Deputy president William Ruto and his allies have lined up a series of events in the Rift Valley in a move aimed at bolstering his political grip of the region amid inroads by rival parties that are being revived ahead of the 2022 general election.
The DP presided over a major fundraiser in aid of nine churches in Kapseret constituency, the home turf of his close ally Oscar Sudi.
Several senators, MPs, governors and ward reps were expected to attend the event in solidarity with the DP who has lately been facing growing rebellion from a section of Jubilee lawmakers.
Mr Sudi on Saturday confirmed the DP’s attendance. “All is set for the event. It will purely be a church event and not in any way political,” Mr Sudi told the Nation.
During his tour, the DP is also expected to officially open the County Assemblies Sports Association (KACA) games on Monday at Eldoret Polytechnic. The games will run until October 5.
The DP’s tour comes amid differences among the region’s leaders on the direction the Kalenjin community should take ahead of the forthcoming polls.
A war of words has emerged among a section of lawmakers in the region led by Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny who want the Kalenjin to make an independent decision on who will succeed President Kenyatta while a rival group wants the community to rally behind the DP Ruto in his presidential bid.
Mr Kutuny, a former State House advisor, has vowed to scuttle Dr Ruto’s presidential ambitions arguing that he was not interested in championing for the community’s interests.
“What is emerging is that the DP has failed the Kalenjin community and is only interested in the presidency but there many leaders who can give him a run for his money in the presidential succession politics,” Mr Kutuny said.
Lawmakers allied to DP Ruto have dismissed Mr Kutuny’s group accusing them of being misused by outsiders to cause a split in the region. Soy MP Caleb Kositany and his Keiyo South counterpart Daniel Rono hit out at Mr Kutuny for being used by Dr Ruto's political detractors to derail his 2022 presidential bid.
“It very wrong for him (Mr Kutuny) to behave that way. He may have a divergent opinion but let him respect our leader,” said Mr Rono.
Mr Kositany warned leaders fighting the DP that their schemes will not succeed and that they risk being shown the door by the electorate in 2022.
The opposition is gaining popularity in the region following the “handshake” deal between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga.
The main opposition parties ODM, Ford-Kenya and Amani National Congress (ANC) that had kept a low profile in the otherwise Jubilee-dominated region are fast gaining ground. ODM yesterday disclosed plans to rebrand its offices in the region and carry out recruitment drives in preparation for national party elections next year.
“The handshake has strengthened the principles of democracy and voters have appreciated the role of the opposition in effective governance,” Micah Kigen, Elgeyo Marakwet ODM Chairman.
He disclosed plans by Mr Odinga to re-open the Elgeyo Marakwet party branch office next month as part of the strategy to gain support in the region.
“What voters want is the democratic space to enable them make independent political decisions,” Mr Kigen said.
Leaders elected on opposition ticket have in the past been accused of being compromised to sing the tune of the government after the handshake deal.
“We expect the opposition to take its role in ensuring checks and balances in the management of the county affairs but they seem to have been overshadowed by their Jubilee counterparts after the handshake,” said David Korir from Kiplombe, Uasin Gishu county.
The North Rift region is predominantly a Jubilee stronghold with Kanu drawing some support from Baringo, West Pokot and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties.