Inside vicious fight over Ruto’s running mate

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021 11:00 |
Deputy President William Ruto addressing small-scale traders of Rurii during the launch of an empowerment programme in Nyandarua County. Photo/DPPS

Benjamin Imende

Politicians in Deputy President William Ruto’s inner circle are caught up in a vicious fight as they angle themselves for nomination as his running mate.

The position is the biggest and most strategic card that a presidential candidate is expected to deploy to attract key votes with insiders pushing for the slot to go to the populous Mt Kenya region.

However, a section of Ruto’s close allies hold that the  region has had its fair share of leadership positions and the post should be reserved for “more deserving” areas such as Western Kenya, Coast or Upper Eastern whose leaders support Ruto.

The differences are likely to place the Deputy President in a dilemma as he seeks to consolidate his support in the vote-rich region while at the same time keeping hold of the other areas.

Majority bloc

A winning presidential candidate must attract majority bloc vote and at least 25 per cent of the ballots cast in more than half of the 47 counties as required by the Constitution.

Key sources at Ruto’s Karen residence told People Daily that there has been intense lobbying and even intimidation, which is slowly spilling to the public.

Those close to the DP say Mount Kenya legislators want the position of a running mate to solidify their six million votes.

But this will lock out other areas, whose leaders are not happy with the demand and have warned him that he might lose their support if he picked his deputy from central Kenya.

“We must all sit down and agree on who will be Ruto’s running mate. We must pick someone who has the potential to become the next president.

He or she must be acceptable and has the interests of the whole nation at heart,” Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, an influential member of Ruto’s  camp and  pointman in Western region said.

Other senior members of Ruto’s inner circle include  Mathira MP  Rigathi Gachagua, Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, his Meru counterpart Mithika Linturi and MPs Kimani Inchung’wa (Kikuyu), Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), Aisha Jumwa (Malindi), Alice Wahome (Kandara) and Victor Munyaka of Machakos Town.

Former senators Johnstone Muthama, Boni Khalwale and Hassam Omar have also been drumming support for the DP.

Politicians supporting the DP from outside Tangatanga strongholds (Rift Valley and Mount Kenya) believe that one of them should be appointed the running mate since the two regions have produced three presidents.

“For now, people must stop threatening and crowding the DP to be nominated.

Ruto is a national leader and people should let him serve the nation peacefully,” Washiali said.

The leaders outside Mt Kenya argue that it would be difficult to sell the DP to their constituents, since the regions have never produced a President since independence.

It also threatens their chances of retaining their elective positions in the 2022 polls.

Political analyst Martin Andati warned that there will be a fallout, whichever way Ruto picks a running mate.

“Regions outside Rift Valley and Mt Kenya should forget the position of a running mate.

Ruto can only give these regions other positions, which might not translate to votes,” Andati said

“Remember Ruto has banked and invested heavily in Mt Kenya for a long time and can’t overlook them at this hour.”

The DP has been dragged into Mt Kenya succession politics in his hunt for a running mate, as he considers someone competent, loyal and able to raise his nationwide profile.

Several leaders believe they are the right candidates to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta as the region’s kingpin.

“There has been blackmail and intimidation, which you know comes in many ways,” an MP who requested not to be identified said of the running mate debate.

Murang’a, Embu, Kirinyaga, Meru and Tharaka Nithi leaders have already warned that Kiambu and Nyeri counties have already produced presidents and should let other regions have their chance.

Main table

However, Kiambu and Nyeri leaders warn that they have the numbers and must protect their interests.

“You cannot ignore Kiambu; our numbers are our strength and we must be on the main table. Ignore Kiambu at your peril,” Kiambu Woman Rep Gathoni Wamuchomba warned.

The politicians are heavily lobbying by sponsoring artists for songs to praise them, meeting the elders, funding the hustler nation activities and setting up political parties to raise the stake in their bargaining.

“Kiambu has produced Uhuru and the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta while Nyeri produced President Mwai Kibaki. Other areas believe it’s their turn to lead,” Prof Macharia Munene told People Daily.

He noted that it remains an assumption that if Ruto picked a running mate from Mt Kenya, he will get the region’s votes.

“I also know that many people from the Hustler nation in Mt Kenya will be disappointed if they are not picked.

But, it will heavily depend on the person he picks and his relationship with voters,” Munene said.

He added: “Remember the DP’s position is an errand boy position but politicians are only looking at the perks.” 

On his part, Kuria dismissed his counterparts in Murang’a, Embu, Kirinyaga, Meru and Tharaka Nithi, saying they should stop hiding behind regions but campaign for the positions.

Village groupings

“My agenda is serving the people and I call on my counterparts to serve the people. I know several people want me to be their running mate but my priority now is serving my people,” Kuria said.

He added: “Let anyone who wants a running mate be appointed. People should contest and stop hiding in village groupings.”

Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege and former Dagoreti MP Dennis Waweru dismissed the DP and Tangatanga politics, saying that no one should dictate the future for the region, on their behalf.

“There are those who want to dictate our future as Mount Kenya. We will not allow it,” Sabina said during a rally in  Meru County meant to endorse Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya as the region’s kingpin. She was referring to the DP.

Political analyst Andati said that Ruto will find a way to manoeuvre but at the end of the day there will be a big fallout within the Hustler nation.

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