Former ruling party Kanu and Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) seem to be slowly taking control of the Rift Valley politics ahead of the 2022 General Election.
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Led by Baringo Senator Gideon Moi and former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, respectively, the two parties have deployed troops to the South Rift counties to rally the region behind President Uhuru Kenyatta and to try and tame the influence of Deputy President William Ruto.
Lieutenants of the two politicians, who recently formalised cooperation agreements with the ruling Jubilee Party, have hit the ground running to solidify the region, which for long has been considered Ruto’s bastion.
In Kericho and Nakuru counties, former allies of the deputy president have already jumped ship.
In Nakuru County, Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria and his Nakuru Town West counterpart Samuel Arama have denounced the DP and pledged to support the president.
The duo told Sunday Standard yesterday that they made a decision to “complete the journey with President Kenyatta,” saying it was no longer prudent to continue supporting Ruto’s 2022 bid.
“The entire country is behind President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga and our constituents want us to join them in uniting Kenya. Why should we think otherwise,” Arama posed.
Gikaria said he has severed links with the DP and that his willingness to support Kenyatta’s development agenda is informed by the need to have a united country.
“None has manipulated or coerced me into changing my political stand. My support for Uhuru is by choice and not forced as some people are claiming,” he said.
A number of elected leaders who have been backing Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid are quietly shifting their political allegiance.
Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, a close ally of Kenyatta, said the decision by the leaders to support the president would speed up his reform agenda.
“The realisation that the challenges facing the nation are greater than our political groupings and ambitions is a timely lesson that should be emulated,” Kinyanjui said. “The need to learn from the mistakes of yesteryears and work towards a better tomorrow is wisdom per excellence.”
In Kericho County, a section of the Kipsigis and Talai clan elders backed the cooperation with Kenyatta’s Jubilee.
The group of elders formerly aligned to the deputy president seems to have changed tune and thrown its weight behind the president.
Although they never referred to the deputy president throughout their statement that backed Kenyatta’s purge in the ruling party, it was evident that they were ready to chart a different political path away from the DP.
Firmly behind president
Christopher Kirwa Koyoki, a Talai clan member from Nandi County, said they were firmly behind Kenyatta’s efforts to clean up Jubilee Party.
“The only way the president can manage to push through and fulfil the Jubilee manifesto is by sweeping the house clean and removing all the elements against his vision,” he said.
Asked whether they still back Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid, Koyoki said it was hypocritical for a section of politicians to cry wolf now, yet the president had previously warned them.
“The president has been asking errant Jubilee leaders to toe the line for a long time. The time to talk has come to an end. It’s time for the president to act,” he said.
The group said it was opposed to Ruto’s attempt to lead a splinter group to form Jubilee Asili movement.
“The president proved his powers and political acumen by managing to broker ties with the opposition. Where then does the DP think he is going by forming a splinter Jubilee party? What is his problem?” he asked.
Kipsigis Elders Council Secretary, Edwin Kimetto, said they would rally the region to support the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which they believe will culminate in a referendum.
Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat said the decision made by the elders reflects the general feeling of Rift Valley residents.
“People in the Rift Valley are ready to join the rest of the country in building a united Kenya. They do not want to be left behind in forming the next government after Kenyatta retires,” he said, adding that Kanu would be “a cog in a bigger machine” that drives the country’s development agenda.
Senator Gideon and Ruto have had a protracted battle to control the Rift Valley vote ahead of the 2022 elections.
Gideon’s political fortune have changed tremendously in the recent past. The turn of events in the past two months shows that the former ruling party is fast emerging as the key beneficiary of the fight between Kenyatta and his deputy.
The independence party that has been operating without a formal pre-election agreement with Kenyatta’s Jubilee as required by law since 2017 signed the deal in May.
Salat said the party would play a key role in 2022 succession politics.
Stake in government
“You will see a lot changes in the way Kanu operates from now to 2022. We now have a stake in government and we are ready to help Mr Kenyatta deliver his legacy. Our campaign starts here in the Rift Valley,” he said.
Gideon has been the target of political suitors, including Odinga, who has shown willingness to work with Kanu.
Gideon, who took over the political baton following the death of his father in February, has employed every trick in the book to survive the Jubilee onslaught in the Rift Valley spearheaded by Ruto.
The changes at the Senate leadership that saw Ruto’s ally Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen replaced by his West Pokot counterpart Samuel Poghisio as Majority Leader, has emboldened Kanu in the region.
The strong ties between Moi and Kenyatta families, which date back to the 1960s, has played to Gideon’s advantage, with Uhuru appearing to be tactically bringing him into his succession plan.
For CCM party, officials from both the North and South Rift regions, led by Nakuru County chair Peter Koros, recently met to strategise on how to popularise the party ahead of the 2022 elections.
“A political party is formed with a view of being part of the government, forming the next government or influencing government policies. Our eyes are set on President Kenyatta’s succession,” Koros said.
[Additional reporting by Kennedy Gachuhi]