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Ruto allies outline issues to raise with Uhuru as he tours Rift Valley

Deputy President William Ruto (centre) consults with Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen (right), former Majority Leader Aden Duale (left), and former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama, at his home in Karen, Nairobi. [David Njaaga, Standard]

William Ruto’s allies have promised President Uhuru Kenyatta a warm welcome in his new charm offensive across the country with trips to Lower Eastern and Rift Valley in the coming week.

During the tours, the president is expected to come face-to-face with leaders who have recently gone against him.

Uhuru’s planned tour of Ukambani was postponed due to his two-day official visit to France and will instead begin on Monday in Machakos County and end in Kitui County.

But it is his tour of the Rift Valley that is expected to trigger political fireworks given the bitter political fallout with Deputy President Ruto.

Uhuru and Ruto enjoyed a political bromance during the first term of Jubilee government. However, in their second term, their relationship has deteriorated, further aggravated by the Handshake between Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga

The president left the country on Tuesday evening for France but was yesterday in Lusaka, Zambia for the funeral of former president Kenneth Kaunda.

In France, Uhuru sealed a deal for construction of the Sh160 billion toll highway from Nairobi to Mau Summit, which is expected to begin in September.

He is likely to use the multi-billion road to appease Rift Valley region. The road begins in Limuru and will open up traffic to Nakuru County, the gateway to the Rift Valley region. 

Yesterday, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said the region had many questions for the president. The region is Ruto’s political backyard and has voted for Uhuru four times - in 2002, 2013, and twice in 2017.

Deputy President William Ruto (right) consults with Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen at his home in Karen, Nairobi, on February 8, 2020. [David Njaaga, Standard]

“For four years, he has been missing in action in the region. His visit is long overdue. We have many questions touching on projects and governance. We shall be there under the leadership of WSR (William Samoei Ruto) who led us to him. I can’t wait,” Murkomen tweeted.

Stalled projects and unfulfilled pre-election promises await the president in North Rift counties.

From incomplete roads to stadiums to water projects dogged by controversies and to shelving of proposed universities, the president’s tour will be like a scorecard of his administration.

Elephant in the room

But the elephant in the room will be his promise to support Ruto in next year’s election. Leaders from the region have indicated that they will accord him a warm welcome.

The region voted for Uhuru in Kanu in 2002 before shifting focus to ODM leader Raila Odinga in 2007. The region, through URP/TNA merger, supported UhuRuto in the last two elections.

However, some leaders from the region said they had not been involved in planning the president’s meetings.

Uhuru will be facing former Jubilee Party allies who have since moved to the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

Allies who held key positions such as Jubilee’s deputy secretary-general Caleb Kositany (Soy), former Senate Majority leader Murkomen and several former House committee chairs, are among those expected to welcome the president.

Soy Mp Caleb Kositany at Kabatini area in Bahati Constituency on June 17, 2019. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The president is expected to issue title deeds in Trans Nzoia and commission Nyaru-Iten road in Elgeyo Marakwet. He is also expected to inspect progress of the Eldoret Eastern bypass.

Yesterday, a section of leaders said they would expect the president to explain the significance of his handshake with Raila.

Some leaders from the region have stuck with Uhuru even after he fell out with Ruto soon after the March 2018 Handshake.

They include Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos and MPs Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany), Senator Margaret Kamar (Uasin Gishu) and Silas Tiren (Moiben).

“We welcome the Head of State to tour and inspect development projects,” said Tiren.

He added that some of the issues they expect to be addressed are expansion of Eldoret International Airport, expansion of referral hospitals and farmers’ concerns.

“Farmers in the current season have suffered rain failure and there is a need to put in place measures that will help cushion them against losses,” said Tiren.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said he expects the president to explain what the national government has done for the region, particularly in Jubilee’s second term.

He said several road projects comprising Kesses-Lessos, Nandi Hills-Himaki, Chemuswo-Kaptel, Kobujoi-Tulwo Girls-Chepterwai-Western Kenya as well as Keben dam have stalled and should be revived.

“Many projects initiated by the national government have stalled. We will be demanding an audit of national government projects. We hope he will sanction release of money to complete these projects,” Cherargei said.

Blessings and assurance

He said they would discuss with him 2022 politics.

“We met in Eldoret in 2017 and he told us he would support William Ruto when his term ends. We will ask for his blessings and assurance of a fair competition in 2022. We are not interested in his endorsement,” he said.

Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi said: “We have no objection and we shall accord the president a warm welcome to our region.”

Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi (centre),flanked by MCA from Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi and Uasin Gishu Counties after a consultative meeting at his farm in Eldoret,  August 29, 2020. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

He, however, said he did not know the agenda of the tour yet but expects local leaders would be engaged in the preparations. “Maybe the president is coming to salute the people who voted for him in large numbers. The only time he has been here is when he toured Rivatex mills,” said Sudi.

Elgeyo Marakwet Deputy Governor Wesley Rotich, an ally of Ruto, asked the president to address the fresh banditry attacks in Kerio Valley during his visit.

Rotich said local leaders also expect the president to order revival of construction of Arror and Kimwarer dams, which were scaled down and cancelled, respectively.

Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono said he expects the president to give a clear direction on completion of Kipchoge Keino Stadium and the expansion of Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.

Elgeyo Marakwet ODM chair Micah Kigen said Uhuru would have the opportunity to demystify the Handshake which sparked the fallout with his deputy.

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