Kenya: Ruto Casts Caution to the Wind in Headlong Dash for 2022 Poll

In one of his strongest hints that his quest for the presidency is unstoppable, Deputy President William Ruto last Sunday indicated that he had gathered enough resources to run for the top seat in 2022.

He also boldly, but shrewdly, warned against being gagged from reaching out to the electorate.

"Tomorrow's activities are always planned today," said the DP in an apparent confession that he had already hit the campaign trail. The issue of premature campaigns has, since March last year, been at the centre of friction between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy.

HANDSHAKE

Following his symbolic handshake with opposition leader Raila Odinga on March 9, 2018 aimed at ending political hostilities between the two leaders and uniting the country, Mr Kenyatta's focus significantly changed to securing his legacy.

With the DP reportedly keener on clinching the top seat in the 2022 poll, the two leaders of the ruling Jubilee Party are increasingly walking different paths -- at least if the actions of their allies, now split along Kieleweke and Tanga Tanga factions, are anything to go by.

Presiding over a funds drive for 35 churches in Eldama-Ravine, Baringo County, last Sunday, the DP assured his supporters that he was well-prepared to succeed Mr Kenyatta. He asked them to ignore threats or information to the contrary.

As anticipated, Dr Ruto's pronouncements quickly generated a lot of interest and reactions from politicians. Speaking in Nakuru County on Friday during the funeral of lawyer-cum-businessman Karanja Kabage, the President reiterated his warning against endless politicking ahead of 2022. Dr Ruto was in attendance.

REBELLION

According to Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri, DP Ruto is now "in a full-fledged rebellion". The MP, who leads the so-called Kieleweke faction of Jubilee that is allied to President Kenyatta, says the latest development has shown that the DP and President are reading from two different scripts.

"The DP is clearly running his own agenda and show and has even warned against being stopped or distracted from his mission. While he has every right to lobby for the presidency, the weighty question is: Why is he campaigning against the wishes of his boss? Clearly there is a problem here," he said.

Claiming that Dr Ruto's actions could imply "persistent defiance and attempts to undermine his boss through a series of acts of omission and commission", ex-Cabinet minister, Prof Amukowa Anangwe, nonetheless observes the DP's sentiments may have been persuaded by the audience he was addressing.

"He was in his backyard, and, hence, the temptation to chest-thump in order to inspire his supporters not to be discouraged by what his Kalenjin community detractors have been saying adversely against his presidential bid," explains Prof Anangwe, who teaches political science at University of Dodoma, Tanzania.

Kiharu MP, Ndindi Nyoro, however maintains the DP was quoted out of context. According to Nyoro, Dr Ruto meant he was prepared ahead of time and would engage in the campaigns accordingly at the right time.

ELECTIONS

"Right from the bottom his heart, the DP is a man who respects his boss and it is in his and our best interest to work with President Kenyatta and face the coming elections as a team with him," says the youthful legislator. Nyoro's explanation notwithstanding, MPs allied to the DP have been criss-crossing the country in the company of Ruto, openly drumming up support for his presidential bid and verbally attacking his presumed challengers in 2022.

Claiming Dr Ruto has never personally uttered words to the effect of being elected in 2022, Nyoro observes "the General should not be forced to shoulder sins of his lieutenants".

Nonetheless, some of the DP's backers like Dr Bonny Khalwale are openly in support of their candidate's premature campaign. The former Kakamega County senator, who is now Dr Ruto's point man in western Kenya, says they cannot wait for endorsement at this stage.

Dr Khalwale points out that past experience has shown that candidates endorsed by the incumbent, including the President who was endorsed by Daniel arap Moi in 2002, always face rejection at the ballot.

FALSE HOPES

Stating they have already hit the ground running, Dr Khalwale explains he recently defected from as Ford-Kenya "early enough" in order to give the Ruto campaign impetus and the necessary drive.

Pokot South MP, David Pkosing similarly claims the Ruto campaign is unstoppable: "I have severally joined him on his working tours across the country and I can assure you that the hustler effect is gaining traction fast. The people have now owned the Ruto campaign and even if he wanted to opt out, it will not be easy to do so."

But Ngunjiri believes the pro-Ruto brigade is riding on false hopes. The MP charges that the DP and his backers are attempting to ride on the President's back, while at the same time disparaging and demeaning him -- a factor he claims will boomerang on them.

Ngunjiri singles out the sustained attacks by Ruto's allies against senior state officers, including Interior Principal Secretary, Karanja Kibicho, the Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti and Director of Public Prosecution, Noordin Haji, as an indicator of defiance against the President.

"They attack the President's men publicly and cry foul instead of utilising other avenues of resolving problems as Jubilee-allied MPs. They attack the President directly through tweets and in public rallies in the presence of the DP, who does not even reprimand them, yet claim to support the Kenyatta administration. Just who is fooling who?" poses the MP.

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