In politics, foes and friends are just that: words

Friday, November 5th, 2021 00:00 |
DP William Ruto receives Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru at his Karen residence. Photo/PD/JONAH MWANGI

Indications that Laikipia Woman Rep Cate Waruguru could be heading to the Deputy President William Ruto’s camp signals the shifting allegiances among politicians as the county heads to the elections.

Waruguru was on Tuesday photographed with Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika and Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa who are Ruto ardent supporters fuelling speculation that she could be warming up to Ruto’s camp.

Sources close to the DP yesterday told People Daily Waruguru was supposed to be welcomed at Ruto’s Karen residence yesterday but was not because the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) chief was away in Kiambu county. 

“She is coming to UDA and there are plans to receive her,” said the source. If she defects, Waruguru will be joining a list of former foes turned friends as the battle for various seats in the August 2022 polls takes shape.

 The move will be coming hot on the heels of Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru’s defection to the hustler movement. Before the switch, there was no love lost between her and Ruto. 

In July, Waiguru said in an interview that Mt Kenya region was ready to support ODM leader Raila Odinga and was willing to form a political alliance with him.

She said a wind of political change had hit Central Kenya throwing open the region’s choice of a presidential candidate in next year’s polls.

Waiguru, who has previously had a frosty relationship with Raila, described the ODM leader as “someone who understands the role women play in Kenya’s politics.

But barely two months later, the old adage that there are no permanent enemies or friends in politics seems to have caught up with Waiguru, affirming how Kenya’s politicians shift alliances for survival ahead of elections. 

Addressing a crowd at Ruto’s Karen residence, Waiguru, without blinking an eye, retorted: “It is only a fool who can continue being in the same political path with the kind of pressure that I have been facing.”

Rebalancing of politics

Waiguru is among the long list of leaders, who have found themselves supporting a different political camp that they initially never fathomed to join.

With 2022 beckoning, politicians are now resorting to any available trick that can enable them survive the political tsunami that could wipe them from the public scene.

“The country is witnessing the rebalancing of its politics as we begin to look forward to the next election.

In the coming few days, we expect to see a lot of political realignments,” says Prof Macharia Munene, a political analyst and a former lecturer at USIU-Africa.

He says the politicians’ instinct for survival will see several heavyweights seeking solace in their former enemies’ corner that they believe would guarantee them victory in the next polls.

Dozens of politicians have in the recent past been forced to eat the words they previously used against their former enemies now turned friends.

Some Jubilee governors and MPs who were initially die-hard defenders of President Kenyatta and his Deputy have now split into Kieleweke and Tanga Tanga camps, from where they hurl all sorts of insults at their former leaders.

While Kieleweke team has remained pro-Uhuru and latter day defenders of Raila, the Tanga Tanga brigade has continued to disparage the former Prime Minister and opened a new war front against Uhuru, who they accuse of betraying their boss, the DP, in the 2022 succession politics.

In the opposition parties, while majority of ODM elected leaders, among them Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, MPs Junet Mohammed (Suna East), National Assembly Leader of Minority John Mbadi, Millie Odhiambo (Suba North) and Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay) have joined Raila in defending Uhuru following the March 9, 2018 handshake, others such as Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa have joined Ruto who they never had kind words for in 2013 and 2017 elections.

Waiguru, who has been one of Uhuru and Raila’s backers in the succession politics, was last week welcomed to UDA by Ruto who once accused her of presiding over theft in government and even supported her impeachment.

While announcing her defection, Waiguru did not hide the fact that with her defection from the pro-UhuRaila team, she was seeking to be political relevant.

“I have asked for wisdom and I think I have listened. I have checked many of the members sitting here, I have checked with others who are not here, I have even checked with the people who are on theHother side who have not officially set their move.

I have asked, is it betrayal if I moved? But the message that I have been given by everybody I have talked to is that in politics you must be very careful to stay relevant,” she said.

Waiguru, who claims that her decision to join the hustler movement was influenced by the ground, now intends to seek re-election on a UDA ticket whose supporters in the Senate backed her failed impeachment after those allied to Raila such as Siaya Senator James Orengo put a spirited fight to save her.

 In 2018, Waiguru shocked Kenyans when she joined the pro-handshake team that then comprised Raila allies who had earlier in 2016 forced her out of her Cabinet job over graft at the National Youth Service (NYS).

Lack of principals 

At that time, Ruto and his backers, former Majority Leaders Aden Duale (National Assembly) and Kipchumba Murkomen (Senate), whom she now joins, slammed her using harsh words.

“Kingereza mingi, mnatufanyia catwalk hapa around na ni wazi pesa ya umma imepotea. Mwenye hiyo pesa anasema aliweka kwa gunia. Sasa kweli jameni dunia hii (You are cat walking for us and speaking a lot of English yet it’s clear that public money has been stolen and the one who took it says she used a sack to carry it. This world!) Ruto lashed out at Waiguru in 2016.

Among those who were present to welcome her in the Tanga Tanga camp was Murkomen, who in 2015 demanded that she be prosecuted over the NYS scandalsaying: “Its enough for Waiguru to stand trial and be charged in a court of law. If she will not be charged with corruption of NYS, we could as well legalize corruption in the county”. 

But now, the senator, like the majority of his colleagues in Ruto’s corner who also backed her impeachment, is her defender, and has even cautioned EACC against arresting her over graft in her county.

University of Nairobi lecturer Herman Manyora argues that politicians jumping from one camp to another citing shifting of grounds is a demonstration of lack of principles, weak leadership, and only driven by the quest for survival.

“You must offer leadership. You cannot aspire to lead a country if you cannot offer leadership.

Leaders are people who make hard decisions, sometimes very unpopular decisions. Sometimes they cost them elections,” he said. 

In yet another example, in May 2016, former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale, then an ally of Raila, while attending a requiem of businessman Jacob Juma in Nairobi accused Ruto of having a hand in the slain businessman’s murder.

 Months later, he fired another salvo, whereby without providing any proof, accused the DP of stealing public money and using it to spruce his lifestyle. But now, Khalwale, who the DP sued over defamation is his top defender.

Political analyst Peter Ngethe opines the mass exodus of politicians from one camp to the other irrespective of their differences are fuelled by the fact that Kenyan politics have never been about ideologies but self interests.

This, Ngethe says, forces the leaders to fight for survival, noting that the “era of ideology existed in the early 90s but now it is no more. 

“Politicians have mastered the art of survival. No politician supports a party or coalition because they believe in the ideals. They always want to associate themselves with the winning side.

“Sometimes they are not able to decipher the winning side. This is because they are either blinded by greed or ambition,” he said.

Kiambu Woman Rep Gathoni Wa Muchomba, who was rewarded with the position of being vice chair of the Roads committee in the National Assembly for her fierce criticism of the DP, is today one of Ruto’s foot soldiers.

Central Kenya Governors Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Ndiritu Murithi (Laikipia) and Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi), Jubilee vice-chair David Murathe, as well as MPs among them Nominated MP Maina Kamanda and Kanini Kega (Kieni), Sabina Chege (Muran’ga County MP) who were among Raila’s fierce critics are now his backers and critics of the DP who they initially supported.

Murathe, who in January 2018 had dared Raila to swear himself and face arrest today sits with him to craft succession politics.

The leaders have been accompanying Raila in his tours of Mt Kenya region, and have vowed to ensure that he becomes the fifth president.

 “Whenever our people work with Nyanza, they always win. Since independence, anytime we worked together, we won.

 During the multiparty struggle, when we worked together (with Nyanza leaders), we won. In 2002, though some of us were with Uhuru, they teamed up with Kibaki and he (Raila) said Kibaki Tosha, they won.

Even in the coming one, if Mt Kenya, Nyanza, Western and the rest of the country come together, we shall win,” Murathe said last month.

Fierce defender

Former Machakos Senator Johnston Muthama while in Garissa campaigning for Raila and Kalonzo in 2017 blasted DP Ruto for his alleged involvement in numerous scandals.

Today, he is not only his defender but also the chairman of UDA  and a fierce critic of Raila and Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

Former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar has transitioned from a Raila loyalist to a disciple of Ruto, a man whom he had accused of orchestrating his indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) through witness coaching over the 2007 post poll chaos.

Nyali MP Mohamed Ali is a fierce supporter of the DP, a man he once fell short of accusing of killing Jacob Juma while serving as an investigative journalist.

In 2016, during a debate in Parliament on changing the electoral laws to allow manual vote-counting, Suba North Millie Odhiambo attacked President Uhuru, calling him unprintable words while immediately after the 2017 election, Embakasi East MP Babu Owino hurled unprintable words against the president in favour of Raila. 

But today, following the unity between Uhuru and Raila, they have become the greatest defenders of the president.

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