William Ruto

Deputy President William Ruto during an Empowerment Programme in aid of reformed West Pokot war warriors, at Moi Masol Primary School in Sigor Constituency, West Pokot County.

| DPPS

Police take note as William Ruto handouts fuel violent clashes among groups

What you need to know:

  • The DP has dished out millions to churches, boda boda operators, youth and women’s group.
  • Fight over campaign cash was blamed for violence that rocked Ruto’s tour of Kisumu.

Battles for Deputy President William Ruto’s campaign handouts are raging as groups jostle for a share, leading to fights that have now caught the attention of national security agencies.

Dr Ruto, riding on the hustler narrative, has been dishing out millions of shillings to churches, boda bodas, political point men, youth and women groups, campaign organisers and his supporters across the country.

The culture of handouts, built over time since Jubilee took power in 2013, and having been amplified in the second term, has made the DP one of the most sought-after guest in fundraisers, with many of the groups often pushed to give several weeks’ notice to book him. 

But the rising incidence of bitter fallout, violent protests and clashes over alleged misuse, theft and disappearance of the donations has left police and other law enforcement agencies concerned.

Fights over Dr Ruto’s cash have been witnesses in more than five counties, including Kisumu, Bungoma, Bomet and Kajiado, as yet another battle shapes up in Meru and Tharaka- Nithi.

The high-stakes fight for the DP’s money was what National Police Service spokesperson Bruno Shioso blamed for the chaos that rocked Kondele, Kisumu County, last week.

The DP’s office dismissed the reports that funds were distributed in the Kisumu event, demanding that the police do their job, even as they took exception at the statement that the police had prior intelligence of the chaos “but consciously opted to engage in political mischief instead.”  

But while the DP’s office denied claims that the chaos was as a result of differences over distribution of campaign logistical funds amongst local groups, United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Kisumu coordinator Luke Ouko revealed that as opposed to the Sh2 million that was being bundled around, Dr Ruto only gave him Sh100,000 to facilitate security for the event.

And as the DP prepares to visit Meru and Tharaka Nithi counties from today, a similar clash over handouts awaits him.

William Ruto money

Kuria West MP Mathias Robi (left) and his Kura East counterpart Marwa Kitayama (with cap) hand over Sh2 million to small scale traders in Homa Bay Town on November 12, 2021. The money which was meant to empower traders in Homa Bay Sub-County was a gift from Deputy President William Ruto. 

Photo credit: Geoge Odiwuor | Nation Media Group

Empowerment cash

Already, boda boda operators in the two counties have accused politicians of hijacking empowerment cash dished out by the DP, with officials of Meru Boda boda Association (Meba), an organisation that brings together six Saccos and hundreds of groups from North Imenti, warning against being duped by brokers looking for money in the name of mobilising riders.

Meba secretary-general Charles Thuranira yesterday said the group was the only legitimate boda boda association in Meru through which leaders can engage riders.

“We have noted that while boda boda riders in other areas are being empowered, our leaders work with cartels to sabotage our work,” Mr Thuranira said.

In Tharaka Nithi, boda boda operators have accused local politicians of plotting to use them to get money from Dr Ruto.

Chuka/Igambang’ombe MP Patrick Munene

Chuka/Igambang’ombe MP Patrick Munene. 

Photo credit: File | Alex Njeru | Nation Media Group

County Boda boda Operators’ Association Chairman Lewis Mutwiri accused Chuka/Igambang’ombe MP Patrick Munene of organising some bodaboda operators to receive money from DP Ruto during his tour of the region on Wednesday.

He said the youthful legislator is not ready to work with the registered group for his personal reasons, allegations that the MP dismissed as political.

“We want the DP to engage us directly and not through politicians because they want to broker us by forming their own groups,” said Mr Mutwiri.’

The official added that their request to Dr Ruto is to help them buy an ambulance for saving their lives and those of other commuters in case of accidents.

The other parallel group led by Mr Willis Mugambi wants the DP to give them money and not buy an ambulance.

However, Mr Munene told the Nation that the Meru South Cohorts Youth Sacco that the boda boda operators claimed he had formed is for youths who worked under Kazi Mtaani initiative and not a conduit one.

Shortchanged

He said the youths have already saved Sh9 million and DP Ruto will only be launching the sacco and not funding it.

“Meru South Cohorts Youth Sacco already exists and is not made up of bodaboda operators,” said the MP.

He said the boda boda operators are divided and disorganised and that to avoid clashes over the empowerment money it will be shared with individual riders.

He said they had agreed with the leadership of the two main factions, led by Mr Mutwiri and Mr Mugambi, that the money will be given to the leaders at each stage to share with their members.

The legislator added that to avoid clashes the boda boda operators will meet DP Ruto at Kathwana town and Meru South Cohorts Youth Sacco in Chuka town, 30 kilometers apart.

Further away in Bungoma, grocers and boda boda operators allied to Dr Ruto’s UDA in Kanduyi have complained of being shortchanged over their share of a Sh2 million contribution the DP made to them during a stopover at Chepkube market two weeks ago. 

The DP who toured Tongaren, Webuye East, Kimilili, Kabuchai, Mt Elgon, Sirisia, Bumula, Webuye West and Kanduyi gave various groups a total of Sh15 million to help boost their businesses. 

He concluded his trip at Kanduyi where he announced that mama mboga and the boda groups there will get Sh1 million each. 

But Mr David Mulonja Simiyu, the chairman of Bodaboda operators at Tourist stage in Kanduyi, said that the riders have not received any single cent.

Campaign financing

"Our efforts to enquire from the UDA MPs who had accompanied the DP have often not materialised and we now want the DP himself to intervene for us to have the money,” he said.

Ms Jane Nyongesa, who sells groceries at Chepkube market, is also hoping to get a share of the DP’s cash. 

"We saw Bumula MP Mwambu Mabongah distribute the cash to various markets in his constituency in Kimaeti, Mayanja and other markets and here in Kanduyi the heart of Bungoma we have not received our cash," she said.

Efforts to get comments from the UDA allied MPs in Bungoma hit a snag as none of them replied the texts we send them nor answer our calls. 

In March, there was a similar clash over the DP’s cash in Kitengela, Kajiado County, as some 7,512 boda bodas quarreled over the sharing of Sh750,000 that was reportedly given to them by the DP. 

There was also a similar one in Sotik, Bomet County after the DP donated money to the boda boda riders there following a rally in February.

The DP’s allies have often insisted that the sharing of such funds is dependent on the leaders of the groups selected, who they say know their members.

The clash over the DP’s funds comes after the de-gazettement of campaign financing regulations by the electoral commission and most recently, a push by MPs to shoot down a Bill to guide how much a presidential candidate can contribute.

In the rules that will no longer apply in the 2022 elections, political parties were to be allowed to spend up to Sh17 billion in the 2022 campaign period, and up to Sh4.4 billion for presidential candidates. 

Reporting by Rushdie Oudia, Brian Ojamaa, David Muchui and Alex Njeru

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