Hunt for Rift Valley vote targets DP Ruto

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The clamor for control of the Rift Valley vote is tormenting Deputy President William Ruto as he has become the main
target of the campaign led by Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga. Critics said the governor has teamed up with the family of former President Daniel Arap Moi and Mr Odinga to fight out for the control of the more than one million votes now under the command of the deputy president, based on the voting patterns of the 2013 general elections.

The war against Ruto is local and national, analysts said. At the local level, his opponents are discrediting him for not delivering to the Kalenjin people in particular in influencing more appointments to the government and the eviction of
squatters at Mau forest.

At the national level, his opponents have tapped Raila’s support with corruption allegations being the main arsenal.
The renewed focus on the Rift Valley as a frontier of supremacy wars around Deputy President William Ruto has ex-
posed a do-or-die struggle for power in the region with far-reaching implications for Jubilee’s fortunes in the 2017 presidential polls. On May 10, 2015, President Kenyatta and his deputy, sought to stamp out the rebellion in sections of Jubilee, visiting Bomet, in the wake of perceived splits in the United Republican Party (URP).

The President blamed media machinations for the growing perceptions that his deputy was losing grounds in the Rift Valley. In response however, the governor warned the President and his deputy that South Rift is not a Jubilee Alliance party (JAP) zone, a day after the duo toured the region in a move seen as an attempt to consolidate the falling pieces within URP while publicizing the new vehicle JAP.

It has emerged that the battle for the Rift is partly being fueled by the Cord leader’s renewed determination to recapture the Kalenjin vote from DP Ruto. The former PM’s failure to secure substantial support in the Rift Valley is said to have costed him the Presidency in 2013. At play also is the long-standing power rivalry between Mr Ruto and the family of former President. This rivalry manifested itself in 2007, when the DP was at the helm of ODM which swept the entire Moi family out of power, including in the Baringo home.

This was to be replayed in 2013 when the election results revealed a clear intra-ethnic divide between the low-lands Kalenjin (Tugen, Keiyo and Pokot) who largely voted for KANU and the “highlands” Kalenjin (Kipsigis, Nandi) who voted for Ruto’s URP. Uncertainties relating to the outcomes of a case facing the DP at the Hague are also fueling political activities in the Valley. The Deputy President has recently been on the spot in the political circles. The most interesting of the new allegations by former Raila aide Herbert Ojwan’g appear to have got favorable press coverage despite the fact that facts that have been released by the Ministry of Health Services and Ruto himself point a different picture.

The allegations are that Ruto scuttled a Ksh17 billion deal to renovate and expand Eldoret Hospital in a deal that Ojwan’g had facilitated with the Chinese and which he was benefiting from directly. He alleged the scuttling was meant to facilitate another deal to build a new hospital, fronted by Ruto at a cost of Ksh28 billion. But Health Cabinet secretary James Macharia has dismissed those allegations. “The Ministry of Health floated an International Expression of Interest for the establishment of another hospital in the newly acquired 200-acre piece of land.

The evaluation is ongoing; no tender has been awarded and no costs determined,” read part of the statement. Macharia said the hospital management had called on the DP to assist them in obtaining funding for the expansion
and improvement of the existing facilities in the hospital to provide the required specialised healthcare to thousands of Kenyans who rely on it. “After going through the proposal, the Deputy President expressed concerns over the manner in which the contractor and their accomplice had been identified, the justification of destruction of four wards
currently occupied by patients and the logic of trying to construct such a facility in an already congested place,” he said.

Ruto attributed the allegations to the politics of the control of Rift Valley. “How can a conman become a whistle
blower? Somebody who was ripping off Kenyans. Brokers, con-men and their group have no place in this administration. My friend the former Raila and his PA must keep off from me and if they are interested in a political duel, I am ready,” he said.

The Deputy President revealed that he is the one who stopped the controversial project and warned both Odinga and his assistant that he is ready for an all out war should they persist in their propaganda. “How can anybody pretend that they want to spend Ksh17billion without due process, without a competitive tender process? Ksh17 billion can build a brand new referral hospital complete with theatres, consultation rooms,” the DP explained. The attacks against Ruto by the Moi’s and governor Ruto have come at the time when his case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) is nearly coming into termination. His opponents are seeking to take advantage of his engaged attention because of the focus at concluding the case successfully and also the need to attend government duties.

Recently, Ruto claimed that his adversaries were praying that he is jailed by the International Criminal Court (ICC)
so that their political star to shine. “It is obnoxious and immoral to plot bad things against your brother,” he said recently in Mau Narok.

At play is the long-standing power rivalry between Mr Ruto and the family of former President Daniel Arap Moi. This rivalry manifested itself in 2007, when the DP was at the helm of ODM which swept the entire Moi family out of power, including in the Baringo home.

Either way, the ICC case will affect the political trajectory of Ruto and the Kalenjin community. If Ruto is found guilty then his political competitors in the Rift Valley led by Gideon Moi and Isaac Ruto will get a motive to sell their agenda of an alternative leadership. If he is acquitted of all accusation leveled against him, then this will boost Ruto’s ratings and consolidate his bedrock support.

But, political observers see last Sunday’s meeting in Bomet County where President Kenyatta passionately and elo-
quently defended his deputy as a political masterstroke on the part of the deputy president. The battle for political supremacy in the region hit fever pitch recently after Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) expelled some nominated MCAs from Bomet County for failing to toe the line. However, the Head of State used the opportunity to drum up support for his deputy saying that they were inseparable. “I will support my brother Ruto as we
continue leading this country,” the president stated in Bomet County.

The Head of State has blamed the media for the woes bedeviling his deputy, saying: “I always see in the headlines that you people are fighting my deputy and I have come here to from you because I don’t believe what they are saying…” he said.

Kenyatta dismissed Ruto’s critics in the Rift Valley terming them as power hungry individuals who are not satisfied
with their positions. The Head of State said he had full confidence in his deputy adding that he will stand with him all the way. The President is not ready to abandon his deputy this early and attract political division the kind that bedevil the grand coalition government and affected its performance. The president handlers and some supporters might entertain a thought of fighting Ruto but it’s imperative to note that Ruto and Uhuru are close friends who have come a long way since the days of Kanu.

The deputy president appeared to have turned the tide against his critics after he managed to convince many of the high profile Kalenjin elders and other veteran politicians to his side. Former powerful cabinet minister in the Kanu era Nicholas Biwott made his first public appearance in Bomet where he passionately defended the deputy president and asked other leaders to respect him. MrBiwott said that Ruto was the only anointed by the elders to lead the Kalenjin community and asked other leaders to shelve their ambitions and support him. According to the National Vision Party
(NVP) leader, the infighting amongst Kalenjin leaders was not healthy adding that the squabbles were going against the interest of the community.

Governor Ruto has been labeled a rebel without a course by Ruto’s sympathizers who also accuse him of wrecking the boat from within.  For his part, Nakuru Deputy Governor Joseph Ruto, it was unfair and unreason-able for a few Kalenjin leaders to fight one of their own in public instead of supporting him. He said that the Bomet meeting had worked in favour of the deputy president after more than 30 Kalenjin MPs threw their support behind him. In what signifies the changing fortunate for Ruto’s critics, Kanu secretary general Nick Salat was heckled after he appeared to defend Governor Ruto by describing him as a ‘good man.’ Ainamoi MP Benjamin Lagat said that the community will rally its support behind President Kenyatta in the next general election.

Mr Ruto has defended the dissolution of URP, a popular party amongst Kalenjin, saying it was strategic and the right move. He said that he was going to be the biggest beneficiary of the newly created JAP. His critics claim that Ruto has been hoodwinked by the TNA into dissolving his party (URP) and as a result he has lost his bargaining power. In case things go against him, he has no fallback position after he ‘killed’ his party, they say. But, when all is said and done, DP Ruto remains the most influential politician who commands respect across all the Kalenjin sub-tribes. His gift of gab, vigor and other oratory skills places him well ahead of his opponents.

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