Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza coalition is facing turbulence in Laikipia County, with dozens of his foot soldiers decamping to Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition.
Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga are battling out for the 257,515 votes in the county to add to their vote basket and secure victory in the August 9 General Election.
The two rival camps have recently increased their campaigns in the devolved unit, whose governor is Ndiritu Muriithi, the chairman of Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign board.
Mr Muriithi is a relative of the late President Mwai Kibaki.
Kenya Kwanza principal Mwangi Kiunjuri of The Service Party also comes from the cosmopolitan county dominated by members of the Kikuyu community.
Laikipia West has 116,229 voters, Laikipia East 92,727 and Laikipia North 48,558.
Mr Muriithi has been pivotal in wooing United Democratic Alliance (UDA) grassroots leaders in the region to Mr Odinga’s camp.
On Wednesday, Azimio running mate Martha Karua received about 60 county coordinators who had defected from UDA. They were handed over by Mr Muriithi at a political rally in Nanyuki.
Mr Muriithi told the Nation yesterday that Mr Odinga’s candidacy was gaining momentum and exuded confidence that he would get more votes than Dr Ruto from the region.
“It is evident that the grassroots structure is moving towards our side here in Laikipia. We welcome everyone to join Azimio because we have outperformed the Kenya Kwanza alliance,” Mr Muriithi said.
“We are expecting about 12 more defectors to join our coalition this week. If you look at the crowd we are addressing in our campaigns, especially here in Laikipia, it definitely tells you that we are making great progress.”
Mr Joakim Kararu, a former UDA coordinator in Segera ward, said he opted to join Azimio due to Mr Muriithi’s performance track record.
“When my son fell sick, I took him to Nanyuki Teaching and Referral Hospital, where I saw proper transformation of the facility. It is that time that I resolved to join Azimio so that our people can get better services when Raila and Muriithi clinch their respective seats,” Mr Kararu said.
Former Laikipia East MP Mutahi Kimaru is among the latest politicians to decamp from Kenya Kwanza to Azimio.
Mr Kimaru argued that UDA nominations were marred by malpractices and that the party’s top leadership influenced the outcomes.
He received 2,700 votes in the nominations for the Laikipia East parliamentary seat, while Laikipia Woman Representative Catherine Waruguru garnered 5,595 and incumbent Amin Deddy 12,743.
Mr Kimaru served as MP from 2013 to 2017 under The National Alliance (TNA) party. In 2017, he was trounced by Mr Deddy under Jubilee. He then joined UDA and became Dr Ruto’s supporter.
“I have had the chance of interacting with Mr Odinga on several occasions and I can attest that he is a good leader. His team is full of people who have high integrity,” Mr Kimaru told the Nation.
“I realised that the Kenya Kwanza camp was invaded by individuals that are yearning to enrich themselves if they won the polls.”
He added: “The UDA primaries were not transparent, because the party's top brass had drawn their preferred line-up of candidates that were to be awarded certificates. Dr Ruto is surrounded by individuals that have dictatorial behaviours.”