William Ruto moves to solidify Mt Kenya base

Deputy President William Ruto. [Courtesy]

Deputy President William Ruto’s meeting with a section of Mt Kenya MPs is an attempt to calm a restless region, struggling for a replacement for President Uhuru Kenyatta as its kingpin.

On one hand, his allies within the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) see the party as Ruto’s vehicle of choice and they have termed it the outfit for the “hustler nation”.

On the other, his other supporters have crafted different means hoping to earn the DP’s favour. The sibling rivalry within Ruto’s camp is, seemingly, a result of the fierce jostling to be his running mate in next year’s elections.

They all converge around the idea of a Ruto presidency, each referring to the president’s promise of “kumi yangu kumi ya Ruto (I’ll have my 10-year term and Ruto will lead for 10 years, too)”.

Among those touted as probable deputies are National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria.

In photographs circulated widely of the Wednesday meeting, Ruto is flanked by among others, Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Kuria, Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu) and Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira).

Also present was UDA candidate for Kiambaa constituency’s by-election John Njuguna Wanjiku.

Wanjiku is the beneficiary of a truce between Kuria’s People’s Empowerment Party and UDA for the Kiambaa by-election that had threatened to split the DP’s inner circle.

In the wake of a near-fallout between the DPs allies, PEP withdrew its candidate for the July mini-poll and endorsed the UDA man.

Ruto’s meeting with two formerly disputing sides hints that the DP could be concerned that the growing rift could dent his presidential ambitions. But some of his allies dismissed talk of division within the camp.

Nyoro described it as a meet-up over tea, and the claims of a split as misplaced. “The DP sleeps comfortably knowing that his allies are united. We are more united than ever,” he said yesterday.

Ichung’wa termed the meeting one to discuss internal affairs. “We meet every day to discuss our business. Even now (Wednesday) we are meeting,” said Ichung’wa.

Nyoro also described as friendly fire Kiunjuri’s assertion on Wednesday that there was trouble in Mt Kenya. Kiunjuri had said he would not be intimidated by other allies of Ruto who claim to be the “bigger brother”.

“There is no big brother in this game. We all need each other,” said Kiunjuri, revealing a treacherous path the DP must navigate in Mt Kenya.

Due to ethnic realities, Ruto's chances of succeeding President Kenyatta hinge heavily on the Mt Kenya region. The DP is keen to maintain his boss’s traditional base before venturing out to court new allies.

Kang'ata said the meeting also discussed ways of uniting the country and easing conditions for small business owners. "It was agreed that Tangatanga leaders root for reduction of business regulations. One has to pay lots of licences before establishing a business and this was identified as a major contributor to collapse of businesses in Mt Kenya," he said. 

Dr Timothy Onduru, who teaches History at Moi University, opines that Mt Kenya is strategic for Ruto given his heavy political investment in the region. His apparent urgency in stemming any sibling rivalry, he says, results from the unpredictability of the region’s voting trends.

“With many leaders positioning themselves as an authority in the Mt Kenya bloc, it is a bit tricky to know how they will vote. Voting in the region is also heavily influenced by the elite,” says Dr Onduru.

Any sibling rivalry, he adds, would threaten to split the voting bloc. “That is why Ruto is trying his best to bring all of them together,” he adds.