• The ODM leadership sees Ruto’s hand in the revolt against their party in Kilifi county and across the region.
• The boycott appears to have had zero impact on Ruto’s pursuit to win the Coast in 2022.
This week, Deputy President William Ruto suffered political setback when senior elected leaders — governors, senators, woman representatives, MPs and MCAs — boycotted his rallies in his weeklong whirlwind tour of the Coast.
This was an orchestrated move by local ODM leaders to embarrass DP Ruto and his allies, a move that seemingly had zero effect on his 2022 presidential bid. Furthermore, the boycott came as no surprise given that the Coast is an ODM zone.
What is surprising, though, is that on previous visits, leaders from across parties embraced DP Ruto and sought his attention. What has triggered the boycott is in part a consequence of the revolt within ODM. Politicians from the Orange party such as Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and her Msambweni counterpart Suleiman Dori, have expressed fatigue with opposition politics and publicly supported Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid.
The ODM split came into the limelight in Ganda ward, Malindi, last week where a by-election will be held on October 17. As they unveiled their candidate, Reuben Katana, ODM leaders accused Jumwa of abandoning the party that still feeds her.
Jumwa, who is supporting an independent candidate, Abdulrahman Omar, retorted harshly to the criticisms, arguing that even though ODM had repeatedly been voted for at the Coast, local communities have not benefitted from it.
The ODM leadership sees Ruto’s hand in the revolt against their party in Kilifi county and across the region. Thus, the boycott of his rallies was a protest against his alliance with Jumwa in a region that is politically male-dominated. It was also an attempt to embarrass Jumwa and her supporters.
The boycott was also the result of fear on the part of ODM MPs who have dared to support the DP. After Jumwa’s expulsion, which was later reversed by the court, ODM rebels have developed cold feet, waiting quietly to serve out their terms. In private conversations, however, these leaders are 'Ruto damu' — they speak strongly in support of the DP’s 2022 political ambitions.
There have also been claims that the organisers of the DP’s visit had deliberately excluded other leaders from the planning. This is the reason Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya is said to have given for the boycott. But the organisers claim to have informed all the regional leaders about the visit.
As of now, the boycott appears to have had zero impact in Ruto’s pursuit to win the Coast in 2022. His advantage is that there is a sense of ODM fatigue in this region. The onus is upon him and his allies to design strategies that should appeal to the Coast voter. This should be the challenge.
The caveat is that if he chooses to vie on the Jubilee Party ticket, as he has repeatedly said, he will lose the Coast vote. This is because the party is perceived to be the perpetuation of historical injustices and the marginalisation of coastal communities.
Katana is a Coast politics commentator