Deputy President William Ruto on Saturday returned to the Coast for the eighth time since the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Raila Odinga and told the ODM leader not to panic over his association with local leaders.
Mr Ruto, who has been using the political ceasefire between the Jubilee Party and Nasa leaders to penetrate the opposition bastion, said his newfound relationship with the ODM leaders was for development.
"People should stop panicking over my tours. The unity is for the development of the country," Mr Ruto said during the homecoming party for Lunga Lunga MP Khatib Mwashetani in Vanga.
Rebel ODM leaders, led by Coast Parliamentary Group chairman Suleiman Dori and vocal Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, used the event to praise Mr Ruto and vowed to back him in the 2022 presidential election.
But conspicuously absent during Saturday’s event was Kwale governor Salim Mvurya, a key Jubilee pillar in the Coast region.
Sunday Nation could not immediately establish his whereabouts.
ODM has since warned it will punish its members who have openly supported Mr Ruto for the top seat.
The Orange party set the ball rolling by writing to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi wanting to remove Ms Jumwa from the powerful Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).
The party was angered more when the rebel MPs, mainly from the Coast, skipped its parliamentary group meeting and National Executive Council in Mombasa last month.
On Saturday, Mr Ruto said the MPs who started trooping to his events after the Uhuru-Raila truce were doing so for the sake of the country's unity, affirming that he will work with them irrespective of party affiliation.
"There's no need to worry," Mr Ruto, whose Jubilee Party performed dismally at the Coast in past polls, said.
His visits to the Coast have split the opposition, with one camp coalescing around Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and the other backing Kilifi's Amason Kingi to be the region's presidential torchbearer.
On Saturday, Mr Ruto said there was only "one government" and that he was visiting various parts of the country due to his mandate as Deputy President to initiate development projects.
"If you have something to do just do it... leave me to work and tour various places for development," Mr Ruto said.
The crowd responded in the affirmative when asked if Mr Ruto should work with local leaders to boost the region’s economy.
And speaking in Kisauni, Mombasa County, Mr Ruto said the Jubilee Administration is fully in charge and that there are no two governments in the country.
“You must know that the leadership of this country is with us, the Kenyan government is led by Mr Kenyatta and I, there is no other government, or do you think there exists another one? That one is just a story,” he said amid applause from the public.
He told politicians to stop tribal politics and hatred to enable the country achieve development, adding that time for politicking was over.
“This country cannot be built by rhetoric, hatred and politics of tribalism but it can be achieved when leaders across the political divide are united for a common course, that of development, and that is where we are as the leadership of this country,” he said at Kadongo grounds, Kisauni constituency.
In Vanga, Mr Mwashetani said Mr Ruto's kutangatanga (loitering) had helped bring development to the Coast region.
Mr Dori was categorical that the region will back Mr Ruto for the presidency come 2022, explaining that Coast leaders were working with the DP because he is a national leader.
Ms Jumwa on her part said local leaders had no regrets backing Mr Ruto. "I don't see the reason why people should be worried when we support leaders who are committed to development," Ms Jumwa said.
She said the opposition lost during the last general election due to Mr Ruto's hard work.
"What Ruto is doing is not different from what he was doing in 2013 to 2017," she said. "We are tired of empty politicking that has nothing to do with development. We will not be intimidated in our support for Deputy President."
She said local leaders were working with Mr Ruto because their party leader (Mr Odinga) embraced the handshake.
Kinango MP Benjamin Tayari asked Coast people to start planning for 2022 early to avoid being swayed to the wrong candidate at the last minute.
Extra reporting by Brian Ocharo