As other political leaders set their eyes on Election Day August 8, Kenya’s foremost self-proclaimed hustler, Deputy President William Ruto, has his gaze steadily on the prize of 2022.
Ruto has immersed himself in a long-term game plan to build and consolidate his countrywide influence in Jubilee post-2017.
The calculation is that President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto will be reelected in August and Ruto will roar into State House five years later: But not without considerable strategising and sweating it.
The DP is determined to refine his personal, powerful and far-flung network that will propel him to power without necessarily depending on Central Kenya.
Since Jubilee came to power in 2013, the Deputy President has hectically crisscrossed the country, wooing leaders, making promises and forging new allegiances.
Ruto’s immediate goal is to achieve immense control and influence in JP by winning the majority of governors and MPs over to his side.
Ruto wants to control as many counties as possible and command the loyalty of the majority of parliamentary seats. He is said to be targeting at least 25 counties and 120 MPs.
Among the counties he is targeting are all 14 in his Rift Valley backyard, the larger Mt Kenya region counties, Lamu, Kilifi, Nairobi, Machakos, Migori, parts of Busia, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and Kisii.
Senate Majority Whip Beatrice Elachi argues that Ruto’s political star “is expected to shine even more in the days to come”, adding that the DP’s commitment to the government has shown he is a good leader.
“The truth of the matter is that Kenyan politics are assuming new dimensions as the country approaches the election. What is currently clear is that no particular community or political party can win in general polls by going it alone,” she said.
The JP victory in many counties and strong numerical strength in Parliament will give the DP a head start towards the 2022 polls.
The DP will need the numbers so as to market him in the counties. In the just-concluded JP primaries, Ruto is reported to have had a preferred lineup of candidates running for various seats right across the country.
A number of sitting MPs both from Rift Valley and Central, where Jubilee enjoys massive support, indirectly accused the DP of a pre-determined outcome of the nominations.
Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, alongside Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi and Alfred Keter of Nandi Hills have claimed that there were efforts to rig them out.
They accused Ruto’s aides led by Farouk Kibet of being among those involved in the plan.
Farouk, however, denied the claim, saying there were no plans to interfere with the primaries.
“There will be no elections in Uasin Gishu unless the party abides by our resolutions,” Korir said.
Allied governors and MPs will prepare for Ruto’s presidency bid for five years and point-men candidates will be key.
However, the main headache that lingers for the DP’s think tanks and supporters in Rift Valley is whether the Mt Kenya region will live up to their word and support his candidature during the Kenyatta succession.
There is a notion that Kikuyus cannot vote for a leader from a different community.
But in December last year, at a church function on Nairobi’s Zimmerman Estate, Ruto said that his chance of becoming President in 2022 are a matter that should not distract Jubilee supporters from the objective of winning the coming election by a landslide. He said 2022 will “sort itself out when the time comes”.
“The important thing for us is to win the 2017 election, all Kenyans owe each other the responsibility to foster unity and friendship,” he said.
“It is not you who owes me a debt. It is all of us Kenyans who owe each other the debt of friendship, unity and brotherhood. Let’s concentrate on winning the 2017 election. Leave 2022 to God to decide.”
Last month, Nairobi woman rep Rachel Shebesh, who has of late accompanied the DP in his whirlwind campaigns across the country, said Uhuru will lead the campaigns to have Ruto ascend to power when the time comes.
“President Kenyatta himself, with our support, will campaign to ensure Ruto is elected because it’s Ruto who worked hard to have Jubilee win in 2013,” she said.
Late last year, Uhuru urged voters in his Mt Kenya bastion to support Ruto in 2022. This followed an outburst by Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and nominated Senator Paul Njoroge that Ruto must sweat it to get the region’s support.
“I have worked with this young man and I can assure you, my people, that he is capable of leading this country and carrying the Jubilee development agenda,” Uhuru said.
The President went on: “Ruto is my brother and we have worked for the sake of unity and development for all Kenyans. It is a journey that we started together and will finish together so that Kenyans can live in peace. Ruto has promoted unity among different communities who live in Rift Valley. After my term comes to an end, I want you to support him take over the country’s leadership,” the President said.
When he was in Bomet county on December 13, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria urged the Kalenjin to ignore comments by some leaders that the Mt Kenya region would not vote for Ruto in 2022.
He said the Kikuyu community would reciprocate the support given by the DP’s community, adding some leaders opposed to the Jubilee administration cannot purport to speak on behalf of a certain community.
“You should not listen to these reports by some leaders claiming DP Ruto will not be President, you have our support and so you should not be worried,” he told residents of Chebole.
Just after the disputed 2007 presidential election result, which resulted in violence, Ruto was an unwelcome visitor in Central Kenya during the first few months of 2008.
Some residents of the region pointed fingers at Ruto for what they perceived to be his hand in their 2008 post-election travails.
However, just four years later, the DP received a hero’s welcome in the region after teaming up with his Uhuru to deliver a Jubilee government at the 2013 elections.
The two developed a strong bond after they were both indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in their alleged roles in the 2008 post-election violence.
Uhuru and Ruto’s history, however, dates back to the Kanu days and this friendship has cemented them together to the surprise of the many who thought they would fall apart as soon as the ICC cases were over.
The DP played a crucial role in convincing his community (Rift Valley) to rally behind Uhuru, and thus the current government in power.
It will now be the turn for Uhuru to reciprocate, campaigning from the vantage point of State House to have become Ruto his successor by convincing his community to support his choice.
This is what will give Ruto the opportunity to concentrate on wooing support from other ethnic groups outside Central Kenya.
Among such strategies will be his commitment to a peaceful nation and what he did after the post-election violence, where he was instrumental in the resettlement of IDPs across the country.
Ruto, who has been described by many Kenyans as an eloquent and consummate political schemer, has a high chance of taking over the leadership of the country after President Uhuru’s term in office comes to an end in 2022 (assuming he wins on August 8).
The former Eldoret North MP has been an adept of the rough-and-tumble of Kenya’s politics and he is loved and hated in equal measure.
Sotik MP and National Assembly Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso argues that all political factors are working well for the DP’s political future, adding that not only will Mt Kenya region vote for him but so will most parts of the country.
“Ruto’s achievements in politics are a function of his relentless pursuit of the best things in life as demonstrated from the time he was Eldoret North MP, minister in Agriculture, Higher Education and his current position,” said Laboso, who clinched the JP ticket to run for Bomet governor.
She added: “Hard work has been the characteristic feature that has been the mainstay of his life, beginning in his student years to the time he established himself as a formidable political figure.”
Nominated senator Martha Wangari opined that, unlike the case in past years, the Mt Kenya community has wholeheartedly embraced the DP and the bloc will vote for him to a man.
“Things have changed. We have seen the real Ruto after 2008 and he has demonstrated that he can unite all Kenyans. As a matter of fact, the peace that is being enjoyed in Rift Valley, among other parts of the country that were hard-hit by the 2007-08 post-election violence, is due to his persistent calls for peaceful co-existence and they have yielded fruit,” she said.
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