Ruto has eyes on 2022 as he keeps up hectic political pace
Even as questions are raised over the fate of the Jubilee coalition following the withdrawal of the International Criminal Court case against President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto is set to continue the high pace of political rallies across the country even as he fights own trial for crimes against humanity.
The Deputy President has over the past year been seen to target some 10 counties where he has been concentrating his political forays.
Most of the visits have been to pro-opposition regions that Jubilee is keen to win over, but constant visits to the Meru region have raised eyebrows.
NETWORK OF ALLIES
Although the region voted substantially for Senator Kiraitu Murungi’s Alliance Party of Kenya, it generally identifies with President Kenyatta’s The National Alliance wing of Jubilee, hence suspicion in some quarters that Mr Ruto is out to eat into President Kenyatta’s support base.
However, Jubilee insiders dismiss this theory, saying the focus should not be on perceived competition within the coalition but on plans to strengthen it so that TNA and URP eventually merge to contest the next elections as single party.
Kericho Senator Charles Keter — a close ally of Mr Ruto — told the Nation Sunday:
“It cannot and should not be seen as if he is on a URP mission. Since there may be no URP or TNA in the next election, the Deputy President is working on strengthening our coalition. There is a likelihood of forming Jubilee Party before the elections.”
Even though Mr Ruto has gone to other regions which voted for Jubilee in the March 4, 2013 elections, it is his visits to Meru, Narok, Busia, Kwale, Lamu, Bungoma, Marsabit, Migori, Kisii, West Pokot and Turkana Counties either for harambees or rallies that have raised interest.
Since August, the Deputy President has held 20 fundraisers in different counties, with nine in the target regions.
“You will notice that he is reaching out to opposition strongholds. That is why he has been to Busia, Kakamega, Bungoma, Kisii, Migori, Kwale and other counties,” Mr Keter said.
There are also indications from Mr Ruto’s tours that the DP is building a network of allies beyond his URP powerbase.
Mr Keter explained that Mr Ruto was always accompanied by MPs from both TNA and URP during his visits to opposition zones.
It is Meru County that the Deputy President has become most a frequent visitor.
His pointmen in the larger Meru region are Tharaka-Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki and Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi.
In Busia, Mr Ruto works closely with MPs Arthur Odera (Teso North) and Mary Emasee (Teso South), elected on URP tickets in a county which voted overwhelming for the Orange Democratic Movement and Cord presidential candidate Raila Odinga.
DIVISION OF LABOUR
In Migori County, Mr Ruto has Governor Okoth Obado as his main man. Mr Obado was elected on a Peoples Democratic Party ticket in an ODM-dominated region.
In Kakamega County, he works closely with Lugari MP Ayub Savula, elected on a United Democratic Forum ticket.
Mr Ruto’s pointman at the Coast is Labour Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi.
Political analyst Peter Kagwanja says: “It is not a competition between the President and his deputy. It is a well calculated division of labour; go to places where your voice can be heard. The President goes to Kisii after Mr Ruto while Mr Ruto flies to Narok. They have divided the Coast among themselves, one going to south and another to the north. All this is meant to contain the protest vote which Cord enjoyed in the last elections,” he says.
Prof Kagwanja adds that the Jubilee leaders are avoiding mistakes of the Narc team elected in 2002.
There was a lot of pulling apart pitting President Mwai Kibaki’s team and Roads Minister Raila Odinga’s brigade from 2003.
“Sometimes they take turns to tour places. It is a very unusual scenario, unlike the Narc Coalition of Kibaki and Raila. The Uhuru and Ruto team is avoiding that,” he said.
This, he argues, has convinced Mr Ruto to campaign vigorously for the Jubilee Coalition, expecting that at the end of his term, President Kenyatta will support him.
He also says the votes Mr Ruto brings to the coalition in the next elections would determine the support he will get from Central Kenya when his turn comes.
“The Deputy President is basically crusading for the Jubilee Coalition cause since there are plans to transform the coalition into a party. The next election is not so much about Mr Kenyatta but the Deputy President. The number of votes they will bring together will determine if Mr Ruto will take over from him in 2022,” he says.
He adds that Mr Ruto’s support for the President would also play a big role in determining how people in TNA strongholds would vote when his turn comes to front the ticket in 2022.