What Waruguru’s defection means for Ruto in Laikipia

Thursday, June 11th, 2020 11:00 |
Opposition leader Raila Odinga offers hand sanitiser to Laikipia Woman Rep Cate Waruguru when she paid him a visit at his Capitol Hill offices on Tuesday. Photo/PD/File

Eric Wainaina @EWainaina

Laikipia Woman Representative Cate Waruguru’s meeting with opposition leader Raila Odinga, a man she had built a national image disparaging, was previously unthinkable.

The unexpected meeting serves to give credence to the saying that there are no permanent enemies or friends in politics, only permanent interests. It’s also an indication that Deputy President William Ruto’s fortunes in Laikipia County, where he has been drawing crowds, could be in jeopardy.

Another local MP, Laikipia North’s Sarah Korere, who has been in Ruto’s camp, also met Raila at his Capitol Hill office in Nairobi, yesterday.

Waruguru, who has been the face of defiance in Ruto’s camp where she was accused of disrespecting President Uhuru Kenyatta, on Tuesday ditched the DP’s camp and embraced the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) spearheaded by Uhuru and Raila.

Fierce critic

“If we let the Kenyan third generation travel in a tribal train we’ll have lost it all. And as long as my people in Laikipia will benefit from government projects, I don’t mind. They are the ones that matter to me,” the Woman Rep said after meeting Raila.

The former nominated Ward Rep at Laikipia County Assembly added: “Uhuru ni rais, Baba ni baba na mama ni Simba.”

She said that during the meeting, Raila told her that his father, independence Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, bought a car for Mwai Kibaki. 

This, to her, was a significant reminder that tribalism should not have a place in modern-day politics.

“The first one for that matter after his (Kibaki’s) schooling in Makerere University,” she said.

The MP has been a fierce critic of Raila and his supporters and by extension the President, especially after the March 9, 2018 Handshake which she saw as a scheme to shortchange Ruto in 2022.

On Tuesday, a statement from Raila’s office said the two discussed “critical national issues”, among them constitutional reforms, which have been captured in the Building the Bridges Initiative.

“I hosted Laikipia County MP Catherine Waruguru, who was accompanied by Minority Whip Junet Mohamed. We held a discussion on critical national issues including constitutional reforms and national unity,” Raila said.

However, political observers pointed out that her move was calculated to spare her from the ongoing ruthless purge on Ruto supporters in the ruling Jubilee Party.

Michael Mugo, the director of Foundation for Dialogue and a political analyst, believes that from her actions, Waruguru may have taken a bold step that could give her a political lifeline.

According to Mugo, while it’s yet to be seen if the move will make her a factor in the regional politics, it cannot be disputed that she is not in a corner safe from attacks by Uhuru’s men and effectively escape the ongoing ruthless purge against Ruto’s allies.

“Waruguru being one of the young parliamentarians in Kenya and being very intelligent despite the noises she makes, has made a personal decision. One about her political future and how to relate with government,” said Mugo, who also comes from Laikipia county.

He added: ”She will stop being profiled as among the rebels from Mt Kenya region who have been accused of disrespecting the President who is the region’s de facto political kingpin.”

The MP,  known for her eloquence, is among those who have been targeted in the ongoing purge on the DP’s allies in Parliament. Already, she has been de-whipped as the vice chair of the members’ welfare committee.

Her move, according to some pundits, could effectively make her a factor and a face in the BBI debate in Laikipia considering her charisma that easily excites crowds and also because the region, which has three constituencies, has been quiet on national politics.

Laikipia West MP Patrick Mariru, a silent pro-Ruto supporter, has been concentrating more on his projects, while Korere and Laikipia East MP Mohammed Amin, have also been quiet.

Senator John Kinyua, a Tanga Tanga adherent, who recently lost his chairmanship at the Devolution Committee, is a moderate politician who hardly makes pronouncements on national politics and so is Governor Nderitu Muriithi, a supporter of BBI.

Minji Minji

Former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, a supporter of the DP and a former close friend of Waruguru, has also gone silent.

“The move, which makes her join the faces of BBI and unity, may not have much impact in Laikipia politics because the region hardly participates in succession politics but will definitely hang on her as a leader today and in the future. 

“It also serves to show how tables are turning on the DP because it silences the noise that has been coming from the region in favour of the DP,” Mugo opines.

Waruguru, her Nyeri counterpart Rahab Mukami, Faith Gitau (Nyandarua), Wangui Ngirichi (Kirinyaga) and Kandara’s Alice Wahome, have been the strong women voices in the DP’s camp in Central Kenya but the Laikipia MP has been the most vocal and would use harsh language on a target, making her an asset.

Waruguru, who was among the Central women leaders who rode on the popular Minji Minji (young and beautiful) moniker, having been nicknamed Minji Minji ya Laikipia, easily won the seat after outwitting ten candidates in the Jubilee primaries.

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