Will William’s troubles open the door for Bomet’s Isaac?
Noah Chepleon and Felix Yegon
Three days after striking a deal with Kanu, President Uhuru Kenyatta is said to be talking with senior politicians from the Rift Valley to clip Deputy President William Ruto’s wings as cracks in the Jubilee Party deepened.
Yesterday, former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto was forced to refute reports that he had been picked up by a chopper from his home in Chepalungu for a meeting at Nairobi State House, sparking rumours of a possible cabinet reshuffle.
The former governor, who is the leader of Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) party, has had an on-again, off-again relationship with DP Ruto with the latest costing the former his gubernatorial seat in 2017.
Coincidentally, the two leaders joined politics at the same time (1997) but while the CCM boss has encountered setbacks which have sometimes thrust him into the political cold, DP Ruto has enjoyed a non-interrupted run — rising to the apex of the country’s politics.
The two have on several occasions locked horns in a battle for supremacy, with Isaac attempting to chart a different path for the populous Kipsigis community, a dominant sub-tribe in the South Rift.
This culminated in a public spat in 2015 when Isaac threatened to break a meeting after a section of the crowd booed him, uttering the famous words:“Msiponyamasa hii mkutano itakwisha” (if you don’t shut up, I will end this meeting).
But, when he rose to speak, DP Ruto, who hails from Uasin Gishu in the North Rift, fired back saying nobody can intimidate him. “When I am here, I am home… this Bomet is my home,” he declared.
It is these competing interests in the Rift Valley that Uhuru is seeking to exploit in a bid to “tame” the DP following their bitter falling out which has rekindled the fluid nature of Kenya’s politics.
The exact cause of their fall-out cannot be ascertained at this point but the President has since brought on board the DP’s bitter rival and opposition chief Raila Odinga after the famous March 2018 Handshake which caught many Kenyans by surprise.
Although Isaac Ruto yesterday said his trip to the city was prompted by his wife’s job, speculation had been rife since Tuesday that he would attend a meeting at State House and that he was to be picked up early in the morning.
Yesterday, a chopper landed at his Tumoi residence at 8am and left in just 10 minutes.
According to our sources, Raila had been tasked to talk to the former governor after he allegedly declined a cabinet position fearing it might compromise his chances of reclaiming the Bomet gubernatorial seat in 2022.
There were also reports that he was going to sign a post-election coalition deal with Jubilee like Kanu did recently, which culminated in the appointment of West Pokot Senator Samuel Poghisio as Leader of Majority in the Senate.
This followed the sacking of Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, a keen supporter of William Ruto. Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika was also replaced as Chief Whip by Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata.
But in a statement yesterday afternoon, Isaac Ruto dismissed claims he had attended a meeting at State House, saying he flew to Nairobi with his wife who is among the essential service providers in the fight against coronavirus.
“I want to clarify that indeed I travelled to Nairobi using the helicopter with my wife who is in the essential services sector and who was required to transact official business in her office,” said CCM boss.
“The travel by helicopter was not unusual as it is a matter of public record that I have once in a while been using the same means of transport to various destinations…” he said.
“Finally, I wish to set the record straight that my travel had nothing to do with the political realignments in the country as is being speculated,” he added.