Political tension in the Rift Valley region has heightened with the recent announcement by Kanu that it will sponsor Gideon Moi, the Baringo Senator, to run for the top seat.
Before the dust could settle, Council of Governors chairman Isaac Ruto accused Deputy President William Ruto of undermining him in his Bomet county and declaring he, too, would run for the top seat.
And on Sunday, the Deputy President issued a withering broadside at a rally in Kapkatet, Kericho, saying that Kalenjin politicians not singing his tune will be kicked out in the next election.
The Bomet Governor has time and again accused the Deputy President of funding his political rivals, who include MPs and a number of Ward Representatives, to destabilise his administration with a view to having him impeached.
Mr Isaac Ruto made the sensational claims twice this week in tough statements against his once bosom buddy now turned foe. “I’m aware of a plot by politicians sponsored by the Deputy President, to have me impeached as Bomet Governor.”
He added: “The Deputy President is sponsoring chaos and wrangles all over the place, including the disagreement over the location of a public university to be built by Moi University in Bomet County.”
“If the leaders in the National Government continue to sponsor squabbles in the counties, and especially in Rift Valley, then we shall be left with no option but to kick them out of the South Rift region,” he went on.
The Deputy President, who was addressing a fundraising meeting, wondered why a few leaders in the South Rift were opposed to the government and called on them to stop “politicking and talking too much”.
“This is our government and we must come together and build the nation. We must learn to work together or fail in all our plans. Instead of grumbling, why don’t you talk to me and tell me what you need?” he said.
Mr Ruto praised residents of Kericho, Bomet and Narok counties for staying in the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) and warned local leaders to follow suit or risk being dropped in the next election.
“Wananchi seem to know where we are going and leaders who don’t know will remain behind. In 2017, we will support President Kenyatta and then plan for our own entry to State House in 2022,” he declared.
MPs from the region turned the heat on Isaac Ruto and branded him a traitor and a sellout for allegedly undermining the Deputy President. The MPs claimed the governor was out to frustrate efforts to place Mr Ruto in State House in 2022.
The Bomet governor has, however, denied reports that he intends to run for the presidency in 2017. But he has not ruled out a stab at it in 2022.
Last year, the United Republican Party, which the two leaders belong to and which the Deputy President leads, summoned eight nominated MCAs from the region to their base in Nairobi for supporting the ‘Pesa Mashinani’ drive to increase allocation to counties. The campaign is being spearheaded by the Bomet governor.
The Ward Reps, who included Mr Patrick Chepkwony, Mrs Josephine Rotich, Mrs Beatrice Chebomoi, Mrs Hellen Rotich, Mrs Aurelia Rono, Mrs Nancy Chepkirui, Mrs Rose Boiyon and Mrs Bency Too, were warned they would be stripped of their positions if they continued the push, which was against the wishes of the party.
Meanwhile, the Deputy President has thrice hosted MCAs from the county in his Sugoi home in Eldoret and his Karen residence in Nairobi, where he is reported to have lashed out at the governor for allegedly undermining his leadership.
Governor Ruto has also differed with MPs from his county on the location of the main campus to be constructed by Moi University, with only Chepalungu MP Paul Bii said to be on his side on the issue.
In the meantime, new political realignments could be in the offing in Rift Valley ahead of the 2017 election, with Kanu-URP rolling out strategies to take control of the vote-rich region.
Kanu has declared it will sponsor Baringo Senator Gideon Moi as its presidential flagbearer while URP and The National Alliance (TNA) are to merge to form the Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) to be used as a political vehicle for the 2017 polls.
The contest is widely seen as between Deputy President William Ruto — who is facing crimes against humanity cases at the International Criminal Court — and Mr Moi, who is fighting to be the Rift Valley political kingpin.
Both parties enjoy massive following in Rift Valley but, whereas Mr Moi will be running for the presidency, Mr Ruto will be President Uhuru Kenyatta’s running mate, waiting to go for the top seat in 2022.
But uncertainty over the outcome of the ICC case facing Mr Ruto and the merger of URP and TNA to form JAP are triggering discontent among some members of the Kalenjin community and Rift Valley voters at large.
Critics of JAP dismiss the coalition as a ploy to render URP politically irrelevant and drive Mr Ruto to “political oblivion” as he dedicates much of the time to clear his name at The Hague.
The ICC prosecution team has dropped charges against President Kenyatta, leaving Mr Ruto and former radio presenter Joshua arap Sang the remaining suspects in connection with the 2007/2008 post-election violence that claimed over 1,333 lives and displaced thousands of families.
JAB is facing resistance in Rift Valley, with Narok North MP Moitalel Kenta, Kuresoi MP Zakayo Cheruiyot and Mr Isaac Ruto emerging as leading opponents of the coalition.
“What is the hurry over the merger? We need to have a party that gives us political identity instead of being held hostage by some selfish individuals,” argued Mr Cheruiyot.
Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat said: “This should not be construed to mean that Kanu is breaking away from Jubilee coalition. We’ll also sponsor candidates for ward polls.”
The battle lines have also been extended to Baringo County where URP is allegedly grooming former East Africa Co-operation Minister Musa Sirma to out-seat the junior Moi as senator.
Mr Sirma, who last week attended a church service attended by Mr Ruto in Mogotio, declared his support for the Deputy President and Jubilee.
Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, a close ally of the Deputy President, downplayed alleged political realignments in the Rift Valley region.
Additional reporting by Barnabas Bii and Timothy Kemei.