Jittery Rift leaders press for meeting with DP over 2022

Deputy President William Ruto during a tour of Bomet county. /FILE
Deputy President William Ruto during a tour of Bomet county. /FILE

A section of Rift Valley politicians are pushing Deputy President William Ruto for a meeting to address growing fears that he has been sidelined by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Days after a mammoth rally in Bomet county, politicians from the region are unhappy about Ruto’s treatment and want an open forum to discuss his future.

The DP's supporters are apprehensive that the Jubilee marriage and his comradeship with Uhuru could have hit rock bottom. He appears to have been elbowed from the inner sanctum of power.

A group calling itself the Kipsigis Professionals has petitioned Ruto to convene an all-inclusive leaders meeting to chart the Kalenjin community’s future.

In their petition, the opinion leaders called on the DP to urgently convene the session to discuss the socio-political problems plaguing the region, which they argue is being taken for granted.

“There are very many fundamental problems within our community that need to be urgently addressed," the petition says.

It is signed by professionals Joseph Kirui, Kipruto Ng’eno, Paul Sigei, Stanley Mainek and Wesley Koech, among others.

“Viable solutions can only be achieved through an all-inclusive consultative process,” they said.

They want to discuss the March 9 handshake deal between President Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga, the controversial Mau Forest evictions and the new national development implementation committee chaired by Interior CS Fred Matiang’i. Matiang'i seems to be sidelining Ruto who had been travelling around the country in thinly veiled campaign trips to inspect development projects.

Rattled by what they consider a wider plot by some Jubilee politicians to dim the DP’s 2022 presidential ambitions, Ruto’s Rift supporters want to hear precisely from him what he thinks about his relationship with the President. Their once warm relationship has cooled.

The professionals and leaders want the meeting despite Ruto’s assurances to supporters that he has not been sidelined, especially after Matiang’i's elevation as overseer of all government projects.

“Everything is okay in government, ignore the fake news, do not rely on social media and newspaper stories because we have no time for rumours and riddles that would not help us take the country forward in socio-economic development,” Ruto told his supporters on Saturday.

Ruto’s statement was considered an effort to cool rising political temperatures in the region, his backyard, amid reports that his relationship with the President has deteriorated.

Bomet Central MP Ronald Tonui yesterday told the Star it was urgent that the region's leaders meet to deal with growing anxiety within the vast Rift Valley vote bloc.

Tonui said the region is anxiously waiting for the DP’s "signal" on the 2022 political game plan but denied his supporters were agitated.

“There is no panic at all. The support is solid. The region is solidly behind DP Ruto. We must, however, come together and agree how we will ensure he becomes president in 2022,” Tonui said.

During the Bomet rally on Saturday last week, Tonui, Brighton Yegon (Konoin), Beatrice Kones (Bomet East) and Dominic Koskei (Sotik) assured the DP of the region’s unwavering support even as they called for a "get-together".

“As leaders from Rift Valley we can’t sit back as some people try to throw roadblocks in the Deputy President’s way to State House,” Kones said.

She added, “We must strategise together and work as a team. Nobody should be left behind"

Politicians sent a clear message to the DP’s detractors that Ruto won’t be a pushover in the presidential race.

"These people are waiting for you to give them political direction should you feel the wheels in the Jubilee Party are not turning in the right direction. We will ensure that in 2022 , you have rock solid support," Tonui declared.

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Kajiado North MP Joseph Manje said there's should be no fears the DP lacks the political war chest to take on opponents.

“The DP's supporters from around the country should not worry. Ruto is an astute and an accomplished politician. It is upon us as grassroots leaders to say that to our people to deal with anxiety," Manje said.

However, Ruto’s lieutenants — including Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen, Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot and Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei — have remained tight-lipped about the DP’s game plan.

The DP has expanded his advisory team and is crafting a well-knit strategy as he rebrands himself for 2022.

The latest entrants to the DP's inner circle are Council of Governors chairman and ODM deputy leader Wycliffe Oparanya, Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana and and former Cabinet minister and long-serving Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey.

Others include former Bomet Governor Issac Rutto, who was the DP's critic until he lost his seat in 2017. He was a close ally of ODM's Raila Odinga, later Wip leader Kalonzo Musyoka and former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar.

The DP decided to bring new advisers onboard because he is said to believe some young advisers are naive.

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