President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Deputy President William Ruto at State House in Nairobi, May 7, 2018. /PSCU
Rift Valley MPs want President Uhuru Kenyatta to come clean and assure them that he still supports DP William Ruto’s bid for the presidency in 2022.
They want to know if the deal he entered into with Ruto in 2012 still stands.
Ahead of the 2013 general elections, Uhuru and Ruto — then leading TNA and URP, respectively — had agreed that should they win the election, Uhuru would serve for 10 years, then he will back Ruto for another 10years.
Since Uhuru and Opposition chief Raila Odinga struck a deal on March 9 to work together, suspicion has been rising in Ruto’s camp over his fate.
Ruto’s lieutenants from the Rift Valley, Mt Kenya and Western regions believe the reentry of Raila could jolt Jubilee’s smooth power transition strategy and puncture the DP’s 2022 presidential ambitions, if not checked.
A vocal MP who spoke to the Star on condition of anonymity summarised their apprehension thus: “Since the two (Raila and Uhuru) shook hands outside Harambee House, his body language has not been that assuring. During the burial of Kenneth Matiba in Murang’a county a week ago and during the State of the Nation address in Parliament last week, the President never made any reference to the DP and this has added salt to suspicion. This needs to be cured by Uhuru coming out.”
While Uhuru has assured the nation that the handshake with his long-time political rival has nothing to do with the 2022 elections, Siaya Senator and Minority leader James Orengo’s remarks over the weekend that Raila could take a fifth shot at the top seat has deepened the suspicion.
“We have a strategy and it is part of what you are currently witnessing in the country. Raila is a visionary, he sees where most of us can’t,” Orengo said in Migori county on Saturday.
That has fuelled talk in political circles that some politicians who lost in the August 2017 elections have teamed up with a clique of influential and wealthy businessmen from the Mt Kenya region in pushing to position Raila to succeed Uhuru.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech said while the vote-rich region is not in panic mode, “it would be prudent for the President to come out and reassure Rift Valley that the handshake has nothing to do with the 2022 election and will not disrupt the deal.
“Unless the President comes out and pronounces himself on the agreement they have with the DP, and assures us as a region that he will not shortchange us, some of our supporters are asking questions,” Koech told the Star on the phone.
On Sunday, Senate Majority leader Kichumba Murkomen asked why Raila was now engaging in political activities at the expense of bringing Kenyans together for the sake of unity and development.
Speaking in Moi Kapsowar Girls High School grounds in Elgeyo Marakwet county during an interdenominational prayer service attended by the DP, Murkomen said opposition leaders were now using the ‘handshake’ to push Raila’s political agenda in 2022.
“It is now becoming increasingly clear that the recent handshake is being used for a political agenda. What looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck is a duck,” Murkomen said.
He added, “Odinga is telling us that the recent handshake is for the unity of this country, while in political rallies he is talking about 2022 politics. This means he is not sincere in this matter.”
Cherang’any MP Joshua Kuttuny called on the DP’s supporters not to read too much into the handshake deal, saying Uhuru “is a man who keeps his word”.
The former adviser on political affairs called on his colleagues from Rift Valley to support the handshake, as the deal might work to the advantage of the DP in a way.
“We, team Ruto, should avoid speculation and propaganda flying around. The President means good and I can assure you that he still has the DP as his 2022 choice,” he said.
Kuttuny said, however, it was unfortunate that the proposal for a referendum to change the structure of government, among other things, by Raila and his allies is causing divisions.
“We should instead give the 14-member committee time to carry on with its work, then we will look at the proposals they will come up with,” he said.
Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruyiot insisted that they would not allow any amendments to change the Constitution to create positions for some individuals.
“We will only allow amendments to the Constitution if they are for the benefit of the people, but not the ones aimed at helping some few people get to power,” he said.
Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso and Nakuru Woman Representative Lisa Chelule concurred, saying they will only support the handshake if it is about bringing Kenyans together and has nothing to do with the politics of 2022.
However, the two expressed optimism that Uhuru will not shortchange the DP but be his chief campaigner in 2022.
“We want to take the handshake to mean that it was all about unifying Kenyans which we shall fully support. Anything outside that, we will not be party to. What we know in Rift Valley and in the Mt Kenya region is that we have a candidate for 2022, and we still stand with that 2013 package,” Chelule said.
“The assurance of the President that all is well is key. We do not want to doubt the President on his support for the DP. So far, there’s no reason to do so,” Laboso pointed out.
Some Central Kenya MPs said Uhuru will support Ruto, adding that the residents in the region were firmly behind his 2022 bid.
“There is no need to worry as we will return the favour to the DP,” said Kinangop MP Thuku Kwenya.
“Our brothers and sisters in Rift Valley should not have sleepless nights, the leadership of Mt Kenya region led by the President is firmly behind the leadership of the DP and will rally behind him for the top seat in 2022,” he told the Star.
Kiambu Woman Representative Gathoni Wamuchomba and Dagoretti South MP John Kiarie also said the region would reciprocate Ruto’s support to Uhuru over the years.
“The people of Central Kenya know well that were it not for support from Ruto from 2013 to date, President Kenyatta would not have been where he is today,” Wamuchomba said.
“Ruto has worked hard to be where he is today, Kenyans will elect him for the top seat when the time comes,” Kiarie said.
Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege said Ruto deserves to be Kenya’s next President.
“We have worked with you, and we have seen that you can move this country to the next level,” she said.
Over the weekend, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria said that the era of hereditary politics in Kenya is long gone. He claimed that as Rift Valley supported Uhuru, Mt Kenya too will support Ruto.
“Nothing will stop God’s plan, this is the Hustlers’ time,” Kuria said.