Why governors have ganged up on William Ruto
Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, an ally of the DP who has turned into a fierce critic, is leading a campaign to turn the heat on the URP leader, who the governors accuse of undermining them in their own political backyards.
Governors Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Cleophas Lagat (Nandi), Simeon Kachapin (West Pokot), Narok Deputy Governor Chepkirui Aruasa, Kuresoi MP Zakayo Cheruiyot and his Nandi Hills counterpart Alfred Keter have rallied behind the Bomet County boss.
The governors accuse the DP of not consulting them on issues affecting the region, fanning petty squabbles between them and county assemblies and funding Senators and MPs to undermine them.
Save for Meru’s Peter Munya, President Uhuru Kenyatta has managed to silence dissenting voices in his backyard.
Mr Ruto faces a challenge from governors representing the most populous sections of his Rift Valley stronghold, namely the Kipsigis, Nandi and Pokot.
The Kipsigis, who occupy Kericho and Bomet counties and are also found in significant numbers in Nakuru, Narok and Nandi, are the biggest Kalenjin group and any defection en masse or even in part, to the Bomet governor’s camp, will dent Mr Ruto’s political clout.
A fractured political base would hurt the DP’s bargaining power with President Kenyatta with whom he has a pre-election power sharing pact and a gentleman’s agreement to support him when he leaves State House.
“Our biggest problem with William Ruto is his mindset of patronage. He doesn’t respect other leaders yet he demands loyalty from them,” the governor said on Friday.
“To drive home his agenda, he assigns some MPs and senators to go around the country spewing vitriol to besmirch governors and attack devolution. He grins when (National Assembly Majority Leader) Duale abuses us. Check all the photos,” an angry Mr Ruto said on Friday.
He said he had been threatened several times, but vowed not to abandon a cause he believes is for the good of Kenyans.
“When he comes to the counties he treats governors with contempt. He has no respect and he doesn’t care for protocol,” Mr Ruto, who is also the Council of Governors chairman, said.
The governor claimed that many of the problems counties face can be traced to the DP and his allies. “The crisis in Makueni can be traced to him. The speaker there is a URP leader.”
The governor spoke as it emerged that the Jubilee leadership was planning to isolate Mr Ruto by wooing Dr Lagat, Prof Chepkwony and Mr Kachapin to their camp.
A close ally of the Nandi governor told Saturday Nation that President Kenyatta has called his boss for a meeting twice but he gave conditions that if the DP was in the meeting he would not attend as he believes he is sponsoring Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei to stand against him.
Contacted on Friday, Dr Lagat denied he was planning to decamp. “It is a rumour being spread by our opponents. We are in it for the long haul. This is about the people of Nandi. I am asking for the money to serve them whether I am removed or not,” Dr Lagat said through his director of communications Gideon Birgen.
Said Prof Chepkwony: “The URP leadership has never called governors to a meeting to discuss issues affecting the counties or the country since the General Election. Instead, the top brass have chosen to go round the country threatening to expel governors crying for our people’s welfare.”
Mr Ruto said the DP chairs the intergovernmental relations committee and the summit in the absence of the President. He said he should have supported devolution and endeared himself to Kenyans.
“But today he is the most hated public figure in the national government. If he persists along that line we will expose him. Who has more cases in court than the party leader? People with terrible things in the closet should not threaten others,” Mr Ruto said.
Rift Valley politician and former Kenya National Library Service chairman William Kettienya attacked unnamed URP leaders, saying they had no moral authority to lecture governors on accountability “yet they had been hauled before the courts for theft and all manner of crime.”
Mr Kettienya said the DP thinks of the Kalenjin as his property that “he can put in a bag and walk around with to sell to the highest bidder.”
“Those calling for more resources are speaking in the interests of the community. It is these people he should have supported. Ruto has squandered a very good opportunity that would have made him the champion of devolution,” he said.
Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who has also been accused of riding roughshod over governors, said it was clear from the beginning that Pesa Mashinani was not about money but a fight for political supremacy.
“You cannot drag the country into a referendum because of internal squabbles. What you are seeing are people trying to show they also have clout. It is an issue of management of personal relations with the governors and the DP.”
He said governors with questions to answer should come to the Senate and stop wasting time.
“(Senate Majority Leader Kithure) Kindiki, Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale and I have been extremely vocal in demanding accountability and it is really not about parties or factions.”
He denied allegations by governors that URP had descended into the dark Kanu days where trumped up charges and violence were used to intimidate politicians, saying the county bosses were responsible for “all the three ugly confrontations from Bomet to Makueni and Nandi; it is actually the governors who are intolerant.”
Mr Duale denied he was being used by the DP to abuse Rift Valley leaders, saying he had no agenda there except oversight duty.
“This is a diversionary tactic to avoid the questions we are asking on misuse of funds,” he said.
But Governor Ruto insists that what the auditor-general is asking about is not misuse or misallocation of funds, but the banking of Sh195 million in an existing account rather than opening new one.
“We have explained that at the time, there were no officials to open the new account but garbage had to be collected and the people had to be served. This is not a question I should be answering Duale,” he said.
Additional reporting by Tom Matoke and Geoffrey Rono