Opponents of Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid have launched yet another attempt to stop him from ascending to the highest office in the land.
And rather than just use constitutional arguments, some leaders in the Mt Kenya region allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta have formed a group known as Mt Kenya and Diaspora Leaders Forum to defend him from perceived rebels gravitating towards Dr Ruto.
The group led by Nominated MP Maina Kamanda says it wants to tame the rebels, dubbed Tanga Tanga team.
This came as Ford-Kenya, whose leaders were initially seen as allies of Dr Ruto, renewed calls on him to retire alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022.
The position taken by the Moses Wetang’ula-led party contradicts that of his deputy, Dr Boni Khalwale, who has been campaigning for Dr Ruto’s 2022 bid.
Mr Wetang’ula is, however, now leading his party in pushing for Dr Ruto’s retirement, a position also taken by former Jubilee Party vice-chairman David Murathe.
Mr Murathe was the first to kick off the debate when he argued that the presidency is a pair, “hence the DP must exit the stage with Mr Kenyatta in 2022.”
Mr Wetang’ula, Ford-Kenya Secretary-General Eseli Simiyu and Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati asked Dr Ruto to go home when his term as the Deputy President ends. The party leader claimed that come 2022, Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto will have already led the government for two terms and both should retire after serving as the President and Deputy President, respectively.
Dr Simiyu said: “Under the Constitution, the presidency is occupied by two people — Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. When the term expires for the President, it also does for his deputy who should also move out.”
Legally, nothing forbids Dr Ruto from running for President, despite having served as the DP. The term limit only apply to the President. But politically, some of his opponents may be seeing a chance to exploit if they stop him from running.
The top leaders in the Mt Kenya group include former presidential aspirants Peter Kenneth, and Martha Karua and former Dagoretti MP Dennis Waweru.
Speaking at ACC/S Church at Kangari in Kigumo Sub-County, Murang'a County during a fundraiser, Mr Kamanda said they had formed the group because a section of the Mt Kenya leaders who are supposed to defend the region's kingpin had allegedly been compromised.
The President has recently denounced those engaging in premature election campaigns, as he focuses on securing his legacy.
"We now have a group that the President can rely on as his directives on premature campaigns have fallen on deaf years. Some of the MPs have been consumed by 2022 politics to the extent of insulting older politicians who have seen it all in politics.
"We shall go around the country reminding the people that President Kenyatta's term is not yet over and urging leaders to respect him and we shall be naming them," Mr Kamanda said.
Mr Waweru said the “diaspora” appendage to the group’s name refers to leaders outside Mt Kenya who have supported President Kenyatta in the past elections.
Other leaders said to be in the team in Murang’a are MPs Peter Kimari (Mathioya), Ruth Mwaniki (Kigumo), Waithira Muithirania (former Woman Rep aspirant) and former Senator Kembi Gitura. Those perceived to be members of Tanga Tanga squad in Murang’a are Senator Irungu Kang'ata, Woman Representative Wanjiru Chege and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro.
The Ford-Kenya leaders spoke at Rosterman in Kakamega during the funeral of Rosebela Simiyu, a sister to Dr Simiyu. The leaders from Bungoma County said President Kenyatta and Dr Ruto have had their chance and should now pave the way for new blood to move the country to the next level.
The Ford-Kenya leaders spoke even as Dr Khalwale continues his dalliance with Dr Ruto, risking expulsion from the party.
Even though Dr Simiyu did not point out the constitutional clause that requires the DP to retire alongside the President, Article 148 of the Constitution says no one should serve as President for more than two terms while Article 148(8) states that a person shall not hold office as Deputy President for more than two terms.
The same law does not, however, obstruct a Deputy President from running for the presidency.