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One man show? Why the delegates failed to pick DP William Ruto's deputy in UDA

Deputy President William Ruto during the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) National Delegates Conference (NDC) at the Kasarani Sports Complex, Nairobi, March 15, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto's party did not appoint a deputy party leader when they picked officials on Tuesday.

The United Democratic Alliance (UDA) during the party’s National Delegates Conference held at Kasarani on Tuesday, unanimously elected the DP as party leader and named him the flag bearer.

But the party did not name any among its members to serve as Ruto's deputy, raising questions even as it becomes clear that jostling for running mate position could be behind the move.

According to UDA constitution, the party should have in office three deputy party leaders in charge of political affairs, administration and operations, and programmes and strategy for it to be fully constituted.

The party’s constitution states that the “Deputy Party Leader shall deputise the Party Leader and act as principal assistants to the Party Leader in their respective portfolios.”

The deputy party leaders are also required to perform duties assigned by the party leader.

“In the absence of the Party Leader, the Deputy Party Leaders shall perform functions of the Party Leader in their respective portfolios or as shall be designated by the NEC,” Article 23 of UDA's constitution states.

With the party still unsure of who among the members would be fit to hold the rank, Ruto is the absolute authority in UDA.

Sources say the decision to leave the position vacant could be informed by the delicate balance the DP will have to strike in picking his running mate.

A person who becomes the deputy party leader would have made a significant step in becoming Ruto's running mate, a coveted position within UDA.

Interim party officials

Sources say the DP is considering a running mate from Mt Kenya with Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Alice Wahome (Kandara), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu) and Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki's names being mentioned. 

Sources told The Sunday Standard that Ruto wants to avoid a situation where an individual picked to be deputy party leader could be seen as a front runner for his running mate.

Ruto was picked as UDA party leader during the party delegates-only session of the NDC when the media were kicked out.

During that session, the delegates picked interim party officials, ratified changes to the constitution, settled on a party agenda and gave Ruto the green light to discuss, negotiate and enter into coalitions, alliances or mergers ahead of the elections.

According to Ruto, in about a year and a half, UDA's membership has grown to close to seven million and is the largest party in Kenya.

"We have over 7 million party members so far who have registered with us. This is a party for every Kenyan," Ruto said.

Veronica Maina, the UDA secretary general yesterday said the party was under no pressure to pick a running mate.

Ms Maina said the priority of the party was to ensure the public supported their vision before the party decides on Ruto's ticket mate.

She said all leaders who had agreed to support Ruto were aware that the subject of positions would come last. "The focus of UDA is people, not sharing of seats," she said.

She said even those from other parties aligning with UDA were aware that the focus was on people first.

"This was deliberate because politics is dominated by what politicians get out of it," Maina said.

She said it was indicative of the fact that other leaders such as ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi, Ford Kenya's senator Moses Wetang'ula and other parties that have coalesced with UDA were keen on a partnership because they have seen UDA as the likely winner of the August polls.

"If you see a politician going somewhere, it means that they have identified that that's where the majority of the people are because they have seen hope," Maina said.

However, the agreement that brings the parties together, and which lays out their terms of engagement, has not been made public.

While the DP was on a tour of the US and UK recently, the Kenya Kwanza campaign strategy moved away from mass rallies to meeting small groups. 

Ruto was accompanied by ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi, governors Josphat Nanok, Ann Waiguru, Salim Mvurya and senators Susan Kihika and Kipchumba Murkomen.

Foot soldiers 

Ruto's absence saw Wetang’ula landing at campaign rallies from the skies, accompanied by his foot soldiers.

“Wetang’ula occasionally uses Musalia’s chopper otherwise he has his own campaign vehicles while the MPs also have mobile campaign teams in their regions,” said a source in Ruto’s office. 

Mudavadi’s spokesman Prof Amukoa Anangwe said the Kenya Kwanza campaign meetings went on as planned in the absence of the two principals.

“Wetangula had taken charge of the campaign programme which was prepared long before the US trip and it was on course as planned without disruptions,” said Prof Anangwe.

The Wetangula team used ‘meet the people approach’ and reached as many people as possible in a day.

In Trans Nzoia for example, they covered Kwanza, Saboti and Moi’s Bridge before moving to Kakamega County.

The scenario was the same some weeks ago, when critics pointed out that Kenya Kwanza slowed down when Ruto visited Dubai for a week, leaving Musalia to take charge of the campaigns.

Political analyst Dr Francis Owaka said that UDA had chosen to leave the deputy party leader position open because the people would see the deputy as the running mate.

"Ruto is a student of President Daniel Moi and Raila Odinga. It is strategic. He knows that by leaving it open he could dangle it for loyalty," he said.

Dr Owaka also argued that since the legislators only legally became members of the party on Tuesday, they were previously unfit to be named in party leadership.

"He could choose to do it later because none of the sitting MPs were members of the party," he said.

[Additional reporting Biketi Kikechi]