Why Kericho is a do-or-die battle for Ruto and his political future

Tuesday February 23 2016

Deputy President William Ruto and Kericho senate aspirant Aaron Cheruiyot address a rally at Cheborgei market located in Bureti Constituency in Kericho County on February 20, 2016. PHOTO | DPPS

Deputy President William Ruto and Kericho County Senate aspirant Aaron Cheruiyot address a rally at Cheborgei market in Bureti Constituency on February 20, 2016. PHOTO | DPPS 

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The Kericho Senate by-election campaign is providing a fascinating duel of two anonymous candidates.

The most interesting thing is that it is not a contest between the governing Jubilee alliance and the main opposition Cord coalition, or any other such grouping.

Instead, Jubilee candidate Aaron Cheruiyot and Kanu contender Paul Sang are engaged as mere proxies in a fratricidal civil war within the Kalenjin wing of the Jubilee alliance.

The duel pits Deputy President William Ruto against the political heirs of the man he deposed as the ethnic group kingpin, former President Daniel arap Moi, and specifically the latter’s son, Gideon.


The by-election has seen the near-dormant Kanu rebound strongly to seriously challenge Jubilee’s domination of the region through the United Republican Party.

That campaign not only indicates a growing rebellion in Mr Ruto’s Rift Valley backyard, but also a referendum on his power-sharing pact with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance.

It also challenges the presumption that Mr Ruto will be the automatic Jubilee candidate to succeed President Kenyatta at State House.

With Jubilee just recently having lost an obscure civic ward in Mr Ruto’s territory, the DP is now being forced to work overtime to confront the unexpected challenge from Kanu.

He has to assert his dominance within the Kalenjin community to buttress his position within the Jubilee alliance and banish any thoughts within President Kenyattta’s circles that they could deal with the younger Moi or other alternate leaders from the community.

Although not openly campaigning for the Kanu candidate, ex-President Moi must be looking on with quiet satisfaction. He hates Mr Ruto’s guts.

He sees the Deputy President as a usurper who appropriated the leadership mantle and denied him the chance to anoint his own successor.

Mr Ruto, in Mr Moi’s eyes, is a nobody who wormed his way to power through stealth and subterfuge rather than through his patronage and the old money lineage.

He has publicly told the Kalenjin people that Mr Ruto is nothing but a “broker”, and that they should engage with President Kenyatta directly and not through persons who might sell them down the river.

Mr Moi is thus in a conflicted position. UhuRuto might represent the Kikuyu-Kalenjin alliance he floated way back in the mid-1990s when he called a meeting of elders from both sides to State House, Nakuru.

He was proposing a union of mutual benefit for the two feuding communities that, he said, had power, wealth, and land to protect against power-grabs from what he termed “jealous” and “communist” Luo politicians led by Raila Odinga.

His proposed alliance that far back indeed came to pass, but with Mr Kenyatta teamed up with a pesky intruder who dislodged his beloved youngest son, Gideon, from his ordained place.

Mr Moi still believes in President Kenyatta and will surely support his re-election bid.

He will have to contend with the fact that Ruto will be on the ticket unless something drastic happens. That is why Kericho is so important.


We have in Kenya a retrograde piece of legislation that the government insists on retaining in the law books.

The authorities have long refused to repeal the Official Secrets Act, under which even a press release or the office newspaper will often be stamped “Top Secret”.

It has also refused to introduce the Freedom of Information Bill that has been lying in the dusty labyrinths at the Attorney-General’s Chambers for the better part of the decade.

It is, therefore, encouraging to see that President Uhuru Kenyatta is allowing his State House flunkies to openly share information without fear that they will be drawn and quartered for breaching the secrecy laws.

That is the only conclusion I can draw from the Facebook posting by the Director of Digital Communications, Dennis Itumbi, displaying a letter clearly stamped “Confidential”.

That is the missive from Chief of Staff Joseph Kinyua communicating to Chief Justice Willy Mutunga President Kenyatta’s decision to defy the Judicial Service Commission’s recommendation that he suspend Supreme Court Judge Philip Tunoi and establish an inquiry into his alleged corruption.

I am now also emboldened to disobey the laws that, in my estimation, do not belong to the statute books.