Ruto stirs the Rift Valley again with talk of forming new party

Deputy President William Ruto (C), Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto (L) and Bomet Central MP Ronald Tanui during a fundraising for Joyful Women Organisation (JOYWO) Fundraising in Bomet. [PHOTO/DPPS]

Latest political moves by Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto and a section of United Republican Party (URP) leaders point to a well orchestrated scheme to wrestle the South Rift region from Deputy President William Ruto’s grip.

Before last week’s announcement that he is shopping for a political party, Governor Ruto had been traversing Narok, Bomet, Kericho and Narok counties, mostly occupied by the populous Kipsigis community, to the chagrin of his political opponents.

During a fundraiser at Emurwa Dikirr in Narok County, also attended by Senators Gideon Moi (Baringo) and Stephen Ntutu (Narok), Ruto indicated a departure from URP.

The meeting was followed by a series of consultative meetings with the Kipsigis Council of Elders and former civic leaders drawn from counties in the South Rift region in his rural home.

Former Bomet Mayor David ‘Socrates’ Sang, who attended one of the meetings, said the governor was keen to win support of leaders from Narok, Kericho and Nakuru counties who have fallen out with the DP.

Frequent visits

“Narok leaders, popularly known as the Muthaiga Five, have fallen out with the DP and it was no coincidence that the governor chose to make the declaration in Emurwa Dikirr in the presence of two of these five leaders,” observed Sang.

The five are Senator Ntutu and MPs Johana Ngeno (Emurwa Dikirr), Korei Lemein (Narok South), Patrick Ntutu (Narok West) and Moitalel ole Kenta (Narok North).

Former Bomet County Council Chairman John Kalya says the governor’s frequent visits to Nakuru and Narok counties are part of his strategy to win the Kipsigis support base.

“Ruto is reaching out to leaders in all these counties, which means he has decided to leave URP all together. He wants to rope in Zakayo Cheruiyot in Nakuru County, the Muthaiga Five in Narok and Governor Paul Chepkwony in Kericho,” opines Kalya.

Although Governor Ruto maintains that he is acting based on the move to dissolve URP and have members join the newly formed Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP), some say the governor and other ‘rebel’ URP leaders are keen to wrestle the South Rift region from the tight grip of the Deputy President.

“Governor Ruto is not working alone. There is a bigger picture here that involves Kanu and other like-minded politicians, especially those from the Maasai and Kipsigis communities who feel like they have been isolated yet they played a big role in the election of the Jubilee government,” observes Jonathan Rono, an official of URP in Nakuru County.

Rono, an ally of the governor, says the ‘rebel’ URP leaders working with Kanu officials have reduced the Deputy President to ‘a firefighter’ in the region.

“The DP’s irritation confirms the narrative of intolerance Governor Ruto has sought to portray of him – that he is intolerant of dissenting views and therefore unfit to lead. With such bickering in his backyard, questions are raised over how much he will be able to deliver in 2017,” adds Rono.

But the URP leadership is downplaying the damage being made by Governor Ruto and other URP ‘rebels’ in the South Rift region.

Party secretary general Fred Muteti dismisses the governor as ‘irrelevant’ and a non-starter, saying the South Rift region and the Rift Valley in general is solidly behind the Deputy President.

Cheap publicity

“Governor Ruto is simply a noisemaker seeking cheap publicity by attacking the Deputy President at the slightest opportunity,” says Muteti.

Muteti dared the governor to write to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the Registrar of Political Parties - officially announcing his exit from URP.

“If he does that, we (URP) will prove how irrelevant he is in the politics of the Rift Valley. Governor Ruto has nothing to offer besides attacking the Deputy President unnecessarily,” the official says.

Those opposed to Ruto’s manoeuvres say the governor will fail and face the same fate that befell former Roads Minister Franklin Bett and the late powerful minister Kipkalya Kones.

Bomet East MP Bernard Bett and his Bomet Central counterpart Ronald Tonui say Governor Ruto will be swept into political oblivion in 2017 if he continues opposing the DP.

“When he was shouted down during the DP’s last visit to Bomet, the governor should have learnt his lesson, or else he will learn the bitter truth in 2017,” says Tonui.

National Assembly Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso, who has declared her intention to contest against Governor Ruto in the next General Election, has also scoffed at Governor Ruto’s alleged plans to form a political party, saying it was committing “political suicide”.

Laboso has advised the governor to look into history and learn from leaders in the region who have gone against the wishes of the people and learn from that.

“Ruto should look into history and the voting pattern in the Rift Valley and learn from that. Look at what happened to politicians like the late Kipkalya Kones, who was king of Kipsigis politics and see what happened to him in 2002 when he went against the ODM wave. The late Kones had a lot more political clout than Ruto but was swept aside by the wave,” she said.

The Sotik MP said the Kalenjin community was firmly behind the Deputy President and supports the formation of JAP.

Kericho senator Charles keter said that he wished Bomet governor well in his endeavour but regretted that his (Ruto’s) move was a futile one.

“He (Ruto) is not going to make any impact in the South Rift which is currently behind JAP, but it is his democratic right to do as he wishes to,” said Keter.