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Why Uhuru skipped campaign rallies in Kericho by-election

By Joseph Mutua Ndonga | March 10th 2016

As an observer, I followed with keen interest the political events and intrigues that characterized the campaigns for Kericho senatorial and Malindi parliamentary by-elections. One question that would not escape the mind of a section of the leaders in the Jubilee team was, “how come President Uhuru Kenyatta gave a wide berth to the campaign rallies organized to drum up support for JAP candidate in Kericho?”  Well, in his answer to this question, it is claimed one of the senior directors of communication at State House was quoted as saying that the President had faith in the team under the leadership of the DP Ruto that it will bring the trophy home.

Unlike in Malindi where the ruling coalition was battling it out with a candidate fronted by opposition ODM, I hope many Kenyans would agree with me that the situation in Kericho was tricky. First, the political events and developments witnessed during the campaigns left one with no doubt that the battle for the seat would be a two-horse race pitting William Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) candidate and one fronted by KANU chairman and the son of former President Daniel Arap Moi, Gideon Moi. Over the past few years, the two have been fighting a fierce political supremacy battle over who should lead the Kalenjin community. For the 24-years he ruled the country, Gideon’s father had remained the undisputed de facto leader of the Kalenjin. For William Ruto, he would mince no word in branding Gideon as a spoiler out to thwart his bid to succeed President Uhuru in 2022. This is as envisaged in the MOU Uhuru and Ruto signed in the countdown to 2013 General Elections. Does Moi think only a person who hails from their family can lead Kenya?    

It should be recalled that the leadership of the two parties had mobilized and rallied their supporters to vote to the last man in favor of President Uhuru Kenyatta during the 2013 polls. As we approach the 2017 polls, KANU has once again assured Uhuru that it will back his candidature.  Given this scenario, the presence of the President would have been translated to mean he was biased and disliked some members of his extended political family. But some observers argued that Cheruiyot of JAP, who would eventually take up the seat, was Kenyatta’s favorite candidate because he was DP’s choice who is a key pillar of his administration. It is alleged that, some of Uhuru’s allies and confidantes were on the ground to campaign for him, though none would tell whether they represented the head of state.

During the campaigns, one of the cards that the Deputy President unleashed repeatedly was that Moi’s son and Bomet governor Issac Ruto and their company were out to divide North Rift and South Rift. In addition, he would argue that KANU was working for the opposition chief Raila Odinga. A vote for KANU is a vote for CORD but the Independent party would hit back. Pokot senator Lonyangapuo, who is one of its key players, would purport. In 2013 polls, we voted in support of President Kenyatta to the last man and we have not changed that position. The post-election Memorandum of Understanding which we signed still remains intact. But going by the resounding defeat that KANU suffered, it is clear Ruto played his cards very well. He proved wrong doubting Thomas’ who thought he had lost the grip of the Kalenjin community.  

By failing to take part in the Kericho by-election campaigns, some Kenyans argued that the president demonstrated that he is a statesman and charismatic leader. He knew this was a supremacy battle pitting two sons of the same community and so there was need to give them space to sort out their differences. However, he had no doubt his Deputy had all it takes to weather the storm. Besides, in case of fallout, the President would be in a better position to reconcile the two sides.

Yes, some of Kenyatta’s critics would also create the impression that he avoided campaigning in Kericho because he knew Jubilee candidate would lose. For me, I don’t think this is true. Past experiences have shown that the President would not fear or shy away from supporting a candidate sponsored by any party affiliated to the ruling Jubilee coalition.

In Kajiado Central, for instance, he campaigned for JAP candidate Patrick Tutui, who unsuccessfully contested for the seat that fell vacant after the President appointed the area MP Hon Joseph Nkaissery to the cabinet. Though Nkaissery was in opposition having won the seat on a ticket of ODM, the loss of JAP was mainly blamed on mishandling of the nomination. Many argued that Tutui was not the popular candidate but he was imposed on electorate by some self-centered leaders of the Maa community.

Joseph Mutua Ndonga,

Social Commentator, Political Analyst and Blogger

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