Sagana 3: Plan to win back Mt Kenya from Ruto takes shape

Jubilee leaders and supporters follow President Uhuru Kenyatta’s address at the Sagana State Lodge, Nyeri, on Wednesday. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s allies in Mt Kenya have revealed their plan to roll out a two-pronged campaign strategy targeting Deputy President William Ruto. The move comes two days after the Head of State sharply criticised his Number Two and endorsed Raila Odinga to succeed him come August.

Raila is ODM’s and Azimilo la Umoja’s presumptive presidential candidate. He is later this week expected to be endorsed by other parties, including Jubilee Party, whose leader is Uhuru. His endorsement has positioned him as one of the two leading contenders for the presidency alongside Ruto.

During a Wednesday meeting at the Sagana State Lodge - dubbed Sagana Three - Uhuru made it clear that he would not be supporting his deputy in the August elections. His message set the stage for a bruising political battle for the heart and soul of Mt Kenya, a region seen as leaning towards Ruto.

Sources familiar with the new plan say Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu has been identified as the lead coordinator of the region-wide campaigns to undo Ruto’s popularity while grassroots pro-Uhuru leaders have been tasked to spearhead similar campaigns in their respective counties.

The strategy, according to political leaders interviewed by The Standard, includes spreading Uhuru’s message through churches and town hall meetings as well as selecting opinion shapers to contribute during political debates hosted by vernacular television and radio stations.

After the Sagana Three meeting, a section of Mt Kenya political leaders met Raila at a hotel in Nairobi where they briefed him about the resolutions reached. They also discussed modalities of how to spread the President’s message to the grassroots.

Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi, who was among leaders who attended the meeting, said they will now go full throttle and face the electorate after being emboldened by the President’s words that they should go out to campaign for Raila and Jubilee.

“We have been given a go-ahead by the boss himself. We will now face our people and disclose everything,” he said.

Wambugu said pro-Uhuru MPs in specific counties have been identified to conduct joint meetings in areas with the “yellow fever” - a term coined recently to refer to the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), the party expected to nominate Ruto for the presidency, and whose official colour is yellow.

The MPs have been charged with the responsibility of turning the tide against UDA in areas considered its strongholds. Similar teams will be deployed in other areas where they will hold political rallies after town hall meetings with select participants.

In Murang’a for instance, MPs Peter Kimari (Mathioya), Nduati Ngugi (Gatanga), Muturi Kigano (Kangema) and Wangari Mwaniki (Kigumo) will hold joint meetings in all the seven constituencies to drum up support for Raila and Jubilee.

“In counties where Ruto and his party enjoys support, all MPs from Mt Kenya region will invade the area and woo back the electorate. The President has given us the content and we have told him we require only one month to deliver,” Kimari told The Standard on phone.

A separate team will be given the job of wooing fence-sitters and solidifying the support of those who are not already in UDA. The idea is to stop Ruto and UDA from winning seats in the region. Once the team is in place, the President is expected to hold another strategy meeting with them before they hit the ground ahead of the August polls. Uhuru is expected to join them in a series of high-profile political rallies thereafter.

Already, two former Ruto allies have indicated that they have jumped ship and are now supporting the President. They are Kirinyaga Woman Rep Wangui Ngirici and Githunguri’s Kago wa Lydia who both attended the Sagana meeting.

Pro-Uhuru politicians are keen on taking advantage of disquiet in Ruto’s camp over fears of pre-determined party nominations amid claims that some aspirants, especially those close to the Deputy President, have already been endorsed for some seats.

There have been claims that some influential figures in Ruto’s camp are putting pressure on some hopefuls to drop their ambitions of flying the UDA’s flag. For instance, Ngirici claimed she was prevailed upon to drop her gubernatorial ambitions and pave the way for Governor Anne Waiguru. In return, she was promised support if she vied for the Mwea parliamentary seat.

However, UDA has since refuted the claims and promised free and fair nominations.

Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni in an interview our sister station Spice Fm said Jubilee-allied MPs have a huge task of delivering Mt Kenya from the ‘opposition’ - implying that the majority of the locals support Ruto’s presidential bid.

He, however, cautioned: “Many of us will be sent home if we are not careful of the political turbulence in this country. This thing between Raila and Ruto is very tricky game for some of us.