Kenya: Ruto Suffers Setback as Rift Governors Develop Cold Feet

21 September 2019

Some Rift Valley governors allied to Deputy President William Ruto have gone slow on their support for him, just months after publicly declaring their willingness to throw their weight behind his 2022 presidential quest.

Earlier this year, DP Ruto went on a charm offensive in the region, offering goodies to leading opposition figures, who in turn changed their political persuasions in his favour. The move was seen as an attempt to fully lock the Rift Valley ahead of the 2022 polls.

GOODIES

Back then, Mr Ruto managed to convince governors Josphat Nanok (Turkana, ODM), John Lonyang'apuo (West Pokot, Kanu) and Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia, Ford-Kenya) to cross over to his camp, but no sooner had they defected than they went mute.

The county chiefs have since taken a low profile, missing the DP's major functions in the region, quite unlike in the past when they would accompany him to whatever function he attended.

Mr Nanok, for instance, would fly all the way from Lodwar to give the DP company in Uasin Gishu during church fundraisers and burials. The DP reciprocated at some point by spending days in Turkana inspecting government projects and promising residents more goodies.

Although Mr Nanok has recently been slowed down by health issues, his ebbing enthusiasm for DP Ruto's company has been noticeable. The governor has been seen with the DP only once in the past three months. That was during this year's Tobong'u Lore Cultural Festival in Lodwar last month.

LEGACY

Some political pundits have blamed the waning enthusiasm to be seen with the DP on the increasing campaign by the Kenya Revenue Authority, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Directorate of Criminal Investigations and other law enforcement agencies against public officials facing allegations of corruption and financial irregularities.

Recently, KRA took Mr Nanok to task over the county government's alleged failure to remit taxes worth Sh455 million.

Mr Nanok did not respond to the Saturday Nation's inquiries about this, but his confidants say the governor has not changed his mind about his support for Mr Ruto.

They said he is now focusing on establishing "a formidable legacy as his term heads to the end".

Mr Khaemba, elected on a Ford-Kenya ticket, has also recently avoided the DP despite declaring support for him last May. When he hosted the DP in Saboti that month, the Trans Nzoia governor was bullish, declaring that he would not continue suffering in Ford-Kenya's "house on fire". He said he would join 14 other Rift Valley governors in supporting Mr Ruto.

But Mr Khaemba immediately faced threats of expulsion from Ford-Kenya for his shift in allegiance.

The governor has recently been on the EACC's radar over corruption accusations in the implementation of key county projects.

TROUBLES

The office of the Auditor-General has often raised queries over the loss of funds in the construction of the Kitale bus park and a county referral hospital, Mr Khaemba's two flagship projects that have stalled despite consuming billions of shillings since they were launched almost five years ago.

The governor was conspicuously missing when the DP visited Cherangany constituency in his county last week.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Mr Khaemba told the Saturday Nation he was no longer interested in 2022 politics but development matters.

"I support Uhuru's administration because my people are benefiting. Currently, we are doing development, not politics," he said.

For Prof Lonyangapuo, troubles have quadrupled since he said he would support the DP's bid, forcing him to retreat. The Kanu governor, who has also had run-ins with the EACC recently, has seen his relationship with top party bigwigs, including party leader Gideon Moi, ebb as well since that declaration. Mr Moi and DP Ruto are sworn political enemies and do not see eye to eye.

The governor has also lost the support of Senator Samuel Poghisio and other Kanu leaders in the region. Plans are also underway to remove him as the Pokot spokesman and replace him with the vocal Tiaty MP William Kamket.

TACTICAL

One governor told the Saturday Nation that their reduced activities around the DP are tactical, as they do not want to run into trouble with aggressive top government officials opposed to the DP.

Other than the three, Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago has also blown hot and cold in his support for Mr Ruto. His Elgeyo-Marakwet counterpart Alex Tolgos has quit the Ruto camp, leaving Nandi's Stephen Sang the only active campaigner for him.

Mr Sang is facing charges after he was arrested for allegedly invading a tea estate linked to former powerful minister Henry Kosgey.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei blamed the 2018 Kenyatta-Odinga "handshake" for the tribulations facing the DP's supporters in the region.

"If you see what all these people are facing, you will understand it is all about the 2022 succession battle," he said. "We thought the handshake was to build bridges but it is clear it is being used to settle political scores."

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