Kenya: Nick Ruto Takes His Father's 2022 Campaigns to the Grassroots

13 October 2019

Deputy President William Ruto's eldest son, Nick Kipkurgat, has officially joined his father's presidential campaign team ahead of the 2022 election.

Nick, a lawyer-cum-businessman, has been making public appearances mainly in church harambees ostensibly to raise funds, but which he frequently uses to rally support behind his father.

A shy, behind-the-scenes operative, Nick has over the last one and a half months become increasingly visible, attending two public functions, the first one in Jomvu, in Mombasa County, on September 1 and the other in Rarieda, in Bondo Sub-County, last weekend for a harambee.

In Jomvu, Nick was in the company of a local politician, Mohamed Abdalla, who hosted hundreds of youth before attending a church service at Jilam church in Jomvu Kuu.

And last weekend, Nick was in Rarieda for a fundraiser in aid of Nyamasore Catholic Church, where he helped raise Sh800,000 with his personal donation of Sh250,000.

It is not lost to discerning Kenyans that, whereas the young Ruto avoided politics at both events, his choice of the functions was significant.

MILLENNIALS

While Bondo, in Siaya County, is in the Nyanza political fiefdom of Opposition leader Raila Odinga, Jomvu constituency, and the entire Coast region, has consistently voted for Mr Odinga since the 2007 general election.

Sources close to the Deputy President's son told Sunday Nation that he was crafting a fresh strategy to reach out to the youth in regions perceived to be hostile to his father's 2022 quest.

Nick's initiative is calculated to run parallel to Mr Ruto's campaigns, mainly targeting voters born after the multi-party era and who therefore are not beholden to Mr Odinga's role in the fight against single-party rule.

Nick's campaign comes only months after Mr Ruto launched a women's wing dubbed Inua Mama to help spearhead his campaigns among the womenfolk and counter the Embrace movement that is seen to be allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.

The campaign is targeting the millennial generation, born between 2000 and 2004, who will be eligible to cast their votes in the 2022 polls.

Of interest is Mr Odinga's Luo Nyanza political backyard where Mr Ruto has only visited once since the 2017 general election.

POLITICKING

To make inroads into the region which is widely perceived to be anti-Ruto due to his "perceived combative politics" against the ODM leader, his strategists have proposed that the youth brigade take an active role in the region in a bid to "tap into the youth majority who do not appreciate Mr Odinga's past achievements", according to our sources.

Even though speakers during the Rarieda event, including Nick, denied that their mission was political, multiples sources including political observers said, "you cannot distinguish the event from a political forum".

Political analyst Herman Manyora said Nick's visits are all about his father's 2022 politics. "The only way the children are doing their things instead of their father's thing is if they are engaged in community work.

In developed countries, you have the daughters and sons of kings and presidents engaged in philanthropy, like setting up foundations, dealing with problems in the world such as malaria, HIV/Aids and helping orphans and vulnerable children -- that way he can tell us he has nothing to do with politics," said Prof Manyora.

He went on: "But if you go and do meetings engaging with people, that is just politics you are doing on behalf of your father. Should he (Nick) engage purely in philanthropy, then we will know that his mission is not based on politics."

PARENTING

He said Mr Ruto's son should establish "a niche foundation -- dealing with, for example, the problem of Tsetse flies in Homa Bay and Migori or widows on the shores of Lake Victoria engaged in sex for fish, otherwise he is just a mouthpiece of Ruto."

Jubilee youth league official Victor Ayugi, a close confidant of Mr Ruto's son, who is part of his youth team, has however denied that the team is involved in campaigns.

He told Sunday Nation that they have outlined how they will crisscross the country "to conduct fundraisers for churches and the youth in a bid to empower them".

"This should not however be misconstrued to mean we are politicking. It has nothing to do with 2022," Mr Ayugi said.

Even though he has not declared an interest in politics, Nick has in the recent past been dropping hints that he was eyeing a political seat.

Mr Ayugi insisted that their aim is to reach out to the churches and youth groups in what they say is "giving back to the society."

Speaking during the Rarieda fundraiser, Nick advised parents to "bring up their children in church". "In order for parents to instil good values in their children, it is important to bring them up in the church.

"At the moment, there are many challenges the youth are encountering and it is only through discipline and the fear of God that they can overcome them," the younger Ruto said.

PHILANTHROPY

He promised to continue helping the church and uplift the living standards of the youth. "I promise to continue with this work to help our churches and the youth," Nick told the congregation.

Mr Ayugi revealed that from Siaya, they would hold a similar event in Nairobi followed by Migori County at dates to be announced later.

"It should be noted that it is not about politics but giving back to the society," Mr Ayugi maintained.

Other sources confided in Sunday Nation that Mr Ruto's son could be "testing the waters in Nyanza region to reach out to the youth on his father's behalf ahead of 2022 elections".

"Because Nick has not been involved in any combative politics, he is seen as a man who can easily appeal to the youth in Luo Nyanza region, and therefore his visits are crucial to his father than his personal political ambitions in Uasin Gishu, if any," said a confidante of the DP's son, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being seen to leak the team's strategies.

Nick is not the first member of Mr Ruto's household to join in his 2022 campaigns.

CHURCH FUNDRAISERS

Nick's mother Rachel has for years been traversing the country with her "table banking" initiative to empower the womenfolk in what is also seen as geared towards mobilising support for Mr Ruto's 2022 bid.

Nick's campaign appears to be fashioned around his father's frequent church fundraisers, which have been heavily criticised by Mr Odinga and Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, who question the source of the donations which run into hundreds of millions of shillings.

Mr Ruto has however hit back at his critics, terming them "stingy". But the Catholic Church last week declared that moving forward, before gifting any religious leader of the church, one should write a letter of acknowledgment, and that records will be kept for amounts exceeding Sh50,000.

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