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January 24, 2019

IMENDE BENJAMIN: Raila, Ruto scramble to control key regions

Deputy President William Ruto confers with Raila Odinga when they attended the memorial service of the Late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta at the Holy Family Basilica, Nairobi.Photo DPPS
Deputy President William Ruto confers with Raila Odinga when they attended the memorial service of the Late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta at the Holy Family Basilica, Nairobi.Photo DPPS

ODM leader Raila Odinga has in the recent past engaged in a war of words with his rival Deputy President William Ruto.

In the continued exchanges, Ruto last Saturday in Kakamega, during the homecoming of Lurambi MP Titus Khamala, said Raila and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi  abandoned him after the 2007 disputed poll, in which he was to get the position of Prime Minister, with the ODM leader and Mudavadi becoming President and Vice President respectively.

Ruto had also earlier said Raila is a stubborn politician who doesn't concede.

“He claims we were undemocratic because we did not accept defeat. How do you expect us to concede defeat in a contest we did not participate in? How can you will if you were running by yourself?” Raila said at Friends Church Quakers Maringo, Nairobi.

On Wednesday, Raila addressed the National Integration Conference organised by the Former Parliamentarians Association.

He has been hosting various delegations from different regions in the country.

On the other hand, the Deputy President has been making inroads in different regions, key among them Central — Murang'a— , Coast and Western, including Kisii.

It is now emerging the two nemesis are battling to control these regions amid reports of a referendum.

Raila's lawyer Paul Mwangi on Wednesday told the Star in a phone interview that the Building Bridges to Unity Taskforce committee, a product of the March 9 handshake,  will start nationwide public hearings to collect views on possible constitutional changes and corruption.

The calls for a referendum have intensified rivalry between the two since the DP is opposed to any constitutional changes ahead of 2022 election. He thus wants to control a number of regions to have an upper hand in the event of a referendum, as ahead of 2022 polls.

Raila is pushing for reforms to effect a parliamentary system, introducing positions of Prime Minister and two deputies, with a weaker President.

 As it is now — after the handshake — Raila and President Uhuru Kenyatta control the opposition zones and Mt Kenya respectively, where the DP is not guaranteed of outright support.

According to the Ruto’s official diary, two months after the March 9 handshake, the DP embarked on a nationwide tour with a strong focus on Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Murang’a, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Tana, Mombasa and Kilifi. Ruto has also held numerous events in Western. His trips involved homecomings and launch of development projects.

“After signing the MoU, we agreed with Kenyatta to each give nine points, and then formed a committee to deliberate on the issues, among them the referendum,” Raila said at the Coast on June 1 during an Iftar breakfast.

He was popularising the handshake task force and urged residents to support the March 9 unity pact between him and President  Kenyatta. Raila enjoys huge support at the Coast.




Ruto’s visits to Central Kenya have also seen the former Prime Minister host delegations from the region, and also make some trips, to retain a strong political clout at the national level.

For instance, he was the chief guest at Murang’a University of Technology graduation on August 10, where he received a heroic welcome. Opposition chief named ethnicity, poorly managed elections and corruption as some of Kenya’s biggest threats.

In July, Raila met politicians from the region who unsuccessfully vied last year as independent candidates, following claims they were rigged out to pave way for a weak leadership that will have less influence in the 2022 succession.

 “I don’t think the rivalry is a big problem. However, the succession politics in Jubilee is,” International Center for Policy and Conflict executive director Ndung’u Wainaina told the Star on the phone.

Among those who visited Raila were former Murang’a senator Kembi Gitura, ex-MPs Joshua Toro (Kandara), Jamleck Kamau (Kigumo), David Ngugi (North Kinangop), Wambugu Nyamu, Kabando (Mukurweini) and Ndung'u Gethinji (Tetu).

On the other hand, sittings MPs who are campaigning for Ruto's bid are Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), Kimani Ichungw’a (Kikuyu), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu) John Kiarie (Dagoretti South), Wangui Ngirichi (Kirinyaga), Simon King’ara (Ruiru) and Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira). Murang'a Woman Rep Sabina Chege appears to have taken a low profile, while Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu is opposed to early Ruto campaigns, saying they will derail Uhuru's Big Four agenda, the handshake and the crackdown on corruption.

"We are here to represent various caucuses that have been meeting. We have come out with a strong resolve informed by the desire to have things work," former Mukurweini MP Kabando Wa Kabando

In three Months, the DP has toured Murang’a and Kiambu more than 10 times to launch projects, create new networks and push his political agenda. During the visits, he has addressed rallies and led harambees.

On August 14, 12 former legislators from Meru and Tharaka Nithi visited Raila at his Capitol Hill office and said they will support his bid if he vies in 2022.

“Although Raila said he will not run in 2022, this group is telling him should he decide to run, he shall have our unqualified support,” the former MPs said in a joint statement read by former Tigania West MP Kilemi Mwiria.

"I asked them (Meru leaders) to take the lead in selling the nine-point agenda of the reconciliation initiative so as to build a united nation. I also asked them to support the handshake,” Raila said.


 The DP has also camped at the Coast — Kilifi, Kwale, Taita Taveta and Mombasa — with a number of leaders, including those from NASA,  endorsing him. They include Governor Granton Samboja (Taita Taveta), MPs Aisha Jumwa (Malindi), Ali Mbogo (Kisauni), Lydia Haika (Women Rep, Taita Taveta), Jones Mlolwa (Voi) and Danson Mwashako (Wundanyi).

“In Kilifi the governor and a number of politicians were being seen to tilt towards Ruto, which made Uhuru visit Joho three times. It gave birth to the joint public address between Joho and Kingi. It was meant to tame Ruto in the region,” said an insider from the Office of the President.

However, the DP faces an uphill task in the region, as Raila's point man and ODM deputy leader Gobernor Hassan Joho of Mombasa is sustaining a fight against his inroads.

In July, the Mombasa governor Hassan Joho said he :will work with Baringo Senator Gideon Moi and other like-minded leaders to block the Deputy President from the presidency".

Raila has been at the Coast at least 10 times since last year's polls. Last month, he has held talks with religious leaders, local leaders and President Kenyatta.

“We must move national discussion from politics to service delivery, concentrate our efforts on improving quality of life. The ongoing process of issuing title deeds to landowners across the country will end squatter problem, ensure productive land use and help realise food security,” Ruto tweeted in May when he started massive nationwide tours.

The land problem has been protracted at the Coast. 



Raila, on July 31, held a meeting with various politicians from Western.

"I had a consultative meeting with leaders drawn from across the Western Kenya region. We had discussions about development in their region, the Building Bridges Initiative and their working harmoniously with the national government," he tweeted.

This was soon after Ruto returned to Western on July 26, only two weeks after he toured the region.

Ruto's  point men in the region are Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, Sports CS Rashid Echesa and Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, and have remained on the ground to push his agenda.

“Uhuru desperately looked for Raila because the country was becoming ungovernable and the economy was its deathbed.  In 2022 his successor must be someone who will protect business interests and be able to assure him security,” Wainaina said.



 Raila has kept off  2022 politics debate, despite the opposition chief allies saying he is still young to vie.

“Some people are saying that Raila should not run in 2022, and I want to ask: Is there any law that bars him? No! So why should he not run? We will support him fully,” Mr Aladwa said at the service attended by Mr Odinga.

Last Saturday, Makadara MP George Aladwa reignited the debate saying,Some people are saying Raila should not run in 2022, and I want to ask: Is there any law that bars him? No! So why should he not run? We will support him fully,”  Aladwa said at Friends Church Quakers Maringo.

“And Just like that, he has declared his intentions to vie again in 2022. Game on,” Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said

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