Eldoret North MP William Ruto camped in the Central Rift at the weekend to shore up support for his presidential bid.
Mr Ruto addressed six rallies in Baringo, West Pokot and Trans Nzoia counties where he accused Prime Minister Raila Odinga of not honouring the pledges he made to the Kalenjin in 2007.
The Eldoret North MP claimed ODM’s support had fallen following the departure of key leaders such as Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, Mvita MP Najib Balala and himself.
But in a quick rejoinder, a group of Kalenjin elders dismissed the claims, saying Mr Odinga’s policies would unite Kenyans and spur growth.
Led by Mr Jackson Kibor, they accused Mr Ruto, who is also United Republican Party (URP) leader, of seeking to alienate the Kalenjin from other Kenyans politically.
“As people of Rift Valley we would like to interact with other Kenyans without any limitations in order to fight the tribalism that has bedeviled our nation for many years,” said Mr Kibor in Eldoret on Sunday.
Mr Kibor said ODM was still the party to beat in the province. Former Industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey is now the most senior Kalenjin in ODM, where he is also party chairman.
Mr Kosgey was last week cleared of abuse of office charges and is expected to return to the Cabinet and lead ODM campaigns in the region. He also wants to be Mr Odinga’s running mate.
Road minister Franklin Bett is eyeing the same seat, arguing that it’s time Mr Odinga rewarded the Kipsigis for their loyalty. At the same time, the National Vision Party led by former minister Nicholas Biwott is fighting for a share of votes in the expansive province.
Mr Biwott plans to campaign on the platform of tribal unity, poverty eradication and job creation. On Saturday, Mr Ruto said he will not drop his bid for State House over the charges he is facing at the International Criminal Court.
Mr Ruto, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, former Public Service boss Francis Muthaura and radio presenter Joshua Sang are accused of bearing the greatest responsibility for the 2007/8 post-election clashes that killed 1,133 people and displaced 650,0000 others.
Speaking in Kabarnet town where he presided over a funds drive in aid of over 300 women groups, the URP leader dismissed claims MPs from the South Rift had quit his party.
“The next General Election will be a contest of issues and not empty rhetoric aimed at tarnishing other people’s reputation,” said Mr Ruto.
He said if elected president, he will set up an interest-free loan scheme for women and youth. Mr Ruto said more than 50,000 acres of land in the Kerio Valley could be reclaimed through irrigation to boost food production and security.
URP chairman Francis ole Kaparo said the party’s grassroots elections will be held between August 29 and 31. “All aspirants eyeing any post on a URP ticket will meet in Nairobi on July 16. The nominations will be free and transparent,” he said.