Tycoons in central Kenya who are supporting Deputy President William Ruto's 2022 presidential bid are bankrolling at least 16 youth lobby groups to campaign and advance his agenda ahead of the poll.
The groups, spread across the 10 counties of Kiambu, Murang’a, Laikipia, Nyandarua, Meru, Embu, Tharaka-Nithi, Laikipia, Kirinyaga and Nyeri, are tasked with publicising Mr Ruto by circulating information about his movements and activities.
They also use social media platforms such as WhatsApp to spread the information and photos.
The groups are clustered and have branches at the county, sub-county and ward levels to ensure Mr Ruto is heard and felt at the grassroots, the leaders told the Nation.
They include Tangatanga online, Team Maendeleo, Team Ruto, Tangatanga in Action, Artists and Performers, Women in Prayers stand, Ministers on their Knees, Mt Kenya for William Ruto and Tangatanga lobby group.
Others are Mt Kenya Development Movement, Team Tangatanta, Ruto for 2022, Kithure Kindiki WR (William Ruto), TangaTanga Youth Group, Kirinyaga United Group, Friends of Ruto and Kerugoya Youth Group.
They do not have a centre of command or communication but are controlled by opinion leaders, who solicit for funds from businessmen in the region.
“The groups are gearing for 2022 . We must be consistent. The aim is to advance his (Deputy President) agenda,” Karombia Maina, a coordinator of Mt Kenya for Ruto group, said.
He said the objective is to make sure the Deputy President gets accepted by the people without relying on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s endorsement.
The groups also engage in charity events such as visiting children’s homes, attending sports tournaments and fundraisings, mostly those aimed at settling medical bills.
“We use those platforms to tell Kikuyus that we don’t owe anybody a political debt, but we must honour promises. We usually convince them there is no cause for fear,” Mr Simon Gitahi from Nyeri said.
But the Deputy President’s press secretary, Mr David Mugonyi, denied knowledge of the lobby groups, saying it is not time for political campaigns.
“I'm not aware of the existence of any group formed to campaign for the deputy president. The DP has made it clear that this is not time for politics but to deliver on the Jubilee agenda,” he said.