THE crowning of Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto as a Kipsigis elder has shaken allies of Deputy President William Ruto, following speculation that the former is planning a presidential bid in 2017.

According to multiple sources close to the Governor, Rutto wants to wrestle the region from the Deputy President and use it to bargain his way into a higher seat in 2017. The possibility of his becoming Cord leader Raila Odinga’s running mate has been raised.

As part of the larger scheme Rutto, the face of the Pesa Mashinani campaign, was crowned an elder together with his Deputy Steven Mutai shortly after an ugly confrontation pitting him against Majority Leader Aden Duale on Monday.

In the Kalenjin community a coronation is regarded as a significant function and is only performed on those the community has identified as its leaders.

Deputy President William Ruto was crowned by various Kalenjin sub-tribes in 2013 as he campaigned for President Kenyatta. In some cases the two were crowed community leaders together.

Raila was also crowed a Kalenjin leader in 2007, as the community rallied behind him. Former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka has also had his turn to be crowned.

“The crowning of the Governor as a Kipsigis community leader puts him a notch higher than the others in the leadership hierarchy,” John Busienei, one of the elders who presided over the ceremony, said.

Yesterday there was speculation in parts of Rift Valley that the Governor is planning to be on the ballot in 2017, either as a Presidential candidate or a running mate.

But Rutto denied he was scheming to wrestle control of the Rift Valley from the Deputy President and run for the Presidency.

“The elders called me for this function and they are the ones who know what they were doing with me. I’m not thinking about the Presidency – for now. I’m keen to make sure devolution works,” said Rutto.

His chief critic, Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, dismissed Rutto’s plan. “If Rutto wants to run for President it is his constitutional right to do so. Even Jeremiah Kukubo was once a Presidential candidate,” said Murkomen, a close ally of the Deputy President.

Murkomen was referring to Nixon Jeremiah Kukubo, who run in the 2007 race and came a far distant last, garnering only 5,926 votes, or 0.06 per cent.

Observers say that the coronation where the Council of Governors boss was handed a leadership baton, a spear, a sword and traditional regalia by the elders was loaded with political significance.

Elder Philip Samoei noted: “Rutto has earned his position in society, owing not only to his seniority in politics, but also his contribution to development and service to humanity in a political career spanning over 20 years”.

Kipsigis is the largest Kalenjin sub-tribe and voted almost to a man for the Jubilee Coalition headed by President Uhuru Kenyatta in last year’s polls.

Yesterday, Bureti MP Leonard Sang claimed it would be no surprise to see the Bomet Governor named Raila Odinga’s running mate in 2017. “We know Isaac is working with Raila. It’s even said that the two were seen together in Karen last week.

“For us the coronation is nothing. The entire Kalenjin community is firmly behind William because he means well for all of us,” Sang concluded. Allies of the Deputy President insist that Rutto and some pro-referendum Governors are planning to register a new political outfit known as Chama Cha Ugatuzi (the Devolution Party), to rival URP in the Rift Valley.

However, Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony dismissed the claims, insisting that they remain loyal to Uhuru and Ruto. “We in Kericho county are members of the Jubilee Coalition and fully support the government of the day. We have no hidden agenda to undermine the same government through the referendum”, Prof Chepkwony said.

“Telling Kericho residents to support the referendum for more money to be rolled to the counties should not be mistaken for fronting for other political party interests. We are fully behind the Jubilee government through the leadership of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto”, said Chepkwony.

However, it has emerged that URP is engaging high-flying personalities – including cabinet Secretaries – from the Rift Valley to dissuade the county chiefs from the referendum push.

Rutto, Chepkwony, Simon Kachapin (West Pokot) and Cleophas Lagat (Nandi) are among the Jubilee county chiefs spearheading the public vote.

There are reports that Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei, who hails from Nandi county, has been reaching out to Lagat to drop the plebiscite push.

This was after all elected members of the county assembly snubbed a URP meeting to make them rebel against Lagat and back off from the referendum bid.

Some of the MCAs last Saturday attended a public function hosted by the Agriculture CS in Arwos, Nandi county. They then went into a private meeting with URP officials, where Lagat’s decision to back the referendum was discussed.


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