25 November 2018

Kenya: Big Rally Charmer but Deadbeat in Own Backyard? the Ruto Rebellion

Deputy President William Ruto has engaged the campaign gear with whistle stop tours across the country as he seeks to widen his political base ahead of the 2022 General Election.

But he seems to have left many things unattended in his Rift Valley backyard, an oversight that has led to growing acrimony by MPs from the region.

The DP's ally-turned-foe, Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, is leading the pack of rebels which includes Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter and his Moiben counterpart Silas Tiren.

MAIZE SCANDAL

The trio last week did the unthinkable in the region by publicly calling on the DP to explain his role in the maize scandal where briefcase companies and well-connected businessmen are alleged to have been paid millions of shillings by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) at the expense of ordinary farmers.

Furthermore, Mr Ruto has not addressed the highly emotive issue of the eviction of more than 9,000 families settled along the Maasai Mau Forest, with another 40,000 families lined up for eviction in the second phase of the exercise.

POOR PRICES

Poor tea and milk prices, decrepit road infrastructure, perceived skewed appointment to top government jobs, and lack of political unity are some of the issues playing against the DP in his backyard.

An embarrassing incident in which seven MPs in Bomet County walked out on President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Ruto during the opening of a tuition block at Bomet University College was a daring move that spoke volumes on the growing rebellion against the DP.

Much as they turned their guns on Bomet County Governor Joyce Laboso for failing to recognise them during the event, it was not lost on observers that the MPs were bold enough to turn their backs on the President and his Deputy.

DON'T BLAME OTHERS

Mr Micah Kigen, an ODM politician, said: "The DP is his own enemy and he should not blame others for the woes he is grappling with. His arrogance, know it all and vindictive character, coupled with isolationist politics, have alienated him from his core supporters,"

Ahead of the last General Election, Chama Cha Mashinani leader and former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto led a group of rebel leaders comprising Mr Keter, Emurrua Dikkir MP Johana Ng'eno, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi and former Kuresoi MP Zakayo Cheruiyot. But Mr Ngeno and Mr Sudi have since mended their differences with the DP.

In what has been seen as an attempt to turn the tide around, the DP has sought the backing of Mr Ruto and recently dispatched four governors and his aide, Farouk Kibet, to the CCM leader's home in Chepalungu.

Mr Kutuny was Mr Ruto's key ally before he lost his Cherangany parliamentary seat in the 2013 General Election and went on to be appointed President Kenyatta's political advisor.

UNDERMINING RUTO

In a rare incident that kept tongues' wagging, Mr Ruto at one time publicly stated in a fit of anger that Mr Kutuny was leading a group of well-connected politicians in the corridors of power who were undermining him with a view to blocking him from succeeding President Kenyatta at State House.

"I am a junior officer at the Presidency and Mr Ruto is my boss. I have no powers to undermine him since I work under the Presidency," was Mr Kutuny's response at the time.

Mr Kutuny told NTV on Tuesday: "We have evidence that one of Mr Ruto's companies has been implicated in the maize scandal and is among the 60 companies under investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission."

He challenged the DP to come out in the open and state his relation with the company that has allegedly received millions of shillings from NCPB.

Mr Ruto has not commented on the claims but a section of Rift Valley MPs, led by Soy legislator Caleb Kositany and Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot defended him, accusing their colleagues of "engaging in mercenary tactics to bring the DP down."

BLOCK RUTO

On Monday, Mr Sudi claimed Mr Kutuny and his colleagues were being used by some senior government officials, whom he did not name, but whom he claimed want to block the DP from occupying State House.

"Mr Kutuny and his cronies are busy at night colluding with some people in government who did not want Mr Kenyatta to form government with the DP in 2013, to block his 2022 presidential bid," claimed Mr Sudi.

Mr Kutuny Saturday rubbished claims that he is being sponsored by some powerful individuals within the government to revive the suspended case against the DP at the International Criminal Court.

"The cartels in the maize sector have started fighting back through propaganda in a bid to divert attention from challenges facing maize farmers," said Mr Kutuny.

MAIZE SHORTAGE

He said those calling for diversification of farming in the North Rift wanted to create an artificial maize shortage to facilitate avenues of importing the grain from Mexico, South Africa, Uganda and United States and sell it to the government at exorbitant prices. "Farmers have incurred huge losses, with mangoes, pepper, cabbages, passion fruit and beans rotting in farms after the government urged them to diversify and failed to create market linkages," said Mr Kutuny.

Mr Keter was among a group of MPs from the region in the last parliament who openly criticised the DP and went against all odds to capture the Jubilee parliamentary ticket and won during last year's polls.

During the Nyangores civic by-election in Bomet County in 2016, Mr Keter teamed up with Baringo Senator and Kanu chairman Gideon Moi, West Pokot Governor John Lenganyapuo (then Senator), Kanu Secretary General Nick Salat, Mr Keter, Mr Sudi and Mr Ngeno in campaigning for CCM's Andrew Maritim, who won the seat.

CAMPAIGNS

The same team campaigned for Kanu's Senatorial candidate, Mr Paul Sang, in Kericho County, which was won by Jubilee candidate Aaron Cheruiyot in a hotly contested and disputed poll.

The DP camped in the county up to the last day of the campaigns as he sought to ward off a replica of the embarrassment he was handed in the Bomet civic poll two weeks earlier.

On his part, Mr Tiren, an increasingly outspoken MP, seems not to have forgiven the DP after being short-changed in the parliamentary committee leadership when he was blocked from being chairman of the Agricultural committee despite getting overwhelming support from MPs.

Mr Tiren has since cultivated a good working relationship with Senator Moi and is often seen whenever dignitaries are visiting former President Daniel arap Moi at his Kabarak home.

But Belgut MP Nelson Koech said the DP was "being fought by his political rivals hell-bent on scuttling his 2022 presidential bid.

The sentiments were shared by Chepalungu MP Gideon Koskei.

Additional reporting by Barnabas Bii and Onyango K'Onyango

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