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Cracks in ruling Kenya Kwanza force Ruto to eye new alliances

Politics

In the wake of disquiet within the ruling coalition, it is now emerging that President William Ruto is keen to seek new alliances to govern his first term and at the same time, build his political muscle ahead of the 2027 general elections.

Reportedly, significant lobbying is happening behind the scenes and away from the glares of cameras, with Ruto warming towards new political pacts with governors, party leaders, Members of Parliament, and other politicians to remain strong as both a president and a candidate in the 2027 polls.

Speaking to The Standard on phone, Manyatta MP Gitonga Mukunji said the role of the president is to unite Kenyans and ensure development across the country. He added that, however, there is a political pact building behind the president’s talks with other leaders, which is likely to see many people joining him politically.

“Unlike his predecessor, the president has been working with everyone, including the opposition, to build the nation,” Mukunji said, adding, “We know it is also good for politics going forward, but we are one people as a nation. Politics should not divide us. We are a family,” 

Among those seen as new allies of Ruto are governors Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), Fernandes Barasa (Kakamega), Kawira Mwangaza (Meru), Paul Otuoma (Busia) and Wavinya Ndeti (Machakos), who have met or held several events and delegations together.

On Sunday, Barasa told an Eid al-Adha gathering in Khwisero, “In 2027, we in Kakamega must be in the coming government.” The governor, a man cut out for the boardroom in demeanor, has been gravitating towards the Ruto house.

On his part, Otuoma, elected under the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in 2022, asserts that his close relationship with the Head of State benefits Busia residents. He denied claims of being “swallowed up” by Ruto’s government in an online video published by a local media house. 

“I am working hard in Busia, and when I engage with the President, people insinuate that I have been bought. Why can’t you judge my actions?” The governor asked in a video on April 27.

MPs seen as subscribing to this arrangement include Sabina Chege, Suba South MP Caroli Omondi, Kisumu Senator Tom Ojienda, Uriri MP Mark Nyamita, Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo, and Lang’ata MP Felix Odiwuor (Jalang’o). Others are Adan Keynan (Eldas MP) and East African Legislative Assembly lawmaker Kanini Kega, who belong to Jubilee.

Ojienda, Jalang’o, Omondi, Ochanda, and Odhiambo were elected on ODM ticket and are facing expulsion following their open relationship with Ruto, who has hosted them at State House several times and also attended their grassroots events

On February 4, 2024, opposition leader Raila Odinga urged Lang’ata MP popularly known as Jalang’o, and other ODM party rebels to resign if they wished to collaborate with the Kenya Kwanza administration. The ODM leader stated that lawmakers wanting to work closely with the government should not remain in Parliament under the ODM ticket.

During an ODM recruitment drive in Nairobi, Raila said he had already contacted Jalang’o and his colleagues, encouraging them to seek a fresh mandate from voters under UDA ticket if they are confident in their positions. “We have agreed that all those elected as MPs in our parties have a term of five years. If you want to leave ODM and join UDA, then leave Parliament and return to the people to be re-elected under UDA,” Raila said.

Political scientist Mutahi Ngunyi who associated with Azimio in the last election has also moved on. “Mountain Kikuyus are uniting to remove Ruto in 2027. Nothing more. Nothing less. This is a foolish suicide scheme revealed too early. I am a valley Kikuyu, and I will lead the rebellion against GEMA unity. Kikuyus are different. Valley Kikuyus will not be used by Mountain Kikuyus.” Mutahi said in a recent post on social media.

This is happening as differences between Ruto and his deputy, Rigathi Gachagua, grow deeper amid factions within the ruling Kenya Kwanza coalition.

“Mimi naomba watu wa bonde la ufa, tafadhali, sisi tuliunga Rais mkono kwa hiari yetu na kwa kupenda na tunaendelea kumuunga mkono. Tunaomba heshima kidogo, msijaribu kutupangia siasa ya Mlima Kenya (Let me request you people of Rift Valley, we as the mountain voted for Ruto out of choice, we only seek a bit of respect, don’t try to run Mt Kenya politics for us)” Gachagua said during a fundraising event for a women’s empowerment programme in Kesses, Uasin Gishu.

Both political pundits and politicians believe that Mt Kenya, which voted for Ruto, is not guaranteed in the 2027 elections following the Limuru 3 declaration, where they promised to field a presidential candidate. That declaration has not been taken lightly by Ruto - he is today seeking for votes in new areas.

The Azimio la Umoja - One Kenya Coalition, including the ODM party, Wiper, and a faction of Jubilee, have repeatedly accused the Kenya Kwanza government of lobbying and enticing opposition MPs to back government projects, even when they are flawed.

Political analyst Macharia Munene told The Standard that it was normal for politicians to tilt their allegiance towards the incumbent. He argued that coalitions are ephemeral. “If they win, they start fighting for what they have. If they fail, they start blaming each other,” Macharia said. He added, “When you have someone going around the President and being annoying, you will definitely have to look for a plan B.”

Speaking to The Standard, Sabina said Ruto was consolidating votes as he sought new alliances to build a stronger political vehicle to run the country and contest in the 2027 general elections. “It’s normal to bring new people on board when you are in politics, and now that he is the president, he is building his political muscle to remain stronger,” she said.

The president, who now has a political pact with Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi ahead of the 2027 elections as well as a handshake with opposition leader Raila Odinga for the AU Commission Chair job, is capitalising on the opportunity to make new allies in the opposition stronghold.

Sabina said Jubilee will remain intact and will look for new alliances to work with. “Our party is intact. We are sorting out the issues. It will remain independent after things fall into place,” she said adding that she is looking forward to a united nation, calling on Parliament to respect Kenyans and serve them as leaders.

“We have a great nation. We need to think about the ordinary Mwananchi without fighting. We must be sensitive to things affecting our people,” she said. 

President Ruto has pushed for smaller parties to dissolve their outfits and join UDA “It is my wish to have a strong political party with a national outlook that is headed by one party leader, one secretary general, and a chairman representing the face of the country,” the president reportedly told the parties at State House event in March.

Political historian Macharia Munene said “The mountain is disgruntled and unhappy with Gachagua and Ruto. Gachagua is fighting to remain relevant to the mountain. New alliances are a sign that politicians are fighting for positions and survival”.

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