Kenya 2022: Will Ruto weather the storm for voter-rich Mount Kenya?

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Tuesday, 21 June 2022 16:56, updated on Tuesday, 28 June 2022 11:19

Kenyan Deputy President Ruto campaign rally in Nairobi
Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto of United Democratic Alliance (UDA) addresses a campaign rally ahead of the forthcoming presidential election, at the Jacaranda grounds in Nairobi, Kenya, June 19, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Deputy President William Ruto is now facing rebellion from his Kenya Kwanza Alliance parties in the voter-rich Mount Kenya region over the blocking of candidates who are running for the parliament, senate and governor seats because they are not directly from his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party. At the centre of the problem is Ruto’s running mate Rigathi Gachagua, whom many are referring to as a ‘dictator’.

Gachagua has been urging supporters to only vote for UDA candidates, rather than candidates presented by the smaller parties affiliated with the Kenya Kwanza alliance.

In response, many of the smaller parties have withdrawn their support for Ruto at what they have labelled as disregard for their respective candidates.

Four parties have boycotted Ruto’s political rallies after accusing the UDA party of undermining leaders from Mount Kenya — a region where Ruto has been commanding a strong lead according to recent opinion polls.

The parties that have withdrawn their support for Ruto include:

  • Chama cha Kazi led by Moses Kuria;
  • Tujibebe Wakenya party,
  • The Service Party;
  • Farmers party of Kenya.

They have all requested a meeting with Ruto, Kuria said in an interview with Citizen TV.

The leaders of the affiliated parties have referred to Ruto’s running mate Gachagua as a dictator, warning that Ruto may end up losing many votes if their grievances are not addressed.

“On many occasions I warned Ruto [that] he will lose many votes because of Gachagua,” Kabogo, leader of the Tujibebe Wakenya party, told his supporters.

During a campaign in Kiambu County, Gachagua responded saying: “You can go and attend your meeting, look for Raila Odinga and Martha Karua,” remarks that did go well with the crowd.

Moses Kuria, for his part, says UDA is practising politics of ‘conmanship’ and deceit: “We are always thrown out during campaigns in the region.”

‘Don’t embarrass me’

Musalia Mudavadi, an ally of Ruto who leads the Amani National Congress (ANC) and hails from Western Kenya, has asked his supporters to elect his party and not Ruto’s UDA in August.

Mudavadi wondered why his supporters should elect UDA in his stronghold, where he has been given a target of delivering 70% of votes from Western Kenya for Ruto, a feat that analysts believes will be a difficult task for him, given Raila Odinga’s great influence in the region.

He [Ruto] risks losing more votes to [Raila] Odinga, if things remain this way

“Don’t embarrass me, elect ANC candidates,” Mudavadi told his supporters in Vihiga County.

On Monday June 20, Ruto held a secret meeting to try and iron out emerging issues in his coalition, even chasing away journalists who attended the meeting. The resolutions of the meeting have not been made public.

Voters likely to drop

Paul Njoka, a Nairobi resident who supports Ruto, says he fears that if complaints from their parties within the Kwanza are not resolved, then votes in Mount Kenya will take a hit.

“The UDA party should stop harassing other parties that are dangerous for our candidate,” he says.

Ali George, another supporter, says he fears that if Ruto’s running mate is not warned, he will help Raila garner more votes in a region that has long been perceived as Ruto’s stronghold. “With such conflict, the beneficiary is [Raila] Odinga, who is gaining,” he says.

Wycliffe Odera, a political analyst, says the cracks in Ruto’s coalition are due to pre-election conditions that smaller parties deliver a certain percentage of votes, so that should he win in August, the said parties are included in his government.

Odera adds that the only way to calm the political storm in Ruto’s camp is to allow the smaller parties to campaign freely and seek votes for their respective candidates, just as the UDA has been doing in the Mount Kenya region.

“He [Ruto] risks losing more votes to [Raila] Odinga, if things remain this way,” Odera says.

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