Nairobi Star (Nairobi)
19 November 2011
ELDORET North MP William Ruto’s ambition to run for President in 2012 has caused some cracks in his widespread support in Rift Valley. Local elites have been holding private consultations to discuss how the elections will affect Ruto and the political destiny of the community. There has been raging debate on the two Kalenjin FM stations on whether to back the G7 alliance if Uhuru Kenyatta becomes the presidential candidate.
Ruto was third with 10 per cent support and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka got nine per cent. In this scenario, G7 is likely to run with Uhuru as its presidential candidate. But if Ruto runs alone for president, the Rift Valley community risks becoming politically isolated until 2017.
Ruto’s allies led by Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny said this week that it would be political suicide for Ruto to step down for any G7 alliance member including Uhuru. “If G7 will decide on a nomination process, then Ruto will go through it like other candidates. The question of Ruto stepping down for anyone will not be there. And he will have to lose fairly in the nominations so that we accept the next stage,” said Kutuny.
He said Ruto has been building bridges across the country since he left the Cabinet early this year. “The community believes in him and he will easily tell people that if we have not succeeded to win the nominations we should go in a particular direction,” said Kutuny. He ruled out the possibility of the Kalenjin returning to ODM even if Ruto is not in the presidential race.
Kutuny said the community is “finished with Raila” and that ODM may not even have candidates for some seats in Rift Valley in 2012. But others argue that Ruto will have trouble controlling politics in the Rift Valley in 2012. Callers to political talk shows on FM stations have varying views on the political future of the community.
ODM Eldoret North chairman David Songok Mrefu said, “I can assure you, the situation will not be as you think. They may dismiss Raila but it will be too late when they will realise that he has great support in Rift Valley”.
Former Nominated MP Mark Too agrees that politics in the region is still fluid but says it is too early to write off Ruto who enjoys huge popular support. “Ruto’s entry into the presidential race gives him a headstart as concerns politics in this region. Those who try to downplay him are not reading the mood of the people,” said Too.
Eldoret South MP Peris Simam says Ruto will remain the leader of the Kalenjin. “Come next year we will follow his advice because we know what he wants for the community,” said Simam.
But local professionals accuse Ruto of trying to mislead the community politically. A group of them had planned to meet President Kibaki when he was in Eldoret last week but the meeting aborted at the last minute. “Ruto does not like our position on various issues. We think his allies blocked us from seeing the President to tell him the actual situation on the ground,” said one of them.
Ruto comes from the populous Nandi sub-tribe of the Kalenjin but wants to solidify his support among the other sub-tribes including Kipsigis, Tugen, Marakwet, Pokot and the Keiyo. Politics in the region has become unpredictable and some Raila allies have chosen to take a low profile and watch the scenario unfold.
Wareng County Council chairman Paul Kiprop argues that come 2012 Ruto will be the man to watch in Rift Valley. “You can see the scramble by everybody to get to UDM and that shows that people are ready to move with Ruto,” said Kiprop.