I won't let you down, Ruto tells home turf as he gets elders' nod

Deputy President William Ruto during a political rally at Eldoret Sports Complex. [DPPS]

It was Deputy President William Ruto’s big day as he held what was described as the first and last rally where the Rift Valley region ‘freed’ their son to go and hunt for presidential votes.

Eldoret town did not disappoint as it gave him a hero’s sendoff, with residents and those from neighbouring counties turning up in their thousands at the Eldoret Sports Club, yesterday.

Elders from different communities offered their blessings and expressed hope that Ruto will triumph in the August 9 presidential polls.

Ruto too, assured his political home turf, Rift Valley, that he will not let them down in his bid to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta. He thanked his political base for consistent support since 1997 when he joined politics, starting as Eldoret North MP.

“I want to thank you and say that I will not let you down. I will continue to stand firm in fighting for the rights of Kenyans. You have given me an opportunity to serve as a leader, and I will go by your wishes. I love you people,” Ruto said.

He added: “I thank leaders who have supported me for enduring intimidation and blackmail. Most of them have had their bank accounts frozen. I want to tell you that it will not take too long before we bring this issue to a stop.”

The show stopper though was Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala of ANC, who arrived when the rally was in progress, the emcee had to appeal to the crowd through the loudspeakers to create a path for him.

When he spoke, Malala said he attended the meeting in the spirit of freedom of movement and association advocated by his party leader Musalia Mudavadi. He received a rousing reception by the crowd.

Malala said he attended the rally to pay back DP Ruto for attending his Cleo Malala football Cup final in Kakamega County recently.

“I am here because of what my party leader, Mudavadi said last week. Mudavadi said we must uphold the Constitution, especially the aspect of freedom of association. That, no one can stop us from making friends with others and that is why I am here,” Malala said.

He hinted that ANC was in the process of making a coalition with other parties including Ruto’s UDA.

He added: “On January 23, ANC will have a National Delegates Conference which will give Mudavadi the mandate to carry ANC’s flag (in the 2022 presidential race) and give him the powers to make alliances with other like-minded political parties. When Mudavadi comes to Uasin Gishu and gets a friend such as Ruto, is there a problem?”

But moments after his speech, ANC through its Secretary General Simon Gakuru disassociated itself from Malala’s remarks and attendance of the Ruto event.

“The ANC party would like to disassociate itself with the activities taking place at Eldoret Sports Club Grounds where UDA Party is holding its rally. ANC has not sent anybody to represent either the party or the Party Leader in the said function,” the SG tweeted.

But Malala quickly responded on Twitter, saying: “In my address, I did not say I was representing the ANC. As an elected leader, my role is to propel our members towards forming the next government. Anyway, our new SG is still under orientation.”

He urged all presidential candidates to tour Uasin Gishu and other Rift Valley counties, saying the region is peaceful.

Ruto told supporters not to be dampened by recent defeat in Parliament during the Political Parties (amendment) Bill, saying that the contest had demonstrated that UDA was a force to reckon with.

The DP promised to continue President Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda and asked his rival ODM’s Raila Odinga to stop using his donation drives as a campaign tool and present his agenda to the people.

Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok said he quit ODM to join forces with Ruto after what he termed betrayal in the Orange party.

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale said: “The DP has been humiliated and despised. Some of us have been chased away from key positions in government because of our association with Ruto.”

Ruto told those who had been targeted on questionable charges not to be intimidated, saying their woes would be over in the next seven months. The DP wing has been complaining that their allies were being arrested and charged with trumped up corruption charges.

Duale told President Kenyatta to retire peacefully and stop interfering with the presidential election.

Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen warned MPs from the Rift opposed to the hustler movement, saying they are being used to curtail the DP’s race to State House.

“We are not supporting DP Ruto because he is a Kalenjin. We want a president who will revive agriculture. We are voting for Ruto because of his programmes,” Murkomen said.

Governors Jackson Mandago of Uasin Gishu, Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Stanley Kiptis (Baringo), Stephen Sang (Nandi) Hillary Barchok (Bomet) were present. More than 90 MPs and other elected leaders attended.

Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri and his Naivasha counterpart Jane Kihara endorsed Ruto’s presidential bid.

From Central Kenya, Ruto’s closest allies such as Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa, Kandara MP Alice Wahome, Gathoni Wamuchomba (Kiambu woman rep), Cate Waruguru (Laikipia woman rep) nominated MP Cecily Mbarire, Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, John Paul Mirigi (Igembe South) among others addressed the crowd.

MPs Peris Tobiko (Kajiado East), Victor Munyaka (Machakos Town), David Sankok (nominated) and John Kiarie (Dagoretti South) were also present.

From South Rift were Johanna Ng’eno of Emurua Dikir, Senator Aaron Cheruiyo of Kericho, Epuyo Nanok of Turkana West, John Lodepe (Turkana Central West), Samburu Senator Steve Lelekwe also addressed the rally.

Foreign Affairs CAS Ababu Namwamba, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Aisha Jumwa (Malindi) and Mohamed Ali (Nyali) were also present.