What you need to know:
- There’s no credible analyst who believes Mr Ruto can mount the steps of the State House in 2022 unless he bags at least 90 per cent of the Kikuyu vote.
- Even two-year-olds know that Mr Ruto has hinged his electoral strategy on winning Mt Kenya down to the last woman.
The July 15, 2021 Kiambaa by-election – with no-name candidates – was billed by pundits as the battle of the titans. The son of the Burning Spear against the humble chicken hustler from Sugoi.
Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta against Uda’s William Ruto. The Prince versus the Peasant. It was prophesied by Uda blogger Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi that if Mr Ruto vanquished Mr Kenyatta, then all – ALL – the Kikuyu vote would go to the irascible understudy in 2022.
That now appears to have been a false prophecy. It’s true Mr Ruto’s no-name man won, but with a pitiable margin. Mr Ruto lost by winning with a sliver. I go where facts take me. Today, they take me away from Mr Ruto.
Politics ain’t beanbag. Mr Ruto knows this because he went to the school of hard knocks. His principal there was the late dictator Daniel arap Moi. He’s educated in the art of skullduggery.
Politically, he has killer instincts, which he has exploited to good effect. In fact, you don’t want to meet Mr Ruto in a dark alley at night.
No “outsider” has managed to put the House of Mumbi asunder. Until now. Mr Ruto has singlehandedly – by hook or crook – collided the head of Mumbi’s daughter with her son. Son and daughter have been left in a trance. The kikuyu don’t know whether they are coming, or going. Let me hear it for the man son of Samoei.
Organising the House of Mumbi
But it’s the banging together of the heads of Mumbi’s siblings that will undo Mr Ruto. Mr Ruto should be organising the House of Mumbi, not disorganising it. He should add its fractions together, not subtract them. There’s no credible analyst who believes Mr Ruto can mount the steps of the State House in 2022 unless he bags at least 90 per cent of the Kikuyu vote.
He has to replicate his Jubilee’s feat in 2013 and 2017, when it won overwhelmingly in Mt Kenya, even if it pilfered votes elsewhere. That will not happen in 2022. The evidence from Kiambaa and Juja – if those patterns hold – suggest a fratricidal and cataclysmic electoral war in the region in 2022.
Even two-year-olds know that Mr Ruto has hinged his electoral strategy on winning Mt Kenya down to the last woman. Virtually his entire reputed campaign war chest has been expended there. He’s written off the Abaluhya, the Akamba and the Luo. He thinks the Somali are in the bag for him so he’s treated them with a neglectful shrug. He’s tried to make a play for the Kisii, but the going there has been rough.
Similarly, he’s tried to woo the coastal groups with mixed results. His lieutenants in these regions are men and women of ill repute. Given these stark realities, Mr Ruto has put all his eggs in the Kikuyu basket. He’ll need every Kikuyu.
Gema electoral unity
In the history of the republic, the Kikuyu have never voted for anyone outside their circle for president. They’ve always had a plausible candidate in every election. 2022 may be different.
Although I hear through the grapevine that Mt Kenya East and Mt Kenya West may each produce a presidential candidate, further laying waste to the legendary Gema electoral unity. If this happens, Mr Ruto may be politically mutilated to death by a thousand cuts. I’ve said before – and I repeat here – no one has won a presidential election in Kenya without state backing, or an unstoppable political tsunami. Mr Ruto, now a political outsider, has neither. His only hope is to conjure up Narc’s 2002 political juggernaut.
The so-called Hustler Nation isn’t the tsunami that its adherents believe it is. In 2002, all electoral demographics, except the Kalenjin, lined up together. Among the Kikuyu, the vote was split because opposition doyen Raila Odinga said “Kibaki Tosha” to scatter the Kikuyu vote. Mr Kibaki, a Kikuyu, went head to head with Mr Kenyatta, another Kikuyu.
In street language, Mr Kibaki – with the Narc wave – smoked Mr Kenyatta. That’s how Mr Moi’s succession plan evaporated into thin air. The Kalenjin elite was left gagging for air.
The Kiambaa and Juja by-election results point to a similar conundrum for Mr Ruto. He will likely get all the Kalenjin vote and 40 per cent of the Kikuyu. Even this is optimistic.
Lathering the Kikuyu with money
My analysis – and crystal ball – tell me Mr Ruto’s Kiambaa and Juja victories were pyrrhic. No matter how hard he spins it, it was a debacle for him. If after nine years of lathering the Kikuyu with money and his undivided attention he only manages a 50-50 split, then he’s headed nowhere.
This is a meagre and unflattering outcome. He needs all of the Kikuyu vote to get a fighting chance against the Deep State, which he understands only too well. We know Mr Kenyatta will do everything to block him. To win, all the stars must align to make sure groups don’t vote as directed by their kingpins.
Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Margaret W. Wong Professor at Buffalo Law School. He’s Chair of KHRC. @makaumutua