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Sharp elbows in hustler camp as leaders jostle to catch Ruto’s eye

By Standard Team | Jan 16th 2022 | 6 min read

Deputy President William Ruto (Centre), Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru (Left) and Kirinyaga Woman Representative Wangui Ngirici in November last year [DPPS, Standard]

A power struggle has gripped Deputy President William Ruto’s camp where politicians who should be pulling together are now hurling brickbats at one another.

Stiff competition among longtime Ruto supporters and those who are defecting from other parties, as well as aspirants from other outfits who are pledging royalty to the DP, has sparked off a bitter power struggle that in some areas has led to bitter fallouts ahead of the August 9 General Election.

The simmering internal supremacy wars have been witnessed especially in regions where Ruto’s support is gaining momentum.

The power struggle was evident during the deputy president’s campaign tour of the South Rift region where supporters of Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok and those of Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) party leader Isaac Ruto engaged harsh words and almost derailed Ruto’s tour of the county.

In Nakuru county, the split is between Senator Susan Kihika and Bahati MP Ngunjiri Kamani who are both strong allies of the Deputy President.

Their political wars have been on and off for years, but the latest blowup was triggered last year by the passage of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in Parliament.

Kihika, who is understood to be eying the governor’s seat, voted against the Bill while Ngunjiri made an about-turn to support the Bill despite months of public rejection.

The MPs who support the DP in Nakuru are divided along the Kihika-Ngunjiri line. But the two recently reconciled when the DP toured Bahati constituency on the invitation of Ngunjiri.

But it is still a wait-and-see game for the two who have been in a love-hate political relationship ever since Kihika was elected speaker of the Nakuru County Assembly.

According to insiders, the rivalry was sparked by differences on who should be interim party officials in the county.

“The differences we had with the senator have been ironed out. I will support her political dreams. She is like my daughter and where she goes wrong, I have to correct her,” Ngunjiri announced at a rally in Lanet.

Kihika acknowledged Ngunjiri’s change of heart, saying that they would walk together in the coming polls. “We have a dream and our goals to achieve. We shall be team players as we go to the next polls.”

In the North Rift region, intense rivalry among UDA candidates is mounting just weeks to party primaries.

Although they exhibit unity whenever Ruto tours the region, ambitions among elected leaders and a new crop of aspirants seeking to retain their positions and those eyeing to dethrone them through the UDA ticket have threatened to split them.

Political ambitions

In Uasin Gishu, Governor Jackson Mandago and Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi were united ahead of Ruto’s recent rally in Eldoret, but the two are split over political ambitions.

The two are top allies of the DP and UDA but were recently in a public spat to the disbelief of residents and their supporters.

They are at a crossroads over Mandago’s decision to vie for the county senate post after he concludes his second term as governor.

Sudi told a congregation at AIC Mararai in Soy that Mandago should retire and at least seek an elective post after five years, adding that he would interfere with a new administration as he plays an oversight role in the Senate.  

“When you are an assistant chief, you look forward to being a chief then a District Officer and climb the ladder upwards,” said Sudi in direct reference to Mandago.

Sudi, a second-term MP, urged voters not to entertain the governor’s candidature. “Mandago should not chest-thump and look down upon other people. These elective seats are not reserved for anyone. He should also give space for others.”

In response, Mandago told Sudi he has no powers to dictate who should vie for what position because everyone has a right to seek votes from the public.

“There are people in Parliament who cannot table any motion. If I get elected as senator, do you think I will lag behind?” asked Mandago, who also claimed that some people were holding ‘boardroom’ meetings behind his back to reward politicians with positions instead of letting the public decide.

In Nandi, Governor Stephen Sang has suffered political isolation from the county’s elected leaders even as he eyes UDA’s ticket to run for a second term.

Booed by crowd

He was humiliated when crowds booed him in front of Ruto in Kapsabet town in November.

Leaders including Senator Kiprotich Cherargei, MPs Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Cornely Serem (Aldai), Vincent Tuwei (Mosop) and Julius Melly (Tinderet), and Assembly Speaker Joshua Kiptoo have teamed up to criticise Sang’s performance since his election in 2017.

The legislators’ vocal calls on the electorate to make ‘changes’ in gubernatorial elections, alongside a host of aspirants eyeing the seat, have given the youthful Sang sleepless nights.

Kiptoo is among a host of candidates eyeing the governor’s seat through UDA. Cherargei has neither denied nor declined his candidature for the post.

In Elgeyo Marakwet, Ruto allies Deputy Governor Wisley Rotich and former Keiyo South MP Jackson Kiptanui have thrown their hats into the race for governor.

Rotich has been Ruto’s point man in the region after Governor Alex Tolgos joined the ‘Handshake’ team.

In Kirinyaga, there has been a falling out between Governor Anne Waiguru and Women Representative Wangui Ngirici.

But what is really fueling the internal wrangles in the party? Some leaders claim there is a cartel in UDA that allegedly decides who vies for elective positions and acts in a manner “like they possess express powers and authority.”

Ngirici said there is a powerful clique of about five people that is “untouchable towards the elected and aspirants seeking to use UDA as their political vehicle and which dictates to others what to do.”

The MP who broke ranks with UDA and painted her building in Kerugoya removing UDA colours further said the group pushes away anybody who seems close with Ruto, and warned that if not checked they will disenfranchise the party.

In Kandara, Antony Mwaura, an engineer who is touted to be a heavy financier of Ruto’s campaigns and who will be seeking to oust Alice Wahome, is said to be seeking control of the party’s affairs.

In Nyeri, there has been a silent battle between Women Representative Rahab Mukami and Mathira legislator Rigathi Gachagua who is seen to be seeking to control Nyeri politics.

The wife of first Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua, Margaret Nderitu, is eyeing the Woman Rep seat, a move that has triggered the tiff between the two leaders.

Rigathi’s confidant and associate Wahome Mwangi alias Wamatinga, who is also the Mathira NGCDF chairperson, will be seeking to oust Governor Mutahi Kahiga through a UDA ticket.

This, according to pundits, explains why Kahiga–despite announcing in November that he will be joining Ruto’s party–is yet to make true his promise.

“There is no assurance that Gachagua will not meddle with UDA nominations, and this is what the governor fears,” a source close to the governor disclosed.

In Western, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala and his predecessor Boni Khalwale have been political antagonists for long and the duo have not been seeing eye to eye lately.

Malala, an ardent supporter of ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, and Khalwale, who is affiliated to UDA, have been vigorously campaigning for their bosses across the county.

Ruto attended the senator’s football tournament in Mumias on New Year’s Eve, and Malala attended Ruto’s rally in Eldoret. On Thursday, the duo met again and their supporters suggested that it is only a matter of time before Malala joins Ruto’s camp.

“If Malala joins UDA, one of them must shelve his political ambitions to survive the onslaught from other parties on the ground. Malala must defend his Senate seat and support Khalwale for the governor’s seat, failure to which they will be sent into political oblivion,” said Emmanuel Mulaa.

Reports by Gilbert Kimutai, Kennedy Gachuhi, Titus Too, Stephen Rutto, Ndung’u Gachane and Nathan Ochunge

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