Deputy President William Ruto was an unwelcome visitor in Central Kenya during the first few months after the 2007 General Election. Part of the region’s leadership and locals had blamed him for his perceived hand in their 2007/2008 post-election travails.
But since he helped his boss president Uhuru Kenyatta deliver a key win in the 2013 and 2017 elections, the DP has been keen and busy on expanding his networks in the Mt Kenya region.
In the process, Dr Ruto has continued to win allies for his grand march to State House, stealthily and skilfully spreading his political tentacles in Meru, Kiambu, Nyeri, Murang’a, Embu, Tharaka-Nithi, Nyandarua, Laikipia and Kirinyaga counties.
In the past one year, an indefatigable Ruto has trained his sights on the vote-rich bloc, pointing to shifting loyalties and alliances in preparation for the 2022 succession contest.
The DP seems to have convinced a significant number of elected leaders in the region to back him and the Tangatanga Jubilee wing, which was born largely from the March 2018 “handshake” between President Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga. The outfit is composed of legislators who insist that the DP should take over the presidency in 2022.
Tuesday’s burial of Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua’s mother Martha Kirigo in Mathira, Nyeri County, turned political and was a perfect stage to display his political influence in the region.
In a deliberate show of might, the DP, who was accompanied by 73 legislators from the Tangatanga brigade, called out his opponents in the 2022 presidential run. A majority of the legislators were from the Mt Kenya region.
Everything about the arrangement of seats and speakers was strategic and tailored to accentuate Dr Ruto’s numbers and might.
First, all 73 parliamentarians were asked onto the podium to sing a song of condolence for the Gachagua family. Even though their vocals may have been off, the message was home – Tangatanga has the numbers. The mere mention of the leaders present went on for more than 15 minutes.
And during the speeches, firebrand leaders were picked to speak on behalf of each region represented at the funeral.
Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa represented the Coast Region and was blunt in calling out the DP’s opponents and declare their interest in the top job.
“As far as we are concerned, we are in this race alone. The opponents should come out and declare their interests now but we are not being swayed and I will take the message home that Nyeri is locked,” she said.
Mr Gachagua who was the host made it clear that he would back Dr Ruto’s presidential bid to the very end, saying his loyalty cannot be bought.
“We stand with and support the President but in 2022, we have made up our minds and I will personally support Ruto to the very end,” he stated.
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen termed the embattled “UhuRuto” union as a costly investment that the faction would not ditch until Ruto becomes president.
“We have made a lot of political investment in President Kenyatta and his deputy and we are not abandoning that investment until we get our returns in 2022,” he said. The senator also made a plea to the President to call for Jubilee Party talks to fix the broken house.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri warned that the Kikuyu community should not be led into abandoning President Kenyatta’s 2022 succession pact with his deputy.
The narrative that President Kenyatta has reneged on a political pact between his Mt Kenya base and Dr Ruto’s Kalenjin base to return the favour for their 2013 and 2017 elections support has split the Jubilee leadership in Mt Kenya.
“Even God says that if you break a covenant there will be consequences. Likewise, for the people of Central, you made a covenant and you should be sure not to break it,” CS Kiunjuri said.
And in the wake of the humiliation he suffered at the funeral, Kieni MP Kanini Kega has hit back at critics, accusing them of splitting the ruling party and Mt Kenya Region. Mr Kega was chastised by the politicians, including the DP, for saying he was representing the President.
Speaking in Kieni Wednesday, the legislator maintained that he was indeed sent to represent the President.
“The targeted attack by some of the leaders was a move to split the region and portray a divide in the ruling party. I indeed met the President on Friday in Mombasa and he sent me to deliver his donation. If anything, those attacking me should be asking themselves why the President chose to send me,” Mr Kega said.
Former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo also believes the Tangatanga politics may split the region.
“Why is it that there are so many issues in our region? Why is there no politics in other regions. We should be focusing on the future and use those numbers,” Mr Kabogo said.
According to the 2017 voter register, the Central region has more than 2.9 million voters and many more are expected to be registered by 2022.