What you need to know:
- The Myoot Council, the umbrella body of the Kalenjin sub-tribes, also makes decisions on the community’s leadership.
- In the last decade, Dr Ruto has run the show, sending Baringo senator Gideon Moi to the periphery.
Kanu leader Gideon Moi has suffered a major political blow after the Kalenjin Myoot Council of Elders endorsed his political nemesis, Deputy President William Ruto, to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The Myoot Council, which is the umbrella body of all the 10 sub-tribes of Kalenjin — Nandi, Kipsigis, Tugen, Marakwet, Keiyo, Pokot, Sabaot, Cherang’any, Ogiek and Terik — and also makes major decisions on the community’s leadership, also named Dr Ruto the community’s spokesperson.
The latest development comes months after the Talai Council of Elders crowned the country’s second-in-command to lead the community in high political stakes.
A major battle pitting the two prominent Kalenjin leaders is fast shaping up, with each seeking to exploit the other's weak points to push ahead as they eye control of the millions of votes in the vast Rift Valley region.
For the past 10 years, the DP has run the show in the region, pushing Mr Moi, the Kanu chairman and Baringo senator, to the periphery. However, recent political changes nationally spearheaded by President Uhuru Kenyatta have elevated the senator and given him more influence in regional politics.
Mr Moi’s political clout has continued to dwindle after Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM), led by former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto, declared support for the DP’s presidential quest last week, leaving him with only the vocal Tiaty MP William Chepkut and Kanu Secretary-General Nick Salat in his corner.
Comb every corner
In what can be interpreted as not leaving anything to chance come 2022, Mr Moi, who unlike Dr Ruto, has not made a lot of inroads in the Rift Valley region, in December said he would comb every corner of the region and beyond.
“Because we have time, energy and resources, we are going to visit everywhere in this country and it has just started,” said Mr Moi.
The council of elders, led by Chairman Benjamin Kitur, said the endorsement of Dr Ruto was reached after wide consultations involving the chairmen of the 10 Kalenjin sub-tribes.
“A number of factors are being considered before reaching a consensus on who should be the community’s political kingpin,” said Mr Kitur.
Among the factors are political seniority, popularity among other ethnic communities and development record.
According to the elders, the DP has been in politics since reintroduction of multiparty politics in 1992, unlike Senator Moi, who joined politics when his father, the late President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, retired from active politics.
“There is no behind-the-scenes lobbying and the decision is arrived at after a lengthy consultation within the council. We deliberated on this matter the entire Sunday night and the 10 of us reached a consensus that Gideon should wait,” Mr Kitur disclosed.
Push and pull
He went on: “There has been push and pull since 2016 on who should be the Kalenjin spokesperson. As community elders, we have taken this matter seriously and settled on DP Ruto, since he is capable of uniting us with other Kenyans and contesting for the presidency.”
The Talai Council of Elders’ chairman, the Reverend James Bassy, supported the endorsement of the DP, noting that it would unite the community, which has felt the vacuum left by Mzee Moi.
According to Mr John Seii, the council's former chairman, the Baringo senator cannot draw support from other communities, which is critical for the Kalenjin community to clinch the presidency in 2022.
Mr Seii argued that Senator Moi has been riding on his late father's political coattails. On his own, the younger Moi is still a political greenhorn, he said.
"Everyone knows that if the Kalenjin community fields two candidates, they will not succeed, and in this case, Gideon will be the spoiler, because he has been using his father's image, but he cannot sell himself politically," said Mr Seii.
His sentiments were echoed by the council's Uasin Gishu coordinator, Mr John Yego, who said leaders have to unite for the sake of Dr Ruto's State House quest.
“Our concern at the moment as elders from Rift Valley is to see all the leaders from the region in the same boat that will sail the DP to State House come 2022. All the leaders from the region must ensure that they are united for the betterment of our people,” said Mr Yego.
“As elders, we back the decision by the CCM party leader to support Dr Ruto. This will strengthen our unity as the Kalenjin community, giving us high bargaining power on the political table,” added Mr Paul Leleito, the chairman of the Kipsigis elders.
However, Mr David Chepsiror, a member of the council, blames his colleagues for failing to champion the interests of the community. He accuses them of engaging in sycophancy at the expense of giving the right direction.
"Kalenjin elders have failed the region … They are misleading the community. There is nothing like Gideon should leave for Ruto come 2022, it is people to decide, not elders," said Mr Chepsiror.
Mr Cheboni Kimimin, the elder from Keiyo, claimed that the DP is over-ambitious, with his own political interests, at the expense of the region's socio-economic development.
Mr Kimimin told the Nation that when the late Moi was in power, at no time did farmers suffer the way they have during the time Dr Ruto has been in office.
"We have seen how our farmers have suffered under the leadership of DP Ruto compared to the reign of Moi. That means that the community should try another person who will champion its interests and perhaps that is the Baringo senator. The DP is not interested in maize production, which has been our economic mainstay for years. Early in 2019, he called us to his Sugoi home and told us to plant avocado, and after that, the sector has faced a lot of turbulence," explained Mr Kimimin.
Hear Gideon’s side
“Yes, if elders have met and decided so, I do not want to dispute, but they should have had a meeting with Gideon to hear his side, instead of telling him through the press that he should wait until 2032,” added Mzee Yusuf Keitany.
According to the elders, it is ironic for the DP to seek Kalenjin sympathy at this time, when he has had a falling out with his boss, yet when things were good between them, he never gave them an audience.
"The relationship between the DP and his boss has gone sour because of corruption issues, therefore, we should not be forced to support him. We want someone who will put the interest of the community first, not a person who causes division in our midst," he added.
Some of the Kalenjin elders have petitioned other candidates who have declared interest in the presidency to visit the region and sell their manifestos to the electorate.
“Everybody is free to contest for the presidency and it is upon the electorate to decide who is best suited to be the next head of state,” said Mr Chepkieng Chesoi from Elgeyo Marakwet County.
“We will not allow some individuals to misuse the community name for their own political or financial interests. Everyone should be ready to carry his or her own cross for mistakes committed,” said Mr James Cherono, an elder.
Kanu Wednesday accused Dr Ruto of trying to use a section of the Myoot Council of Elders to side-line Mr Moi in the Rift Valley.
Mr Salat, in an interview with the Nation, said the DP was using elders to push what he termed as “unfounded claims”.