Bitter sibling rivalry threatens to split Ruto camp ahead of 2022 poll

New Juja MP George Koimburi (right) together with Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria at the Mang`u high shool tallying centre when Koimburi was declared the winner of the byelection on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Bitter sibling rivalry among allies of Deputy President William Ruto in Mt Kenya region is threatening to split the Hustler Nation ahead of 2022 polls.

The forthcoming Kiambaa parliamentary by-election has lifted the lid on the simmering supremacy battle in Tangatanga camp as leaders jostle to be in Ruto’s inner circle based on their perceived influence in the region.

The by-election slated for next month is now proving to be a litmus test on unity of Ruto allies in Mt Kenya, if latest public spat is anything to go by.

Ordinarily, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria’s Peoples Empowerment Party (PEP) could have thrown its weight behind the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) aspirant in Kiambaa, after the latter withdrew its candidate in the Juja by-election.

Mr Kuria has now fronted Raymond Kuria (PEP) to face off with UDA candidate John Njuguna Wanjiku who was unveiled recently by the Secretary General Veronica Maina. Both parties are associated with Ruto.

The Gatundu South MP’s action has triggered a public spat with Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, with both leaders seeking to gauge their popularity in the Mt Kenya region. Kuria posted on social media: “Once a DO always a DO,” in apparent reference to Mr Gachagua.

In Nakuru County, another set of Ruto allies, Senator Susan Kihika and Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, are also airing their ‘dirty linen’ in public.

On Saturday, Ms Kihika hit out at Mr Ngunjiri over claims she was seeking to run for the Nakuru governor slot so as to frustrate President Uhuru Kenyatta when he retires to his Nakuru residence.

“Even propaganda needs a little intelligence. Silly kindergarten idiotic lies just to get the attention of someone you ran up and down the streets insulting a few months ago is disgusting. King of Stomach politics, who would dare trust this man who blows hot and cold every other day?” posted the senator.

She added, “What does he even stand for? What does that tell you about his character? For me it spells an unreliable, unstable, confused character who shamelessly switches sides depending on where his bread is being buttered that evening.”

Both have been fighting to be Ruto’s point person in Nakuru, a county that has a significant number of votes.

The Standard has learnt that MPs allied to the DP from the region are already aligning themselves to rival camps in what is likely to jolt Ruto’s game plan for 2022.

Buoyed by his victory in the Juja by-election – where PEP candidate George Ndung’u Koimburi won by a landslide –  Kuria yesterday said he will face UDA candidate just like any other opponent.

The Gatundu South MP said that he has no kind words for his colleagues in Tangatanga who are unhappy with his decision to field a candidate.

“Let them sell their candidate as I also sell mine. I think I am going to treat UDA the same way I will treat Jubilee in the campaigns,” said Kuria.

“Other than the parties, these are individuals seeking to be the area MP. Even Jubilee and ODM squared it out in Bonchari,” he added.

But Rigathi said that the hustler nation has only one candidate, declaring that any other candidate was on their own.

“The hustler nation candidate is the UDA candidate John Njuguna Wanjiku. That is the candidate for the hustler nation, any other candidate is on their own. Any other person should not claim to be part of the hustler nation,” said the MP.

An MP allied to Ruto from the region yesterday said some local leaders were not happy with Kuria’s recent win in Juja and were out to push him aside.

“Politically, Kuria is seen to be fast rising within the DP’s camp, that is why some leaders are against him fielding a candidate in Kiambaa. They supported PEP candidate in Juja, so what has changed now? He can now claim the DP slot in Ruto’s 2022 line-up,” said the lawmaker, who sought anonymity.

Kieni MP Kanini Kega and Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said that it was only a matter of time before the Ruto camp was hit by infighting.

Mr Kega claimed, without proof, that Ruto had promised each of the Mt Kenya counties a deputy president slot, explaining why the leaders are each trying to outshine one another.

He claimed that the DP had promised to give the position of second-in-command to Kuria, former CS Mwangi Kiunjuri, Kandara MP Alice Wahome, senators Kithure Kindiki (Tharaka Nithi) and Mithika Linturi (Meru).

“It was just a matter of time; all those people are going there with the intention to benefit. Literally everyone is there courtesy of the promise they have been told,” said Kega.

Mr Wambugu said the infighting was inevitable since those in Ruto’s camp were there to advance their individual political interests.

“The Mt Kenya leaders in Tangatanga are not with Ruto on principle. They are with him so that he can give them positions that will help them grow their post-2022 political careers, now that they assume Uhuru is no longer useful to them for 2022,” said the MP.

“However, the positions that a Mt Kenya person can occupy around Ruto are limited. So they will keep fighting each other as they fight for those positions. And the fight will be vicious,” added Wambugu.

The leaders last month held a two-day retreat with the Deputy President in Maasai Mara, Narok County, where they tabled a list of demands to support his presidential bid and deliberated on the economic agenda of the Mt Kenya region.