Kenya Kwanza coalition deal exposes intense horse-trading in Ruto's camp

Kenya kwanza team led by Deputy President William Ruto, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula and Musalia Mudavadi during a political rally in Kitale Trans Nzoia County on May,5,2022. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

After meeting leaders from the 11 counties of Mt Kenya region in May last year, Deputy President William Ruto released a statement titled ‘The New Politics’ where he spoke at length about starting a new conversation, one “that is not about leaders, their positions and their ambitions.”

In what would become the refrain of his campaign, Ruto said “over the years, political positions have been created, power has been shared this way and that way, leaders’ interests have been catered for but this has not improved the lot of the overwhelming majority of Kenyans.”

Yet, the deal bringing together Ruto and two of his most significant partners in the Kenya Kwanza Alliance, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang'ula lays bare the political horse-trading that went into creating the coalition.

The name chosen for Ruto's 2022 vehicle is instructive – Kenya Kwanza, putting the country first.

But the deal contradicts Ruto's messaging. He has built his campaign on economic and political inclusivity and even condemned his opponents for politics built on foundations of ethnopolitical mobilisation and focus on offering political positions to ethnic mobilisers.

In the agreement signed by the three principals, Ruto has promised close to a third of the government should he win the August 9 election.

Ruto’s deal with Mudavadi and Wetang'ula in exchange for their backing to get the support of their bases in Western Kenya, promises 30 per cent of his government to the region.

According to the 2019 census by the National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), communities living in Western account for 14 per cent of Kenya’s population.

The Luhya, Mudavadi and Wetangula’s communities, are the second-largest community behind the Kikuyu which is 17 per cent of the 47.6 million Kenyans enumerated in 2019.

The Kalenjin, Ruto's community, makes up 13.4 per cent and Kamba's and Somali's 9.8 and 5.8 per cent.

Ruto has hinged his presidential run on the support of Mt Kenya who have about 5.8 million votes. To seal the support, Mt Kenya has largely been expected to get the coveted running mate post.

Financial analyst and political commentator Mohamed Wehliye wondered what Mt Kenya would get if Mudavadi and Wetang'ula could negotiate for 30 per cent.

"If (Mudavadi and Wetang'ula) who will bring a max of 500k votes will get 30 per cent, calculate the percentage Mt Kenya will get if they bring over three million votes," Wehliye posed on Twitter.

The coalition deal is silent on the Mt Kenya factor.

But the deal signed by Ruto begs the question of how he will handle the rest of the country, specifically his base in Rift Valley and Mt Kenya.

Another lingering question is what exactly is in it for Mt Kenya. There are fears there will be no space for other communities in government.

It makes no mention of Mt Kenya, and the clause of running mate goes only as far as the candidate will be from UDA.

It has, however, been a foregone conclusion that Ruto will pick a running mate from the region.

It has exposed a chink in Ruto's armour, one being used to take apart his pledge to Mt Kenya.

"We have seen how you have shared out the positions in your government and Mt Kenya is getting nothing," Wambui Ng’an’ga, who is contesting Nairobi Woman Rep seat on Jubilee said in Msambweni yesterday.

Musalia and Wetang'ula have negotiated for the position of Prime Cabinet Secretary, which will be created if the coalition wins and the Speaker of the National Assembly.

But they have not negotiated positions for themselves only but for their compatriots from Western.

ANC and FORD-Kenya, the deal says, shall have a 30 per cent share of positions in the government including Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries, Ambassadors, High Commissioners, Heads of Diplomatic Missions, Chairpersons of State Corporations, Directors of State Corporations and Chairpersons and Commissioners of Constitution Commissions.

In the context of the cabinet, the deal says Kenya Kwanza will have a cabinet with 21 secretaries. The deal, in essence, means in Ruto’s cabinet, six CSs will be from Western.

This leaves the rest of the country to split among them the remaining 15 slots.

However, one of the foundations of the document signed between Ruto and his coalition partners is a commitment to approaching the election on a common front but forming an inclusive government reflecting the face of Kenya.

Should UDA win the election, the leaders from Western have negotiated for the completion of all incomplete tarmac road projects, the construction of 1,000km of new roads.

Ruto has also committed to allocate nationally raised revenue for the revival and modernization of two decrepit sugar factories – Mumias and Nzoia Sugar Factory.