Selection panel recommends Kithure Kindiki for DP Ruto running mate

Tharaka-Nithi Senator Prof Kindiki Kithure addresses a Kenya Kwanza rally at Kiamukurwe Chiefs Office grounds in Mathira, Nyeri County, March 7, 2022. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

The team tasked with recommending a candidate to be Deputy President William Ruto’s running mate for the August 9 elections has zeroed in on Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, sources within UDA have said. However, Dr Ruto will make the final call before next week’s deadline set by the electoral commission.

The Standard has established that the team had initially shortlisted Prof Kindiki alongside Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua as the most suitable candidates. The two hail from Mt Kenya region, which has 5.8 million voters. Mr Gachagua had been identified as a strong contender, alongside Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi.

A confidential analysis report presented to Dr Ruto this week indicates that the team had recommended the Senator. According to insiders, the team considered several factors, including loyalty, temperament and experience. Others were acceptability by voters and public record.

Mr Muturi, the latest senior leader to back Dr Ruto’s presidential bid, had also been rated highly because of his stature as the country’s Number Three, but was considered a Johnnie-come-lately in the Kenya Kwanza Alliance. His relationship with President Uhuru Kenyatta was also considered as still too close.

Besides sending the wrong message to Dr Ruto’s core supporters, who have stuck with him over the years, picking Mr Muturi, a Democratic Party leader, would also have opened the door for more demands from other coalition members, such as the Amani National Congress (ANC) and Ford-Kenya among others.

Sources within the team also said Mr Gachagua scored highly but the team considered that Nyeri produced Kenya’s third President and this was going against the equity test within the alliance.

His other strength was that he comes from a populous region — Nyeri — and has considerable civil service experience.

“Gachagua is courageous and consistent,” said Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono.

One factor that could have worked against him, according to the selection committee source, was that he is facing court battles at a time the Ruto team needs energy to dash to the finish line with less than 100 days to the election.

Prof Kindiki — who hails from Tharaka Nithi in the Meru region — fits the bill on what the team described as equity and justice. The Mt Kenya East region, which has voted with their cousins in central Kenya, has perennially complained of getting the short end of the stick. Prof Kindiki’s candidature was seen as redressing this imbalance.

His experience as a two-term Senator who also served as Majority Leader between 2013 and 2017 and Senate Deputy Speaker from 2018 to 2020, also counted in his favour.

Prof Kindiki also passed the loyalty test. He stood by Dr Ruto long before he became deputy president, and also invested time in fronting the DP’s 2022 presidential candidacy, and paid a price for it when he lost his Deputy Speaker’s seat in a Jubilee Party purge.

And in the run-up to the 2013 election, he led Dr Ruto’s defence team at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and this “cemented his place in the DP’s heart”, according to the source.

“Kindiki is fine. He has been loyal to the DP and is his friend. But in terms of maturity, Justin Muturi would be better. Ruto does not need a deputy who brings him any vote. He is a brand,” said Prof Gitile Naituli, a political analyst.

Prof Kindiki, a law scholar, is also seen as diplomatic and capable assistant with the temperament to wade through the complexity of statecraft without rubbing many the wrong way or creating an alternative centre of power.

That he does not come from “central Kenya proper” came up, and some in the committee felt he may not excite the region enough to get them to vote.

Others countered that if the region had no problem supporting Dr Ruto, a rank outsider, they would also not have a problem lining up behind one of their own, albeit one from a “smaller house”.

The committee also reasoned that the votes Prof Kindiki might lack from his constituency will be more than compensated by his regional and national standing, the source said.

Those who fronted his candidature in the selection committee also argued that he was the best on integrity, having not been tainted by corruption allegations.

Political commentator Barrack Muluka, who has worked closely with both Dr Ruto and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, said the decision to have a running mate come from the mountain was based on voter numbers. Also considered was the region’s “steadfastness with which it has stood in the face of bullying and intimidation by the State.”

“In terms of astuteness for the job, Mudavadi is the most qualified to be the DP’s running mate,” Dr Muluka said.

According to him, Mt Kenya region had stood firmly behind Ruto despite pressure. “All that is needed to solidify the vote is to pick a running mate from there,” he said.

Dr Muluka notes that compatibility and experience in government are key in choosing a running mate, as are stature, decorum and substance. “You don’t want someone rough on the edges or a greenhorn running the government.”

The electoral commission has set May 16 as the deadline for presidential candidates to name their running mates.

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale said background checks had been done on all the eligible candidates because the DP makes his political decisions in a consultative manner.

“He consults key leaders from every region,” said Mr Duale.

Unlike Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Alliance, which publicly named a panel to select a running mate for Mr Raila Odinga — its presidential nominee — Kenya Kwanza opted for a behind-the-scenes approach.

“Nowhere in the world, not even in the US, do you hear of a public panel to pick a running mate,” said  Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen. According to him, it is a presidential candidate’s personal decision to appoint a running mate even after consultations.

Religious leaders

“He has talked to religious leaders and political leaders and I am confident that the day our candidate will choose his running mate there won’t be any noise,” said Mr Murkomen when he appeared on NTV on Tuesday night.

Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki described Prof Kindiki as a team player who doesn’t keep grudges, a trait he believes will come in handy in the high office.

University of Nairobi lecturer Herman Manyora said Prof Kindiki “had more than sufficient experience as a university teacher. If you juxtapose this with his 10 years in Senate, Majority Leader and Deputy Speaker, he is more than qualified to serve as Kenya’s Number Two.”

To win, however, Dr Ruto will need a significant voter turnout in the mountain and Prof Kindiki’s critics point out that he is not a mobiliser, something which they believe Mr Gachagua is good at. However, Prof Kindiki’s backers said Kenya Kwanza has enough leaders to mobilise voters in the region.


The Standard
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