Drama as Wairagu makes a surprise entry into Kenya Kwanza  

Joseph Wairagu

Joseph Wairagu supporters confront Dr Irungu Kang'ata supporters in Murang'a town ahead of August 2, 2022 visit by Deputy President Dr William Ruto.

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri I Nation Media Group

It was a day of drama in Murang’a County on Tuesday as governor aspirant Joseph Wairagu gate-crashed a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) rally that presidential candidate William Ruto was set to address.

Dr Ruto was visiting the county ahead of August 9 elections, targeting the area’s 620,129 registered voters. 

After operating like an independent candidate, despite vying on a Democratic Party (DP) ticket, Mr Wairagu made a sudden entry into the venue with speakers blaring, expressing his support for Dr Ruto. It was the first time Mr Wairagu attended a Dr Ruto meeting and publicly declared his support for him.

Mr Wairagu was known to have avoided aligning himself with Dr Ruto in his earlier political meetings, only declaring support for President Uhuru Kenyatta and handshake politics.

Among those surprised by the turn of events was the UDA aspirant for the same seat, Irungu Kang’ata.

For about the two hours they waited for Dr Ruto to arrive in the town, Mr Wairagu and Dr Kang’ata’s public address systems mounted on campaign trucks and parked side by side tried to outdo each other with songs of individual praise, with supporters dancing to the songs and different speeches made by people barely three metres from each other.

“We are all Dr Ruto supporters and we are for peace. We are aiming to serve the same people of Murang’a and we should all preach peace,” said Mr Alex Mbote, who is Mr Wairagu’s point man. 

“We are here to welcome Dr Ruto as our collective candidate and we will mobilise our supporters to turn out in large numbers to vote for him as our preferred presidential candidate.”

Dr Kang’ata’s supporters stayed put, insisting that they were not going to allow “an opportunist who had apparently hit a dead end in his solo campaigns and was limping home to ride on a wave that had been built over time and with immense resources”.

At one time, there was a real threat of physical confrontations between supporters of the two politicians, with the drivers of campaign trucks blocking each other from accessing prime spots, but guards intervened and calmed the situation.

“Murang’a people know me for my peaceful demeanour and never at any given time will I ever be captured quarrelling with people. I welcome Mr Wairagu into the Kenya Kwanza alliance,” Dr Kang’ata said. 

“It is good that he has seen the light and ditched Azimio la Umoja campaigns, where he has belonged all along. He should share with us what scared him in his vote-hunting endeavours so as to run into our camp less than a week before the General Election.”

When Dr Ruto arrived, it was apparent that he was not enthusiastic about embracing Mr Wairagu, but supporters who had been ‘well catered for’ became vibrant in shouting out his name and asking that he be given a chance to address them.

“Let me now invite huyu mtu wa barua (in reference to Dr Kanga’ta and the December 30 open letter he wrote to the President warning him that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) was not popular in Mt Kenya) … Show me his support. Show me whether you will vote for him,” Dr Ruto said.

Mr Wairagu’s supporters said they wanted him to address them too.

Dr Kang’ata reminded the people of Murang’a about the persecutions he said he had endured for supporting Dr Ruto, including being removed from his role as the Senate chief whip. 

“Besides that, we have built UDA from the scratch in Murang’a, participated in nominations and held on to Dr Ruto even when the system and the deep state were staging a spirited persecution drive against us. We are only a few days to the vote and we insist that Dr Ruto is our candidate,” he said.

Sensing the tussle, Dr Ruto passed on the microphone to Farmers Party governor aspirant Irungu Nyakera, who said he supported Kenya Kwanza.

Dr Ruto was on the verge of ignoring Mr Wairagu but the latter’s supporters raised placards bearing his portrait and slogans while one of his campaign vehicles played a brief demo in his praise — prompting the VP to let him address the crowd.

“I am happy to be here. As Water PS the Deputy President would refer to me as Mr Wairagu … I am in your support team and you are our presidential candidate … We mean business in serving the people of Murang’a,” he said.

The Democratic Party is chaired by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, who is a Kenya Kwanza principal though the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal had ruled that its entry into the alliance was illegal.

Dr Kang’ata promised to go on with his campaigns without worrying about Mr Wairagu’s announcement that he was supporting Dr Ruto because “we have voters who are hard to hoodwink to save your sinking boat at the last hour”.

Mr Wairagu said he would use the remaining time before Tuesday’s elections to campaign for Dr Ruto. Others in the race are Jamleck Kamau (Azimio), Joseph Mbai (Usawa Kwa Wote), Dr Moses Mwangi (Safina) and Mr Henry Maina (independent).

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