With only 11 days to the General Election, President Uhuru Kenyatta is keen on influencing the Rift Valley region, a perceived stronghold of his deputy William Ruto.
On Tuesday night, the President met opinion leaders and elders from the Kalenjin community from across Rift Valley counties at the State House, Nakuru, in a bid to win votes for the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga.
Yesterday evening, he met a group of representatives from the Kikuyu community at his Gicheha Farm in Rongai, Nakuru County.
Only the invited guest were allowed into the meetings, which came after Uhuru addressed crowds in Maai Mahiu and Nakuru town.
Sources said the President discussed a wide range of issues. He called on the leaders and Rift Valley residents to make the right political choices.
He also opened up on why he fell out with his deputy William Ruto, with sources saying the UDA presidential candidate started calling him names and boasting that he was to take over immediately after the 2017 General Election.
A source said at least 200 leaders from Nandi, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nakuru, including a section of Talai elders, attended the meeting.
“The President wanted us to assure him that the region will back Azimio la Umoja Presidential candidate Raila Odinga in the August polls. It was all about his succession,” said a source.
The President is said to have asked the leaders to mobilise the voters in the grassroots.
The leaders agreed that the President visits the area to drum up support for Mr Odinga and the independent candidates.
Former Cabinet minister Franklin Bett, who was among the elders, said Uhuru’s agenda was peace and making of wise choices at the ballot.
“He called for harmony among the Rift Valley people during and after the general elections. He said that political opponents should not be enemies,” he said.
Mr Bett added that the President also sent the elders to the community asking for forgiveness if he had wronged them.
“He was explaining why he went the handshake route. He said that he had nothing against the region.”
Yesterday, the Head of State was still in Nakuru where he opened the refurbished Nakuru Railway Station and the 217km Nakuru-Kisumu railway line that has been idle for nearly two decades.
Uhuru defended his "handshake" with the opposition leader in 2018. “If there was no mistake with me coming to an agreement with William Ruto in 2013, what is wrong with me shaking hands with Raila? The two moves are the same,” he said.
“Is looking for peace wrong? My stand from the start has been looking for unity and peace among Kenyans to live. Let us not accepted to be lied to in cheap politics.”
He hit out at his deputy, accusing him of deceitful politics.
“Afadhali mzee wa ukweli badala ya mtu mchanga wa uongo (An old honest person is better than a young deceitful leader). I can’t walk with someone who thrives on lies. The truth shall set you free,” he said.
“You were lied to that Raila and I wanted a referendum because I didn’t want to retire. The referendum was for Kenyans. We wanted fairness in revenue sharing based on how much people contribute,” he added.
The President said he had forgiven those who have been hurling epithets at him and his family.
“I don't hate anyone. They insult me and my ageing mother every day but I don't respond. They have no shame. I leave God to handle that. Kenya needs honest and just people,” he said.
The President asked residents to vote to the Azimio candidate, saying Dr Ruto should take a break and wait for the right time to lead the country.
“I'm asking you with humility. Am not forcing you. Hold Raila’s hands. Also, don’t deny him of his soldiers in Parliament and counties. Vote for Azimio leaders.
“Even the rest are our people. They should stop the high speed and insults. Let them stay where they are and when their opportune time comes, there will be no problem.”
Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui said the revival of the line positions the country as a leading investment destination in the East African region.
“Our airport is almost complete. Nakuru will soon be connected by air, road and rail. Anyone who wishes to set up business in East Africa will come here,” he said.
Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said the revitalisation of the Nakuru-Kisumu meter gauge railway will go a long way in bolstering development across the country.