Ruto moves to consolidate the Rift Valley vote

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021 00:00 |
CCM party leader Isaac Ruto shakes hands with Deputy President William Ruto in Ndanai in Sotik on Friday. Photo/PD/ Felix Yegon

Noah Cheploen @cheploennoah

Deputy President William Ruto has aggressively moved to consolidate his Rift Valley power base by courting his opponents, the latest being former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto and West Pokot county chief John Lonyangapuo.

A few days after residents advised him to work with Ruto or brace for more days in the political cold, the former governor who is the Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) party leader, was on hand to receive the DP in Bomet last Friday.

“We love you but if you want to save your political career, work with the DP,” residents could be heard telling him in Kalenjin in a video that went viral on social media last week.

The DP was in Bomet to commission projects funded by the county government and the Constituencies Development Fund (CDF).

He also handed over a bus to National Super League side Silibwet FC and later presided over a fundraiser for boda boda saccos in Sotik.

During the event, the former Council of Governors (CoG) chairman and a fierce critic of the DP promised the latter his full support, saying: “These people have promised me they are going to give you yours and also give me mine.”

A vocal leader, the former governor has often had a love-hate relationship with the DP and has on several occasions tried to break away from his larger-than-life profile in the region— albeit unsuccessfully.

This basically informed his decision to form the CCM party with the famous slogan “Pesa Mashinani”.

However; DP Ruto has always prevailed—pushing him into political cold during the 2017 General Election where the DP’s gubernatorial candidate the late Joyce Laboso triumphed in Bomet.

Dr Laboso died in office paving the way for her deputy Hillary Barchok to take over the mantle.

The DP has moved further to tighten his grip in the region’s politics by raiding independence party Kanu and the ODM by winning over hitherto fiery critics such as Lonyangapuo and his Turkana counterpart Josephat Nanok, respectively, into supporters of the “Hustler Movement.”

DP Ruto’s latest moves and the support he enjoys in the region are likely to force Senator Gideon Moi back into the drawing board over Rift Valley politics.

“Leaders must walk together and reject the politics of tribe. Instead, of competing on the basis of hatred and division, they should adopt the politics of issues, ideologies and development track-record that will in the long run empower ordinary Kenyans,” the DP said in a message posted on his social media account.

Political cold

The message accompanied pictures of him with the West Pokot Governor, saying: “Paid a courtesy call on Governor Prof. Lonyangapuo; discussed development issues touching on West Pokot.”

But contacted, Kanu secretary general Nick Salat said the former ruling party was not surprised with Isaac Ruto’s defection to the DP’s corner.

“To us in Kanu his move has not come as a blow, it has not affected us in any way since this is someone who has always had many demands to be fulfilled which no one can meet and that is what is making him to hop from one camp to the other,” said Salat.

“You cannot be with Uhuru today, tomorrow you are with Raila and the next day you are with Ruto,” he added.

Tiaty MP William Kamket also downplayed the impact of the latest defections to the DP’s camp, saying they were motivated by monetary gain.

While endorsing the DP’s bid, Isaac Ruto said his change of heart was informed by unfair political wars targeted at the DP.

“We have decided to work together so that you succeed in your quest in 2022 and also unite the region.”

The former governor was a big catch for the DP considering he has been trying to carve out a niche for himself in the vote rich South Rift which is inhabited by the populous Kipsigis sub-tribe of the Kalenjin.

But  the defection  to Ruto’s camp has caused anxiety within Barchok’s camp.

In what seems to be an indirect endorsement of the former governor for the Bomet gubernatorial seat, the DP told the former governor to join in the drive towards uniting the community if he wanted to avoid yet another time in the political cold.

“We want him to come here so that we can walk this journey together...we want him to be here and not there and I have told him well that if he does not agree to come and support us in this journey then the break that these people gave you will continue until you retire from politics,” said the DP amid cheers from the crowd.

This statement has now ignited a fresh political war between the DP and Barchok who feels he has been thrown under the bus.

Barchok has been trying to maintain his grip in the county as he eyes the seat in 2022.

Displeased with the former governor’s defection, Barchok even skipped the DP’s event in Londiani in Kericho a day after the Bomet functions.

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