Deputy President William Ruto wants to hire President Yoweri Museveni's chief political advisers as he prepares his State House bid in the 2022 General Election, his allies told the Nation yesterday.
The DP was to hold talks with President Museveni as his associates held separate discussions with officials of the National Resistance Movement (NRM), they disclosed.
The second-in-command was on Monday, however, barred from flying to Uganda for the private meeting with East Africa's longest-serving leader over a "protocol hitch" between his staff and the Office of the President.
His team of Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, Kiharu's Ndindi Nyoro, Kinango's Benjamin Tayari, and businessmen David Lagat, Harun Aydin, David Muge, Simon Mogun and Nelson Kisalit was allowed to proceed.
Speaking to the Nation yesterday, Mr Sudi said their aim was "to borrow political lessons from the NRM", which has ruled Uganda for more than 35 years.
With the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) set to be the DP's political vehicle in his presidential quest, Mr Sudi said they wanted to learn party management practices from President Museveni's handlers.
Follow his example
"We're interested in how Museveni runs NRM, because we want to follow his example when it comes to political parties," Mr Sudi said.
The DP, his allies said, is determined to hire President Museveni's chief strategists because next year's election "is a do-or-die game" for him.
They added that the Ugandan leader's political experience would be crucial in his campaign.
"President Museveni is surrounded by wise people who will be vital in this journey. He also has a lot of 'intel', which is important in any political game," said a Tangatanga MP.
Following his falling out with President Kenyatta, the DP is said to be "looking for a mentor" to guide him. He has had a challenging time in government since the March 9, 2018 Handshake between President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Mr Sudi noted that although the DP did not travel, they had "compared notes" with President Museveni's handlers on political activities.
"Ndindi and I were to meet with Museveni's advisors. The boss had a meeting planned with the President. There's nothing we are hiding. We don't want a party that will die after elections like what happened to Jubilee. We have been going to different countries for this," he said. The Kapseret MP accused the government of playing games with their private mission.
UDA members said since the 2022 race would need financial resources, the DP was bringing together friends who would walk the journey with him.
The party has been opening diaspora offices, the most recent one in Atlanta, which saw UDA secretary-general Veronica Maina, Soy MP Caleb Kositany and Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri travel there, just a month after Murang'a Senator Irungu Kang'ata opened a branch in Seattle.
"Dr Ruto and President Museveni did not begin their friendship the other day, it's been growing over the years; friends cannot fail you. Museveni will do what any other friend would do to help Dr Ruto. His support is important and strategic because he is our neighbour," a UDA member told the Nation.
According to a flight manifest from Phoenix Aviation, the DP was to use a Cessna 560XL with registration 5Y WHB. It was ready for the flight but the crew was told at the last minute that their VVIP guest would not be flying.
The DP's office protested what it termed a change of rules on his foreign travels without notice.
"We're surprised the Deputy President was denied clearance to go on a planned private visit to Uganda. It's our officers who always handle his travel and this time, they were told that he must get clearance from Immigration to fly out. In all his travels, all these years, this has not happened," said his communication secretary, Mr David Mugonyi.
In his tour of Kampala last month, the DP was full of praise for President Museveni.
He called on the Ugandan president to actualise his favourite topic of the East African Federation before the end of his term.
Leaders and citizens
"You owe us a debt. Before you retire and if possible, in the next two or three years, we want to see the coming into fruition of the federation. We are here as leaders and citizens of East Africa to support you and other leaders in the region to eliminate barriers that impede trade, investment, movement of labour and people working together," the DP told Uganda's head of state.
He also celebrated Mr Museveni's Open Wealth Creation initiative, which he compared to his own "Hustler" narrative, which he said would lift millions of people out of poverty.
Besides the unveiling of a vaccine manufacturing plant, the DP had a private meeting with Mr Museveni alongside Mr Sudi.
In December 2015, the DP accompanied President Museveni to a campaign rally in Kapchorua town in eastern Uganda.
Yesterday, some of his allies bitterly protested the Monday incident.
"The unfortunate incident of blocking Dr Ruto from visiting Uganda for private business is barbaric and an act of dictatorship. Freedom of movement is enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya 2010," tweeted UDA chairman Johnstone Muthama.
Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said there is no law that requires the DP to seek clearance to travel out of the country, or for any public or private engagement.
"The President is taking revenge on his deputy because of the Kiambaa loss," Mr Murkomen asserted.
Garissa Township MP Aden Duale added: "They have now taken away and denied the DP, as a private citizen, his fundamental right and freedom, including the freedom of movement, which is an inalienable freedom for every human being guaranteed and protected by Chapter Four of the Constitution."
Besides party affairs, Mr Sudi said they also visited a "modern fruit" farm.
"We wanted to explore farming opportunities as we were with fruit investors. There's a large fruit farm of which the Ugandan government can buy shares," Mr Sudi said.
"What we are doing in Uganda is also happening in Eldoret. We hosted them in Dr Ruto's farm. We have been to about four farms. So this kind of farming isn't only in Uganda as some people think."