Deputy President William Ruto’s camp is experiencing turmoil as a number of his foot soldiers in various parts of the country have either decided to jump ship or take the middle ground for fear of a backlash.
Some of Dr Ruto’s allies are now blaming senior government officials opposed to the Deputy President’s 2022 presidential bid for using “dirty tricks” to intimidate strong supporters.
The unease comes at a time Dr Ruto has intensified his meet-the-people tours across the country besides receiving delegations at his Karen home almost on a daily basis.
It also comes as Dr Ruto’s frequent contributions to churches have come under intense scrutiny, with opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Musalia Mudavadi, as well as mainstream church leaders, reviving debate on the source of the millions of shillings he dishes out.
Interestingly, the unrest is most profound in Dr Ruto’s own Rift Valley backyard where several politicians have either bolted out of his camp or taken a low profile, citing frustrations from his henchmen.
The key leaders who were once key in selling the Jubilee Party in the 2013 and 2017 elections are slowly moving away from him as they look for other options as the realignment ahead of the 2022 polls intensifies.
From the North Rift to the South, key political figures appear to be having second thoughts as far as their support of the DP is concerned.
However, it is in Uasin Gishu, Dr Ruto’s home county, that he is facing a clear revolt as most of the elected leaders have offered a cold reception or distanced themselves from his Tanga Tanga movement, preferring to focus on activities within their portfolios.
In the county, it’s only Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi and his Soy counterpart Caleb Kositany who are openly fronting the Tanga Tanga activities.
The rest, led by Governor Jackson Mandago and Senator Margaret Kamar, have recently given the group a wide berth.
They have lately been joined by County Woman Representative Gladys Shollei, MPs William Chepkut (Ainabkoi), Janet Sitienei (Turbo), Sila Tiren (Moiben) and Swarup Mishra (Kesses).
Mr Mandago and Mr Mishra were initially part of the group but have recently cooled down their support.
Recently, Mr Mandago, who has not enjoyed a close relationship with Dr Ruto, urged the residents not to focus much on politics, saying they were bound to get hurt because politicians are not to be trusted.
"I said many bad things about Raila Odinga last time but if I was to be invited to State House, what will I tell him if I find him there? Politics is not for the weak," he said in reference to the elevated status of Mr Odinga in government since his handshake with the President in March last year.
Ms Shollei has also distanced herself from Dr Ruto’s team, saying she does not subscribe to their ideas.
“You will never see me in Tanga Tanga or Kieleweke movements’ functions. This is because I believe in development and not politics. That's why you don't see me moving around with them," said Ms Shollei recently.
Dr Ruto played a key role in the election of Prof Kamar, who was facing a serious wave of rejection, but the senator has also lately remained silent and avoided the Tanga Tanga team.
Prominent Uasin Gishu businessman Zedekiah Bundotich Kiprop, commonly known as Buzeki, who was thought to be the DP’s preferred gubernatorial choice for the county in the last polls, has also left the DP in favour of a solo political career.
In neighbouring Elgeyo-Marakwet County, Governor Alex Tolgos became the first leader to dissociate from the DP’s group, urging for its disbandment instead.
The governor, who has also not enjoyed close ties with Dr Ruto, said he preferred working with Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, whom he said was receptive and respectful.
“I do not want anything to do with Kieleweke or Tanga Tanga. I will not join either. I will work with everyone including Mr Moi, who is respectful and does things the way I do,” Mr Tolgos said.
He blamed the county's Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, with whom he enjoys a frosty relationship, for the restlessness in the DP’s camp.
Mr Murkomen has, however, dismissed the governor, saying he would not engage in sideshows, and adding that he is fully focused on serving the people of Elgeyo-Marakwet and executing his duties well as the Senate Majority Leader.
Mr Kositany, who is among those accused of blocking others from meeting Dr Ruto, laughed off the claims, saying no one had been blocked from meeting the DP.
“This is a very cheap way of doing things. The DP is very accessible. Nobody has been blocked from seeing him,” Mr Kositany, a former aide of Dr Ruto, told the Sunday Nation on phone.
“The DP is accessible to all leaders, both elected and non-elected, and from all parties," he added.
In the South Rift, former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, who had mended fences with the DP last year, appears to be moving away once again as he seeks to revamp his Chama Cha Mashinani party in readiness for the 2022 elections.
Last week, he met Mr Buzeki and a number of the DP’s rebels led by Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny in Nairobi, as he attempts to woo them to his outfit.
North Rift Kanu chairman Paul Kibet said Dr Ruto is to blame for being abandoned by his key allies for “not being accommodative”.
He said this explains why many leaders from Dr Ruto’s backyard were warming up to Kanu.
“People are following where the shadow is. Kanu is home to all leaders. Nobody had been chased anyway. The chickens have come home to roost and the DP should smell the coffee,” said Mr Kibet.
Those who quit the DP's camp much earlier are MPs Kutuny, Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills) and Sila Tiren (Moiben).
In Mt Kenya region, a section of Dr Ruto’s key campaigners have also gone silent amid his increased isolation in the Uhuru Kenyatta succession race.
Among them is Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, who between 2013 and 2017 were crusading for Dr Ruto’s 2022 presidency.
But now the two have launched their own political paths, with Mr Wa Iria having formed his own political party, effectively ditching the DP’s camp.
Recently, Mr Wa Iria held a closed-door meeting with Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka at Blue Post Hotel in Thika, a move that left tongues wagging.
Other hitherto Ruto allies who have gradually slowed down their campaigns for him include Kieni MP Kanini Kega, Sarah Korere (Laikipia North), Patrick Mariru (Laikipia West), Kareke Mbiuki (Mara) and senators Irungu Kang’ata (Murang’a) and Ephraim Maina (Nyeri).
Also on the list is Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru together with MPs Martha Wangari (Gilgil), Samuel Arama (Nakuru Town West) and David Gikaria (Nakuru Town East).
Asked about the political developments, Senator Maina said Mt Kenya leaders are not neutral but realistic on the issues affecting the residents and are being truthful to the calling.
But political analyst Phillip Kamau attributed the move by the Central Kenya politicians to the March 9, 2018 handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
“They went quiet and took the neutral position for fear of the outcome of the handshake. It is a political safety card. Their silence cannot have an impact on Dr Ruto’s 2022 ambitions,” said Mr Kamau.
The scenario is replicated in the coast region where hitherto pro-Ruto campaigners have suddenly retreated and are now pushing for the unity of the region.
MPs who have been coalescing around the DP include Shariff Alwy (Lamu), Michael Kingi (Magarini), Owen Baya (Kilifi North), Ali Mbogo (Kisauni), Badi Twalib (Jomvu), Benjamin Tayari (Kinango) and Kaloleni MP Paul Katana.
Save for Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, who has not hidden her support for Dr Ruto, the rest of the DP’s allies have taken a low profile.
Stories by Jeremiah Kiplagat, Wycliffe Kipsang, Joseph Wangui and Samuel Kazungu