Deputy President William Ruto and his fiercest critic from his Rift Valley backyard Joshua Kutuny have decided to throw caution to the wind and are now engaging in unprecedented and unguarded attacks directed at each other.
For a while, Dr Ruto had avoided addressing the Cherangany MP’s endless virulent attacks, instead preferring to use his allies to respond to the lawmaker since they fell out again last year.
But even as leaders close to him responded to Mr Kutuny, the MP has continued to be a thorn in the flesh. Dr Ruto finally decided to use a function at the legislator’s constituency last Friday to directly respond to Mr Kutuny.
He accused Mr Kutuny of being “bought and used” to cause trouble in his Rift Valley stronghold.
“I am asking the people of Cherangany to join me as we plan development activities for this area. Some of these leaders you have here go to Nairobi and when they are there, they are easily excited by other people. They are then given money and asked to cause trouble back at home, forgetting that they are doing so to the detriment of their people. I am asking you to forgive them,” said the DP in reference to Mr Kutuny’s recent attacks against him.
It was the first time he was addressing the MP directly since the last elections. The two had fallen out before but appeared to have mended fences before the 2017 polls only to part ways again.
Mr Kutuny is now the de facto leader of Kieleweke team in the Rift Valley, the Jubilee faction opposed to Dr Ruto’s candidacy in the 2022 polls. Other than Mr Kutuny, Tiaty MP William Kamket, Baringo Woman Representative Gladwell Tungo and Moiben MP Sila Tiren have joined the group.
The DP and Mr Kutuny have not seen eye-to-eye since Mr Kutuny was picked as the president’s political adviser after losing the parliamentary seat to Mr Wesley Korir in 2013.
In 2015, Mr Ruto accused Mr Kutuny, who was then a political adviser of President Uhuru Kenyatta, of praying hard for him to be jailed at the International Criminal Court at The Hague when the cases were still alive. The ICC case collapsed in 2016 for lack of evidence.
Mr Kutuny’s close relationship with former State House operative Nancy Gitau is said to have strained the relationship between two.
Dr Ruto’s allies have always accused Ms Gitau of being behind the machinations to frustrate the DP.
The cold relationship between the two leaders persisted to the 2017 elections as the DP largely avoided campaigning for him despite being a Jubilee candidate.
Responding to the DP, Mr Kutuny vowed to continue with the battle, saying he would not be scared by anyone.
“I am ready to expose his lies to our people. He came to my constituency where he confirmed that indeed I have always been right in agitating for the rights of maize farmers. This is one selfish man who doesn't have any interest on the issues affecting our people, especially the maize farmers, despite the powerful position he holds in government," said Mr Kutuny.
He said he was aware the DP had already lined up a preferred candidate to dislodge him in the next polls.
"He (Ruto) has been going around claiming that he is going to ensure that I fail politically but what makes him think that there are no people in this country who are better than him and who can fill his position?" he posed.
"If he thinks he can teach me a political lesson then I will embarrass him politically. This is a man I know so well and it's just a matter of time before I put him where he belongs politically."
The DP is already working closely with Kutuny’s rivals, including former long-time Cherangany MP Kipruto Kirwa and Mr Korir.