February 18th 2018

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Bleeding outside support, DP Ruto pitches battle for vital Kalenjin base

These ominous signs could never have been anticipated by a politician who almost achieved parity with President Kenyatta in the 2013 elections. While ODM had 95 MPs and therefore the largest party, Mr Kenyatta’s TNA was a close second with 86 MPs while Mr Ruto's URP had 72.

By Jack Otwalanewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comSaturday, 08 Apr 2017 13:26 EAT

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto during the TNA-URP coalition announcement in 2012. The two emerged out of the 2013 elections almost as equal partners.

As political parties gear to conduct internal primaries ahead of the August 8 general elections, the William Ruto wing of the Jubilee Party has lost momentum the deputy president had expected he would get in a merged entity as he lays the building blocks for his own presidential run in 2022. 

Across the country, Mr Ruto’s political allies have lost popularity, falling far behind their counterparts from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s side in the Jubilee Party or an onslaught by insurgent opposition candidates who threaten to replace them in the upcoming contest. Some have defected to the Uhuru wing while a few are retiring from politics altogether.

At last evening’s rally in Dikirr Township in Narok County where the president and his deputy were heckled, the message was received differently in the Ruto camp, where his main political ally in Maasailand, Governor Samuel Tunai, was totally rejected by the crowd that forced him to cut short his speech. Dikirr Town was once the political stronghold of Mr Ruto's in Maasailand, and the misfortune that befell Governor Tunai carried deep symbolism for the DP.

Emurua Dikirr Sub County has a large Kipsigis diaspora, and its local MP Johana Ngeno is the only Kipsigis and non-Maasai MP in the whole of Narok. In the race for the 2013 governorship, the incumbent received solid backing from Emurua Dikirr and Kilgoris, the two constituencies forming the larger Trans Mara region which was hived off Narok in the 1990s.

It was the votes from Kilgoris and Emurua Dikirr that tipped the scales in Mr Tunai's favour, even though rigging played a big role too as the evidence presented in an election petition by second-placed candidate Joseph Tiampati. The facts in the case were so glaring but Mr Ruto appealed to Mr Tiampati to take a post in the Jubilee government as principal secretary for information.

In the current set-up, the divisions of 2013 have re-emerged with even more sharply against Mr Tunai (the presumptive Jubilee Party nominee), with Mr Tiampati facing him again, this time as an ODM candidate. In place for the 2013 ODM candidate Johnson ole Nchoe is an even stronger Chama cha Mashinani (CCM) aspirant Patrick Ntutu, who is supported by a powerful family dynasty.

If Governor Tunai loses, Mr Ruto (whose United Republican Party dominated Narok in 2013) would lose his most important ally in Narok. The women representative Soipan Tuya faces equally tough challenge, while senator Stephen ole Ntutu is retiring from politics. Elsewhere, of four out of six MPs that URP got in 2013, only one remains an ally of the DP. TNA and KNC won the other two seats (Narok North and Emurua Dikirr).

These ominous signs could never have been anticipated by a politician who almost achieved parity with President Kenyatta in the 2013 elections. While ODM, headed by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga had 95 MPs and therefore the largest party, Mr Kenyatta’s TNA was a close second with 86 MPs while Mr Ruto's URP had 72.

In the Senate, the Jubilee Coalition had 22 senators compared to CORD’s 20, and Ruto's URP contributed nine of those, including senators from Samburu, Isiolo, Narok and Mandera counties. Of these, the Isiolo and Samburu senators have joined the Uhuru wing while those from Narok and Mandera are retiring from politics.

Ruto's former ally Chirau Mwakwere from Kwale defected from Jubilee to CORD three months ago, while the former URP party chairman Francis ole Kaparo has resigned from active politics. Of the top URP officials from 2013, only Aden Duale remains in politics, but he has increasingly allied his politics with the president's rather than Ruto's wing.

In Mandera, the DP's party made a clean sweep in 2013, winning six constituency seats, the governor, the women representative and the senator. It swept the two constituency seats in Isiolo County, the senate seat, and won one MP seat in Marsabit, an ODM-dominated region. In Samburu, the party won the senate seat and Samburu West constituency seat through Jonathan Lelelit Lati.

In Garissa County, URP won the Fafi and Garissa Township seats, the latter through the Majority Leader in National Assembly Aden Duale. In Busia, Mary Emase of Teso South and Arthur Odera of Teso North face strong opposition challengers, and Ms Emase has toyed with defecting to the Amani National Congress for months, even discussing her defection with the party's leaders, according to our sources.

However, it is the insurgency that Mr Ruto faces in his Rift Valley backyard that has sent alarms in the DP's camp. A well-placed source in the DP's office told this website that Mr Ruto was reviewing his political missteps to reclaim the Rift Valley support base. His team has identified arrogance, harsh language against his opponents and constant trips around the country as some of his main drawbacks.

Among other strategies, the DP has toned down his language against his Kalenjin opponents Gideon Moi and Isaac Ruto, who are the leaders of KANU and CCM respectively. He's also appealing to the people to support his preferred candidates for elective office just to be sure that Jubilee Party members do not defect to his opponents' side after the election.

He has also refrained from taking personal jabs against opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, whose supporters are some of the DP's foremost critics. However, some political analysts say the DP's time for making amends came and went. 

"The DP and his sidekick Adan Duale had no peace in their rally in Narok County yesterday. The region has changed overnight from Jubilee to a CCM zone," said Dorothy Chebet, a Nairobi based journalist.

Jack is a business and society writer at the Kenya Free Press

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