Loud UDA delegates, supporters paint Kasarani gymnasium yellow

Supporters of Deputy President William Ruto celebrate during an event to endorse Ruto as a presidential candidate for the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Party in the August elections, in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 15, 2022. [Reuters, Baz Ratner]

Never was there a time when one colour looked so fitting than when thousands of United Democratic Alliance (UDA) delegates and supporters turned the Moi International Sports Centre sports gymnasium into a sea of yellow.

But it wasn't only the delegates' dressing that shone bright as they attended their National Delegates Conference: the exuberance, energy and jubilation that swept through the complex was intoxicating.

Vigorous handshakes were exchanged amid frenetic, animated conversations on the periphery of the venue, which might have led a foreigner to believe that those present were from one village.

The delegates were like thousands of yellow alarm clocks ringing and vibrating at the same time. Shouts, cheers, jeers and vuvuzela sounds added to the cacophony.

The din rose a notch when politicians, like rock stars, entered the gymnasium, taking their time to bask in the adulation of their followers as they waved, smiled and shook outstretched hands. The emcee's introduction ignited the crowd and pulled them to their feet as the leaders walked to their seats.

Most of the delegates and supporters had one mission- to show their support for UDA and Deputy President William Ruto.

UDA Secretary General Veronicah Maina had a hard time calming down the raucous crowd when she took to the podium to officially announce Ruto's nomination as the party’s presidential candidate. Chants of 'Igwe! Igwe! Igwe! reverberated around the complex.

As Ruto tore into his own government and State agencies like the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), the delegates loudly roared their approval.

"They have weaponised State institutions- the DCI, EACC and KRA- to run political errands and dismantle businesses that belong to people who do not worship them!” said Ruto.

True to their 'hustler' tag, UDA brought on board Chipukeezy- a popular, youthful comedian- to help in the emceeing duties. Rapper Exray Taniua also graced the occasion and belted out his hit single Sipangwingwi, which is a favourite UDA campaign song.

Starehe MP Charles Njagua also dusted off his decade-old hit song Kigeugeu, hinting at the perceived betrayal of Ruto by President Uhuru Kenyatta following his 'handshake' with ODM leader Raila Odinga four years ago.

“The only thing I can remember on matters to do with the economy that the handshake has done is to borrow Sh7 trillion in the last five years,” said Ruto.

As the Deputy President accused the government of State capture, political blackmail and persecution, the crowd grew more animated. His voice and vigour brought them to their feet, prompting cheers. When the microphone failed and the DP’s lips moved without his voice filling the hall, there was an immediate uproar as delegates itched to have his words land on their impatient ears.

However, the scene of leader and followers was one that would intrigue any sociologist. On one side, Ruto delivered a spirited speech touching on the dignity of livelihoods through economic inclusion and the need for a government to have a vigilant opposition; and on the other, his supporters eagerly latched onto any jibes from his speech that sounded controversial or salvos fired at his competitors.

For most of those present what was more important was not what was being said but who was present and who was speaking.

Their expectations were met with surprise guests such as Chama Cha Kazi leader Moses Kuria gallantly making his way to the hall followed by businessman Jimi Wanjigi, whose fortunes appeared to improved drastically in the fortnight since he was last chased away from the same venue during ODM's delegates' meeting.

This time, Wanjigi, now a member of Safina Party, got a euphoric welcome.

Other guests included The Service Party leader Mwangi Kiunjuri, Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi, Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang'ula and former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo.

It was a day when hustlers at the bottom got a chance to meet the political elites who have promised to move them up in the world should UDA and Kenya Kwanza form the next government in August.