Top Stories / 2017 Elections
Tuesday, 24 Jan 2017 18:32 EATdkiraka@kenyafreepress.com
Deputy President William Ruto was heckled for the fourth time in as many days, this time in Kiminini, Bungoma County where he had a political rally. His associate, Bungoma women representative Janet Nangabo, was jeered by the crowds and forced to cut her address short. Elgeyo Marakwet senator Kipchumba Murkomen was also denied a chance to address the meeting as the crowds chanted slogans in favour of the opposition alliance NASA.
At the same time, the DP was challenged by local MP Chris Wamalwa who told the crowds that some of the projects Mr Ruto had come to take credit for were initiated by the grand coalition government. These included tarmacking of the Kisumu-Kitale highway. Mr Wamalwa also informed the deputy president, to the crowds satisfaction, that Jubilee government projects had not taken off in the region. The MP said, for example, that the Masaba Primary School where the DP’s chopper had landed had not received a single laptop, despite the government’s announcement that laptops had been supplied to all primary schools in the country.
It was an embarrassing day for the deputy president when some youths in the crowds shouted “Thief!”, “Arap Mashamba!” and other derogatory terms the Mr Ruto’s critics are accustomed to but which until now had never been used by ordinary citizens to his face. The heckling came only a day after Mr Ruto was heckled in the same region in what is a worrying trend accompanying his visits to various parts of the country.
Yesterday, the DP, accompanied by Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka, was making his way to the town from a rally in Mumias when he was accosted by a group of disorderly youths who barricaded the main entrance to the Bungoma Bus Park where he was to address the rally. The youths accused the Jubilee government of neglect and unfulfilled promises, calling its leaders out for theft of public funds. Made up mostly of boda boda operators and taxi crews, the protesters burned down Jubilee merchandise that had been distributed to them by the governor in preparation for the rally.
This was not the first time the DP has met hostile reception. Last Thursday, Mr Ruto had gone to Narok to urge area residents to register as voters, only to be shouted down by the crowd at Sogoo Secondary School. To his calls for the residents to register as voters in order to re-elect the Jubilee government, they vented their anger at the patchy development in the area, citing poor roads, unemployment and police harassment of boda boda operators. The crowd refused to be addressed by other leaders in the DP's entourage including Narok women representative Soipan Kudate and Sogoo area MCA Moses Cheruiyot.
Two days later, while on tour of Baringo County, the DP watched on as two area MPs were subjected to booing when they attempted to address local residents. The crowd demanded that William Cheptumo (Baringo North) and Grace Kiptui (women representative), who are the DP's main allies in the region, not speak. The residents thereafter held huge protests accusing the Jubilee government of neglecting them. They cited the unfulfilled promise by Mr Ruto made three years ago that the Karandi-Mochongoi-Marigat road would be tarmacked, and lamented his alleged imposition of leaders on the voters.
In December, Mr Ruto faced an angry crowd in Garissa where he had gone to launch the tarmacking for the Sh5 billion road linking Ijara Constituency to Wema in the Coastal region. The residents accused Jubilee administration of neglecting them. The youths tore to pieces Jubilee-inscribed t-shirts and chanted pro-ODM and pro-CORD slogans, including the names of the key leaders of the opposition, including Raila and Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho.
According to our sources, intelligence agencies had informed the president of the antagonistic receptions the DP has been receiving even before they began to be evident to the wider public. A Jubilee Party activist from Baringo who is a long time source for the Kenya Free Press informed us that Mr Ruto's dwindling standing with the public was the main agenda at the recent meeting between president's mother, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, and former president Daniel arap Moi at Kabarak on Saturday.
According to the source, Mama Ngina appealed to the former president to make public statements about some of the challenges the government has faced in recent months, such as the strikes by doctors and university lecturers. The meeting was informed, according to the source, by the president's own observation of the relative respect Senator Gideon Moi commanded at the burial of former Moi ally Mark Too a week earlier, an event where Mr Ruto's allies were heckled.
Mr Ruto, the source intimated to us, counterintuitively adopted the campaign in Western Kenya, "hoping to cement his role as Jubilee's work horse, a goal which has backfired in everyone's eyes". He said the DP recognises heightened uneasiness in the Uhuru camp about his suitability as the running mate in the upcoming election and suspects that the entry of Peter Kenneth into Nairobi politics was timed to send a message that he was not part of the president's long term strategy any more.
Another source in the provincial administration informed the Kenya Free Press that last evening, the DP rebuked the Bungoma county commissioner over the chaotic reception he received at the Bungoma Bus Park and demanded that his meetings today be successful. The commissioner, the source indicated, went to great lengths to ensure today's meetings succeeded.
Administration Police officers cleared Kiminini of any signs of protest, raiding busaa dens early morning to instill fear in any youths who might have planned to disrupt the meeting. With Jubilee insiders watching whether Mr Ruto could leave the region without addressing a mass rally, the DP gave today's meeting his full attention, the source said.
Some in the Jubilee Party had reportedly derided his meeting with party delegates in Mumias yesterday as "a hired crowd", pointing to the fact that each of the more than 500 people who attended the event were fully addressed in the party's attire (see picture above). "That was extraordinary, we never achieved that even in the Jubilee Party launch for which we had prepared for more than two weeks," said the Baringo activist.
Kiraka is a student of journalism at the Technical University of Kenya (TUK). His interests are business, politics, sports and media criticism.