Kenya: Allies of Deputy President William Ruto are worried about his political future after President Uhuru Kenyatta leaves office.
Some of Ruto’s close allies are concerned that he may not become president because there is no guarantee that voters from the populous Mt Kenya region, where Uhuru enjoys massive support, will back his bid.
Because of these suspicions in the Jubilee Alliance, more leaders from Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) are emerging to voice their concerns.
However, some of these suspicions have been played down. Speaking in Nandi County last weekend, Kericho Senator Charles Keter said the deep-seated suspicions in the URP arm of the ruling coalition were misplaced because there was no binding commitment for TNA to support Ruto.
Speaking at Kaptumo during a fund-raiser at the African Gospel Church, the URP senator and close ally of the Deputy President said: “We supported President Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential bid in the 2013 election unconditionally. We will also support his second term unconditionally. URP does not expect anything in return from the TNA side of the coalition.”
Keter’s ‘unconditional support’ claim appears to have been in contrast with sentiments of a growing number of URP politicians who have been feeding party’s supporters with the ‘we-will-get-the-presidency-in 2022’ line in political rallies.
URP leaders, including Nandi Senator Stephen Sang, Senator Kipchumba Murkomen of Elgeyo/Marakwet, MPs Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), Jackson Kiptanui (Keiyo South), Cornelly Serem (Aldai) and Robert Pukose (Endebess), have publicly and consistently said they expect TNA to support Ruto’s presidential bid in 2022.
“Jubilee will have the presidency for 20 years. We will support Kenyatta’s two terms, and thereafter Ruto will pick the mantle for another 10 years before any changes are made on our pact with TNA,” Murkomen is on record as having said.
Sang said: “It has taken us more than 15 years to groom Ruto to hold the position of DP. We are now so close to the throne. It takes years of strategy, humility and patience to ascend to the country’s top seat. Ruto must ascend to the presidency.”
Last week’s comments by Senator Keter made in the presence of 16 Jubilee leaders suggests that URP could have run out of the cards to cement a TNA-supported Ruto presidential bid, instead choosing the meeker option of leaving it to time and fate.
“Come 2022, we will front our presidential candidate. Whether TNA will want to support us or not will be their choice. We will have kept our part of the bargain. URP members are not liars,” said the senator.
Leaders present at the Nandi fund-raiser, who included Murkomen, Sang, Serem, Sudi, Kiptanui, Mithika Linturi (Igembe South), Alice Ng’ang’a (Thika), Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), Onesmus Njuki (Igambangombe), Nithi MP Kareke Mbiuki and Meru Women Representative Florence Kajuju, claimed there were political elements out to divide Uhuru and Ruto. “We have noticed there are conspiracies to cause divisions in a bid to shake the Jubilee house. They are waiting for the house to collapse,” said Ngunjiri.
The TNA MPs, however, downplayed Keter’s insinuations of betrayal against their party, and promised “100 per cent” support for Ruto’s presidential bid in 2022.
“A mango tree with ripe mangoes will always have stones thrown at it. Our eyes are on 2022 and we will support Ruto,” said Mbiuki.
“The Deputy President is a uniting factor in our country. We like his political style. Those waiting for the Jubilee collapse have a long wait,” said Ngunjiri.
Kajuju said: “We in Meru have accepted the leadership of the Deputy President and will support his presidential bid come 2022”.
Linturi called on Jubilee members to guard the alliance jealously and asked URP leaders and supporters not to lose faith in the ruling coalition.
“URP will have played its part in supporting Uhuru’s two terms. Although you say it was unconditional support, the gesture is not lost to us in TNA. We know 2022 will soon be here and payback will be in order,” said the Igembe South legislator.
Linturi also maintained that ‘URP was not indebted to TNA’ having agreed to support Kenyatta’s presidency. “We in TNA are indebted to URP,” he added.
Some URP supporters and leaders have accused the Deputy President of not doing enough to ensure that Rift Valley communities benefit.
Nandi Hills legislator Alfred Keter has often accused Ruto of playing second fiddle to TNA.
Keter and his allies accuse Ruto of allowing the TNA faction to dominate crucial decision-making organs of the coalition and say plum state jobs are skewed in favour of this party whose supporters benefit most from the allocation of public resources.
By RAEL JELIMO, The Standard