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William Ruto, Rigathi Gachagua go all out to win 'difficult' areas in Mount Kenya

Deputy President William Ruto in Meru town. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua have set their sights on specific areas in Mt Kenya in the last days of campaigns.

In a strategy to paint Mt Kenya region ‘yellow’, the two have been wooing voters to only vote for UDA candidates.

The move is seen as a plot by Gachagua to gain impetus, should he ascend to the second most powerful office, and influence to push for development projects in Mt Kenya region.

In Nyeri, Gachagua has given Kieni constituency special focus seeking to frustrate Jubilee Director of Elections Kanini Kega’s clamour for a third term.

Kega enjoys the ear of President Uhuru Kenyatta and has put up a spirited fight to campaign for Azimio candidate Raila Odinga, a move that has rubbed Gachagua the wrong way.

“Ci Mucii itiri ukabi, (A good thing at home is better than a good thing far away). I am a son of Mt Kenya region and Kega should not be opposing me,” Gachagua told Kiawara residents on June 29 as he mobilised UDA supporters to comb through Kieni.

Gachagua spent the better part of his day crisscrossing Kieni, campaigning for UDA candidate Njoroge Wainaina, Kega’s main challenger.

Wainaina alias ‘Chieni’ has received a boost from Gachagua and Ruto in campaigns.

Kega and Wainaina are flexing their muscles on who has the resources even as the UDA brigade continues to camp in the constituency to drum up support for its candidate.

Gachagua returned to the constituency yesterday with stops at Chaka and Mweiga.

“Kega enjoys support from the locals despite vying on a Jubilee party but the constant presence of our party leaders in Kieni is slowly changing the ground albeit gradually,” a UDA Nyeri strategist who did not want to be named told The Standard.

On July 22, Gachagua, accompanied by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and a host of UDA leaders, met about 2,000 Kieni residents at Nyeri’s UDA regional offices and rallied them to root for the UDA candidate.

While convincing them to reject Kega at the ballot, Gachagua promised to reward the two aspirants who lost during the UDA party primaries with plum jobs at the deputy president’s office if Kenya Kwanza will be elected.

“John Kariuki alias Choro Mai will work in the office of the Deputy President while Alex Kamau Wachira will work with William Ruto in the office of the President. I urge you to overwhelmingly vote for Wainaina,” Gachagua said.

Gachagua told the delegates that there was no difference between ODM and Jubilee, and marshaled locals to reject all candidates who are vying under Azimio.

“Jubilee has been swallowed by ODM and both are in Azimio. Don’t vote for Azimio candidates but UDA to give me political strength,” Gachagua said.

He also said he was a better choice compared to his competitor, Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua, claiming he understands the plight of Mt Kenya residents better.

Muturi said Mt Kenya region was fully behind Gachagua, saying he had demystified the ‘iron lady’  Karua during the deputy presidential debate.

Starehe MP Charles Kanyi alias Jaguar said: “Even if we elect the Kenya Kwanza government and we don’t give Gachagua foot soldiers, we shall have a less powerful deputy president and our issues may not be looked at.”

On Wednesday, Gachagua and Ruto were back in Kieni where they pleaded with locals to vote for Wainaina and all the UDA candidates. After the rally, Gachagua was back in the area on Friday where he visited two stations both Chaka and in Mweiga.

Other than Kieni, Gachagua made stops at Kiamariga and Gatura in Mathira and had one stop at Nyeri town, Tetu, Othaya and Mukurweini constituencies.

Despite Ruto’s statements sometimes last year that he was the region’s kingpin and that anyone who wished to understand the region could only go through him, two constituencies in Embu and Meru counties are witnessing stiff competition between his party and other Kenya Kwanza affiliates.

The crowded Embu senatorial race has attracted bigwigs who include Governor Martin Wambora, vying through his political outfit Umoja Na Maendeleo, his deputy David Kariuki of UDA. Senator Njeru Ndwiga and former fiery MP Norman Nyaga are vying as independent candidates after losing in UDA primaries.

Democratic Party, a member of Kenya Kwanza coalition, also has a candidate, Alexander Mundigi.

UDA is also facing an onslaught in Mbeere South and Mbeere North constituencies pitting UDA’s Genesio Mugo against former MP Mutava Musyimi (Jubilee) and Nephat Muriuki in Mbeere South and Muriuki Njagagua (UDA) against Geoffrey Kiringa (Democratic Party) in Mbeere North.

In Meru County, it is a do or die contest between Kiraitu who is seeking re election through his Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP) against UDA’s Mithika Linturi and woman representative Kawira Mwangaza on an independent ticket.

Keen on capturing the seat from Kiraitu, Ruto and Gachagua have literally camped in the county to boost Linturi’s chances.

Whisked to safety

After visiting five times in two months, the two leaders also have a keen interest in Igembe North and North Imenti. 

Incumbents Rahim Dawood (North Imenti) on an independent ticket and National Assembly Chief Whip Maoka Maore (Igembe North) defending on a Jubilee ticket are seen as far ahead of UDA challengers.

On July 13, Gachagua was whisked to safety in Igembe North after chaos erupted in a rally he had organised to drum up support for his candidates.

In Muranga, Jubilee Party is projecting to bag Mathioya, Kangema and Kigumo constituencies but Gachagua and Ruto aware of the game, have separately and regularly invaded the areas to seek political support for their allies.

On Wednesday, Ruto , Gachagua and local leaders visited Kigumo where area MP Wangari Mwaniki is against UDA’s Joseph Munyoro’s.

Last Month, Gachagua camped in Mathioya where he rallied locals to vote for Edwin Mugo.

Mugo is facing area MP Peter Kimari (Jubilee) and Johnstone Kihato and former MP Clement Muchiri Wambugu who are vying as independent candidates.

Lack of finances and relaxing after bagging UDA party certificates are among the key factors that have seen UDA candidates lag behind in opinion polls, but Azimio insiders claim the Martha Karua effect has contributed immensely to this.

“Our people are now wise, they have opened their eyes and that is why UDA is losing popularity on a daily basis,” John Mwangi a Mathioya resident and supporters of the President said.

But UDA supporters believe even those in Jubilee or other parties and are popular than UDA or affiliate parties were only popular because of their own strategy and not the party’s efforts.

“Even if you were to remove about five to seven constituencies, UDA is still the party to beat in Mt Kenya region. We will still have the majority in all Houses, from the county assemblies to Parliament,” Esther Irungu noted.