land and issues that Christians are pointing out. It is better we stand against it to the end but history will prove us right."
Kones argued: "This is a campaign by people who don’t believe in cosmetic reforms. It is not for people who are driven by foreign interests. The ‘No’ campaign is for stability and genuine homegrown solutions."