Ruto keeps off as allies battle in Rift

DP William Ruto with a delegation of leaders from Kirinyaga County led by Governor Anne Waiguru at his Karen residence, Nairobi. [DPPS, Standard]

As the United Democratic Alliance prepares for primaries in less than two weeks, Deputy President William Ruto is deploying a two-pronged strategy of consensus and fair nominations.

Outside his Rift Valley turf, Ruto has encouraged political arrangements where aspirants agree on a lineup and avoid contested primaries that risk causing disaffection and possible fallouts. This has been employed in Nyeri, Narok, Kakamega, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Trans Nzoia, Kilifi, Turkana, Tana River, Kwale and Bungoma counties where the governorship and senate seats were settled through consensus.

There are similar and ongoing talks for consensus and political deals in Nairobi and Embu counties where the DP’s allies have locked horns for the county seats. However, Ruto is using a different strategy in Rift Valley where UDA has its strongest support alongside Mt Kenya. In the DP’s base, he has deliberately kept off the primaries and let UDA National Elections Board (NEB) to facilitate the nomination process where the popular aspirants will emerge.

In the contests, Ruto’s allies including former Energy CS Charles Keter, former Kenyan ambassador to Pakistan Prof Julius Bitok, Nandi Governor Stephen Sang and his Bomet counterpart Hillary Barchok have locked horns with other competitors for the governors’ race. A source told The Sunday Standard that the UDA party leader has steered clear of the primaries in the region for party members to have a free and fair nomination.

“The party leader will keep off the race in his backyard. He will even reduce trips to the region until after primaries, given that in every one of those tours, the aspirants try to prove their proximity to the DP,” said the source.

The source noted Ruto will avoid getting involved in local politics and UDA nominations in all seats to encourage voters pick popular aspirants. Already, the party’s NEB has begun printing ballot papers for the seats where the contest will go to the full nomination process. The yellow party has attracted over 5,700 aspirants across the country.  In Kericho, Keter is squaring it out with Deputy Governor Lilian Ng’ok, Kericho county former CEC Eric Mutai and businessman Fred Kirui, who are all seeking to replace Governor Paul Chepkwony. 

In Uasin Gishu, Ruto’s home county, the race is between Amb Bitok, former Kenya’s ambassador to China Sarah Serem, Soy MP Caleb Kositany, Nairobi county CEC Veska Kangogo and Jonathan Bii, all hoping to replace governor Jackson Mandago. The Nandi, Keiyo sub-tribes politics will play out in the primaries with each aspirant sending signals of picking a running mate from the opposite sub tribe for balance. In 2013 and 2017 Mandago and Nandi and his deputy Daniel Chepno, a Keiyo, carried the ticket.

Bitok ran for the same seat in 2013 and lost to Mandago in the defunct United Republic Party (URP).  Others in the race are former Teachers Service Commission boss Cleophas Tirop and Uasin Gishu assembly chief whip David Sing’oei while in Nandi, Governor Sang is seeking to secure a second term, but has to battle it out with former county boss Cleopas Lagat and former minister Henry Kosgey’s son Allan Kosgey. Sang hopes to convince the voters through what he claims are his achievements in five years including giving out Sh240 million as bursaries.

Dr Lagat says Sang got infrastructure of development plans that he had laid out that made it easy for him to take off and blames him for not doing much for the county.

Kosgey who ran for Kesses MP in the last election has asked for a fresh start away from both Sang and Dr Lagat who he accuses of doing little for the people of Nandi despite the billions allocated to the devolved unit.