What you need to know:
- The DP urged the youth to seize the moment and decide their future by electing him President, saying he is closer to them in age than his political rival Raila Odinga.
Deputy President William Ruto Friday took his bottom-up campaign to Kitui County with a declaration that he is the presidential candidate who best understands the plight of the youth.
Dr Ruto said the 2022 General Election race will pit those pushing for economic reforms to address the country’s unemployment crisis against those seeking constitutional reforms to create positions of power for a few individuals.
He urged the youth to seize the moment and determine their future by electing him President, saying he is closer to them in age than his political rival Raila Odinga, leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).
“The present and future of this country belongs to the youth. It is they who are bearing the heaviest burden of economic challenges and should therefore vote wisely in the next election - for a President whose agenda is economic reforms,” he told a rally at the Kitui Town bus park.
The DP, who addressed four campaign rallies in Kitui, was keen on appealing to young Kenyans through the age question and a message that his competitors belong to a Kenya of the past.
He said his opponents have failed to offer an alternative to his bottom-up economic development model that seeks to uplift those at the base of the wealth pyramid.
“I urge the youth to be ready to make their voices heard at the ballot in 2022 and to teach those who don’t care about their economic plight a lesson,” he said.
Dr Ruto further urged Kenyans to carefully evaluate leaders' policies, and rally behind those with solid economic plans to transform their lives.
"It is upon you to decide, as voters, if the next government will create jobs for the youth or change the Constitution to create positions for politicians,” he said.
He spoke in Kabati, Kitui town and Migwani market, where he led several women empowerment programmes targeting more than 20,000 beneficiaries in the County.
The Deputy President was accompanied by MPs Nimrod Mbai, Victor Munyaka, Kimani Ichung’wah, former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama and former Nairobi Deputy Governor Jonathan Mueke.
Dr Ruto further criticised his competitors, saying they have ulterior motives in their quest to amend the Constitution via the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
“Their goal was to create an imperial President who would manipulate both Parliament and the Judiciary.”
He said promoters of the BBI deceived Kenyans about the existence of proposals in the document that were meant to benefit the country.
“It was the most dangerous assignment ever carried out in our country’s history. It was a fraud,” he said.
He said he is committed to taking the country to the next level through the creation of a conducive environment for enterprises to thrive and jobs to be generated.
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Mr Ichung’wah asked the opposition to come up with an agenda to sell to Kenyans.
"Most of them only talk about other leaders. You will never hear them talking about the interests of the people."
Mr Muthama asked leaders to direct their energies to serving the people.
He said those under the ‘hustler nation’ formation are focused on forming an inclusive government that will address the needs and aspirations of the poor.
Mr Mbai said: “The successful implementation of the bottom-up economic development plan will change Kenya forever.”
Battle for Ukambani
Since the 2017 General Election, Dr Ruto’s political activity in Ukambani has been minimal, unlike in regions such as Mt Kenya, Kisii, Coast and Western, which he has been frequenting.
His visit was seen as a belated entry to a region whose top leaders are vehemently opposed to his candidacy.
In 2019, his attempts to woo Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Mr Muthama failed after his political overtures were rejected.
Nevertheless, Mr Muthama parted ways with Mr Musyoka and joined Mr Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA), assuming the role of interim national party chairman.
On the other hand, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, who blames Dr Ruto for her sacking from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cabinet in 2015, has been vocal in rallying the community against the DP’s bid.
Governor Ngilu has been more categorical, sustaining political attacks against the DP and urging Mr Musyoka to join hands with Mr Odinga to guarantee victory against Mr Ruto in 2022.
The sustained attacks by the two leaders are perhaps the reason why Dr Ruto’s campaigns in the region were low-key until last week, when he hosted a caucus of Kamba leaders in Amboseli to discuss his campaign strategy.
A few weeks ago, he hosted delegations of leaders from Kitui and Makueni counties, including religious leaders and some members of county assembly, at his Karen residence in Nairobi.
With Mr Muthama on his side, the DP has recruited aspirants from each of the region’s 22 constituencies, who are interested in running for office on the UDA ticket, to help him get a share of Ukambani’s more than 1.5 million votes.
Mr Muthama has avoided upsetting both Mr Musyoka and Governor Ngilu in his speeches, saying the community should not put all its eggs in one basket.
Quoting the Bible, the former senator describes his political sojourn in UDA as a fishing expedition on behalf of the Kamba community, not one aimed at detailing Mr Musyoka’s presidential bid.
“I’ll be the Joseph in Pharaoh’s government who saved his household in Egypt during Israel’s slaver. Your interests are well catered for,” he said at a rally on Monday, in apparent reference to his role in DP Ruto’s presidential campaign.