Kenya: William Ruto's New Strategy to Beat the 'System'

Deputy President William Ruto is pursuing a five-point strategy that he hopes will stir up a euphoric campaign to beat the 'system' and propel him to State House in next year's elections.

The key cog in the campaign is the hustler nation narrative designed to appeal to majority of the population in informal businesses that transcend ethnic boundaries.

And the DP's camp believes given the hostility towards his presidential candidacy by State operatives, he has to have a convincing victory, and his allies are working to replicate opposition Narc candidate Mwai Kibaki's landslide victory in 2002.

After initially laying the groundwork for this strategy with fund raisers for youth groups in small businesses like hawking and boda bodas, Dr Ruto has now turned to marketing a bottom-up economic model, with a promise of Sh30 billion hustler fund.

"Safari hii tunaunda serikali ambayo inaelewa lugha ya mtu mdogo (This time round we shall form a government that understands the language of the hustlers)," the DP declared in Nairobi on Sunday.

The second plank of the strategy rotates around pronouncements that leaders in President Kenyatta's administration, governors and MPs are secretly backing his campaign and would jump ship at the opportune time.

Implementation of this strategy is underway with well-choreographed defections, such as the recent one by President Uhuru Kenyatta's ally Kiambu Woman Rep Gathoni wa Muchomba, intended to give the impression that leaders are fleeing the rival camp.

Outsider in government

Tied to this is ensuring Jubilee is bogged down by his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) in competitions like the ongoing Kiambaa parliamentary by-election campaigns, steadily reinforcing the perception the ruling party is losing ground, especially following the defeats in Rurii ward in Nyandarua and Juja constituency.

The DP, who has been fought by the president's men to an extent he is viewed an outsider in government, has capitalised on the humiliation to distance himself from the baggage of incumbency, and, by extension, Jubilee administration's failures, is yet another important strategy.

As his hustler campaign is gaining traction, the DP has played the victim, protesting that the State machinery is being deployed to block him from the presidency because he does not belong to the dynasties, in an attempt to win sympathy votes.

By hammering the narrative that he helped ODM leader Raila Odinga to the Prime Minister's post in 2018 and twice assisted President Kenyatta secure the presidency, Dr Ruto is emboldening the resolve of his supporters, particularly those in Mt Kenya who feel they owe him.

The DP's camp also hopes the appellate court will sink the Building Bridges Initiative campaign to amend the Constitution to create more executive positions that their rivals are banking on to cobble a broad-based alliance that Dr Ruto has sought to portray as an alliance of tribal chiefs.

The DP's team believes like in the 2002 polls when opposition National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) ended Kanu's 40-year rule, next year's elections will be a rebellion against President Kenyatta.

"President Kenyatta is insisting on imposing his own successor and therefore, like (Mwai) Kibaki, Ruto will likely be a beneficiary of Kenyans who will resist his opponents due to their close association with the incumbent and his way of doing things since the handshake," Belgut MP Nelson Koech said.

"We defeated Moi by coming together in 2002 and we have set our sight on the people whom we are meeting directly with a view of mobilising them to our side to win by a very wide margin," said UDA chairman Johnson Muthama.

Ignoring wisdom

"We are going to witness a replica of the 2002 results where nobody will be in a position to influence the outcome against our captain," added another insider in the DP's camp.

Mr Koech added: "It is important that you draw a parallel between Ruto and Kibaki. If you care to find out why Kibaki won as he did, you will appreciate why Ruto is poised to replicate Kibaki's win in 2002."

Mr Koech said it is unfortunate that the architects of 2002 Narc win "are ignoring their own wisdom, that a national tribeless movement always triumphs tribal formations."

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro said: "We are still winning Kiambaa and the hustlers will have their day."

Murang'a Senator Irungu Kang'ata said they plan to beat the system in its own game through vigorous campaigns.

"We want to campaign in more areas and more vigorously since we are a team made of young turks unlike our opponents who mainly comprise elderly politicians," Mr Kang'ata said.

"We also want to make our agenda non-tribal and all-encompassing, hence the hustler slogan, and use young people to mobilise votes," he added.

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