Ruto, Raila pitch tent in Mt Kenya in a fierce battle for region's votes
Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his Kenya Kwanza alliance rival William Ruto are today camping in Mt Kenya for a titanic battle for the region’s votes.
While Dr Ruto started his campaigns in Mt Odinga’s running mate Martha Karua’s Kirinyaga turf a day after stealing the show in the presidential debate, the Azimio brigade’s drive started in Rumuruti, Laikipia County.
Mr Odinga, who skipped the presidential debate claiming Dr Ruto had integrity issues, was to later address a rally in Nanyuki before storming Nyeri for a rally at Ruringu stadium. Nyeri is home to Dr Ruto’s proposed deputy, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua.
For his part, Dr Ruto, who enjoyed a huge following in Mt Kenya before Mr Odinga slowly started to ‘climb’ the mountain, was to address whistle-stop rallies in Mwea and Kianyaga in Kirinyaga before heading to Endarasha in Kieni. Kieni is home to Azimio diehard Kanini Kega.
Dr Ruto was to later address his supporters in Wamagana in Testu constituency, before heading to Kangari in Kigumo, Muranga County, and Gatura in Gatanga constituency.
The two rivals, seen as top contenders for the presidency that has attracted four candidates, are in a last-minute search for votes in the region that was under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s lock and key in the two previous elections.
Mr Odinga has been to Embu, Tharaka Nithi, Meru, Kirinyaga, Murang’a and Kiambu counties in the past one week as he sought to penetrate the area seen as key in determining the winner of the August 9 polls.
Meru has 772,139 registered voters, Tharaka Nithi 231,932, Embu 334,302, Laikipia 263,012, Nyeri 481,632, Kirinyaga 376,001 and Murang'a 620,929
Mr Odinga, who is gunning for the presidency for the fifth time and enjoys the backing of President Kenyatta, got a boost after Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria rallied behind him.
On Tuesday, the ODM boss also got the blessings of the revered Njuri Ncheke Council of Elders.
Mr Odinga’s political wave has been gaining momentum since he named Ms Karua’s his potential deputy and due to his stand against corruption.
The changing farmers’ fortunes following reforms spearheaded by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya, the resumption of miraa exports to Somalia and the support he has received from the region’s tycoons has also endeared him to some locals.
Dr Ruto, who has been camping in Mt Kenya region since the 2017 elections and enjoys the backing of a majority of local MPs, also sought to consolidate his support by naming Mr Gachagua his running mate.
Dr Ruto, who has repeatedly criticised President Kenyatta for abandoning him in favour of Mr Odinga, has marketed himself as the best person to address the needs of locals.
A recent survey showed that the vote-rich Mt Kenya has been one of the most visited areas by Dr Ruto, Mr Gachagua and their main opponent, Mr Odinga, or Ms Karua in the past six months.
The latest opinion polls show Dr Ruto has the upper hand in the region, with Mr Odinga playing catchup but making significant inroads compared with his previous performance, with about two weeks to election day.
During a whirlwind tour of Nyeri County last week, an upbeat Ms Karua urged residents to turn out in large numbers and vote for Mr Odinga, who, she emphasised, has the solutions for the problems facing Kenyans.
On Monday, addressing delegates from Kieni constituency, Mr Gachagua drummed up support for the “bottom-up” economic model spearheaded by Dr Ruto and urged locals to vote for the DP.
Reports indicated that President Kenyatta is also expected to tour Mt Kenya to launch development projects and vouch for an Odinga presidency.