Kenya: Raila’s close allies abandon him to support President Ruto

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Friday, 16 December 2022 15:22

Kenya's defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga speaks to supporters as he arrives to hold a press conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi on August 22, 2022. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Close political allies of Kenya’s five-time presidential candidate Raila Odinga are starting to drift away from him to declare their support for President William Ruto – the very person they had vehemently opposed in the run-up to the August election.

They include Francis Atwoli (the influential Central Organisation of Trade Unions secretary-general), lawmakers Emmanuel Wangwe and Titus Khamala as well as Kakamega Deputy Governor Ayub Savula.

During the campaigns, Atwoli had said Ruto was bad for Kenya, but he has now changed his tune and vowed to support his former political enemy.

If Ruto outsmarted us even when we had the government, what would stop him from winning with a landslide in the next polls

“I have decided to support President Ruto, for the sake of workers,” Atwoli said, a move that surprised Odinga supporters.

Atwoli and other former allies of Odinga who met Ruto at State House now admit that the latter outsmarted their candidate, who had the support of the former government.

“If Ruto outsmarted us even when we had the government, what would stop him from winning with a landslide in the next polls?” Atwoli said after meeting Ruto.

Kakamega Deputy Governor Ayub Savula says he decided to cross over to Ruto’s side after Raila called for anti-government demonstrations.

“Campaigns are over and we have to work with the government of the day for development,” he says.

Sicily Kariuki, a former cabinet secretary who was allied to Odinga, says she has also joined the Ruto camp.

“I am supporting the government in office currently because I am not wired to be in opposition. I am just not,” she said on Twitter.

Ruto raids Raila’s strongholds

The sudden political shift came about after Ruto spent two days in Western Kenya, Raila’s political stronghold. He toured the area seeking support of politicians and the electorate who did not vote for him.

Ruto made development pledges saying the government would construct more roads and set up new industries to create jobs for the youth. “We want to move together, I have not forgotten you ,” he said.

Meanwhile, Martha Karua, who was Odinga’s running mate in the August election, has warned leaders elected under the Azimio la Umoja coalition from blindly collaborating with Ruto – someone she refers to as a dictator.

“Collaborate with the government, which took the government, but collaborate from a position of strength and not kneeling down,”  she said.

Odinga’s wife, Ida, has also called out certain politicians for ‘abandoning’ them after the polls and pushing the former prime minister to retire from politics. She says such statements only serve selfish interests.

Lack of political principles

Political observers say Ruto is trying hard to solidify his political support across the country.

He is said to be seeking to influence the regions where Odinga once enjoyed a large following, so that he can boost representation of the Kenya Kwanza coalition.

Politics in Kenya is all about personal interest, I’m not surprised

Martin Oloo, a political analyst in Nairobi, says the defections that are starting to crop-up speak volumes about Kenya’s political principles.

“Politics in Kenya is all about personal interest, I’m not surprised ,” he says.

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