President William Ruto speaks in Mombasa

President William Ruto speaks in Mombasa after launching the construction of the 33-kilometre Bamburi-Mwakirunge-Kaloleni Road in Kiembeni, Mombasa County. 

| Courtesy | PCS

2027 elections: Return of ethnic alliances stirs up kingship debate

What you need to know:

  • A year after the General Election, leaders from different regions are regrouping under the guise of protecting community interests.

A year after the General Election, leaders from different regions have started forming tribal groups under the guise of protecting community interests, although their main focus is consolidating bargaining power.

The looming constitutional reforms arising from the talks between President Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga, electoral boundary delimitation and grassroots party elections like the one due next month for the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) are behind the resurgence of political meetings.

Some say 2027 elections realignments are already underway, which also partly explain the resistance to fold up by parties in the ruling coalition, among them Ford Kenya, Amani National Congress and Pamoja African Alliance associated with National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi and Senate Speaker Amason Kingi respecively.

In recent weeks, Coast, Mt Kenya, Western and Rift Valley regions have witnessed heightened political activities, in some areas the rivalry escalating to bitter feuds that have split county leaders, particularly in Meru, where the governor faces impeachment, and in Bomet, where wrangling leaders have been accused of embarrassing the president in his backyard.

It’s against this backdrop that President Ruto this week dismissed those clamouring for crowning as regional kingpins, dismissing the ongoing talk as baseless.

The Head of State choice of words and place to weigh in on the regional kingpin debate speaks volume.

“I informed his majesty earlier that in Kenya there is a concept called kingpin and there is a contest for kingpins around Kenya, different regions have different kingpins, a vicious contest which really amounts to not so much,” the president said on Tuesday during a State banquet for King Charles III and Queen Camilla at State House, Nairobi.

“This week, all contest about kingpins have been suspended because the king himself is in town,” he added.

These remarks though said in a light touch, comes hot on the heels of rising political temperatures in the country and especially in Central Kenya and Rift Valley, regions that overwhelmingly voted for Dr Ruto in his first bid for the presidency.

But Dr Ruto’s opinion about the politics of regional supremacy has been out in the public even before the recent statement.

In February, the president banned all regional caucuses for MPs which have in the past been used to rally particular regions towards particular interests, the ban interpreted as a move to prevent a fall out within Kenya Kwanza.

At the time, the ban was in reaction to boiling differences within Kenya Kwanza after its members opted to vote for their own candidates for the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) against candidates endorsed by the party in a parliamentary group meeting he had chaired as party leader at State House.

A cheeky statement by Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria on Friday following the departure of the guests to the effect that “now that the King has left, fake Kingpins you can take over,” was quite telling.

Mr Kuria has consistently thrown jabs reportedly targeting a senior Kenya Kwanza leader in Mt Kenya region.

At one point when Mr Kuria was under fire with increasing calls for his sacking, Deputy Rigathi Gachagua, who has been on a mission to consolidate the mountain, vowed to defend the CS, adding that he (DP) is the gatekeeper of the region’s interests in the government.

Last weekend, Mr Gachagua hosted business community, professionals and leaders from Mt Kenya region in Nyeri.

He has explained his mission to solidify the regions’ support for President Ruto’s administration and to ensure the over one million who voted for Mr Odinga from the region in the last elections back Dr Ruto’s re-election.

During a burial in Meru county a few weeks ago, the DP indicated that he was out in search of 13 percent of Mount Kenya voters who did not vote for President Ruto so as to make it a 100 percent delivery in 2027.

The DP has also indicated that he will be looking to reconcile with retired President Uhuru Kenyatta so as to unite Mount Kenya. By this, Mr Gachagua is seeking to rally the region behind him, as the senior most elected leader from the Mountain.

According to historian Prof Macharia Munene, the president bringing to the public the topic about regional kingpins is because it meant something to him and he wanted to pass a message.

“He was basically telling those who are involved in the Kingpin debate not to get their hopes so high, for he (Ruto) is the actual King and is here having a conversation with another King,” argued Prof Munene.

The regional caucuses started with the coast leaders converging at Serena Hotel in Nairobi to speak about the intended privatisation of the Port of Mombasa.

The meeting brought together all the region’s political bigwigs including Cabinet Secretaries Aisha Jumwa (Gender), Salim Mvurya (Mining, Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs), Senate Speaker Amason Kingi, Mombasa governor Abdulswamad Nassir and his predecessor Hassan Joho, among other leaders.

Under the banner of “Unity of purpose” the leaders from the six coastal counties agreed to engage President Ruto in a structured approach on development of the region.

“We have decided to seek an audience with President Ruto to discuss the issue of the Port of Mombasa because as a people, our livelihood and economies of the coastal counties are heavily dependent on the port activities,” they resolved.

Contacted by Sunday Nation, Mr Nassir downplayed political agenda at the meeting, saying the most important agenda discussed was the port.

“Kenyans should realise that winning political re-alignments do not happen four years to elections, the best winning alliances are crafted three to four months to elections not now. Even six months to elections is a long time in politics,” Mr Nassir said.

Days after the Coast leaders meeting in Nairobi, Kilifi county leaders also convened their own meeting.

Kilifi North MP Owen Baya acknowledged the resurgence of the regional meetings is a pointer the 2027 political re-alignments have already started.

“2027 will be different. Political realignments are starting now and they will be solidified as we move to the tape. These alignments also mean people are waking up to the fact that in unity there is success and that for regions to benefit from the magnanimity of the State, then they need to speak in one voice,” Mr Baya told the Sunday Nation.

Pokot South MP David Pkosing said one year is sufficient for leaders to evaluate what has been going on in their respective regions in terms of development hence the re-alignments.

Without development on the ground, politicians risk going home, he added.

“One year is long enough to break political tensions between leaders from different political parties thus leading to group evaluation whether a change of strategy needs to be engaged in order for your people to realise development as we enter into year two,” Mr Pkosing explained.

Jubilee Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni attributed the re-emergence of regional political caucuses to the earlier remarks by Mr Gachagua about ‘shareholding’ in Kenya Kwanza government.

“People are concerned with the shareholding remarks, there is the fear of being left out when people are getting jobs while others are not, other tribes get more than enough. This makes people feel politically and economically insecure and re-group to consolidate their numbers,” Mr Kioni said.

The former Ndaragwa MP also said the feeling that a region will only be rewarded by the government on the basis of how it voted is also fueling the regional re-alignments.

Mr Kioni still maintains his loylty to Mr Kenyatta under Jubilee.

Political analyst Samuel Mbutu said all politics is local and before one advances any political activity at the national level, they must ensure a political base at the local level to increase bargaining power in the national political discourse.

“These groupings could be acting as a form of evaluation of their political past and seeking to make political realignments. This implies that new political alliances and coalitions could be in the offing,” Dr Mbutu said.

Speaking in an interview at Inooro TV, East African Legislative Assembly MP Kanini Kega warned that Mt Kenya is staring at political risk over persistent divisions.

“It is not clear whether Mt Kenya voted for Ruto because of Gachagua’s influence. But elders should accept to hand Gachagua the Mt Kenya spokesman baton from Uhuru Kenyatta. But those elders are not united. We are facing political dangers owing to our divisions,” Mr Kega said.