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Has President Uhuru Kenyatta betrayed the Rift Valley?

The national conversation is about empowerment of millions of citizens-Ruto [Courtesy]

The first year of his second term has been full of events that have brought the question of whether he has betrayed Rift Valley. The former province played a huge part in his re-election, coming out in large numbers to vote for him and Deputy President William Ruto.

The issue of whether the House of Mumbi should support Ruto in 2022 should not be up for negotiation.

The UhuruRuto power pact saw the Deputy President and his allies in Rift Valley lead the community to abandon the opposition and support Uhuru's election in 2013 and 2017 on the promise of reciprocation in 2022. However, this seems not to be the case with events such as the handshake, referendum calls and Mt Kenya leaders declaring they do not owe the Rift Valley community anything.

The unity deal between Uhuru and opposition chief Raila Odinga caught many by surprise, especially the Rift Valley leaders who thought the opposition was no longer a threat. They now have more questions than answers on whether Ruto's 2022 ambition will disappear between the cracks of the handshake or if it will be strengthened. Fear of the unknown is thus rife in Ruto's backyard and President Uhuru is not speaking up to clear the worries surrounding Ruto's political survival.

As much as Ruto has claimed that the handshake is only to unite Kenyans, Rift Vallley MPs do not share his sentiments as they claim UhuRuto's deal has been violated.

"The national conversation won't be about leaders, elections, and power. It will now be about empowerment of millions of citizens," Ruto earlier said.

This has turned out not to be the case, with Raila saying among the discussions they had with Uhuru during the handshake was constitutional change.

"We agreed with the President that as soon as the Building Bridges task force finishes collecting views across the country, the buck will stop with the people through another vote to address the longstanding issues in the country," Raila said.

The handshake between Uhuru and Raila [Courtesy]

Among the changes that are speculated is the creation of the Prime Minister position, a position that could kill the Rift Valley's dream of having their own as President. The DP's Rift Valley allies have also come out strongly to oppose the push for constitutional change that could create the premier's position. Ruto is Kenyatta's heir apparent and he is unflinchingly focused and has trained his eye on the presidency and any proposals for the Constitution change are a distraction.

The disappointment and outcry by Rift Valley leaders is evident. South Rift legislators walked out on President Uhuru Kenyatta when he toured Bomet University College recently. The leaders said the top Jubilee Party leadership ignored their presence and deliberately failed to recognise them at the event. They added that the decision to ignore their presence was in bad faith.

Leaders from Mt Kenya have also noted that the Kikuyu Community does not owe Ruto anything. Speaking to local media on August 21, 2018, Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi said that 2022 voting will not be based on paying political debts but on the nature of services a leader has delivered.

"Kenyans have moved away from such parameters and will no longer be made to vote on debt lines or pay supposed political debts," Wamatangi said.

When Jubilee and URP announced their joint ticket in 2012, candidates Uhuru and Ruto made it clear that theirs was a 20-year agreement. Ruto would take over from Uhuru. The President's backyard should have recorded their concerns at that time. Instead, they happily harvested the dividends that this promise brought. This message was restated several times prior to the 2017 elections. None of the "No Debt owed to Ruto" coalition opposed this arrangement before the elections.

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