Support and opposition to Deputy President William Ruto is escalating regional political battles across the country ahead of the 2022 General Election.
The most eye-catching case is that involving Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru and Woman Representative Purity Ngirici, a fight that has also sucked in Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.
The duo are embroiled in a protracted battle for the country’s top seat on a Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party ticket, which they have claimed will be advantageous in the region.
Yesterday, Ms Ngirici said she would retreat from the DP’s national campaigns to concentrate on the local race and accused the governor of trying to usurp her role in UDA.
In her response to Ms Ngirici, Ms Waiguru said that UDA is for everyone.
“No one should be given priority in a political party just because he or she joined,” Waiguru said.
After the governor accused Dr Kibicho of engaging in politics instead of concentrating on ensuring security for Kenyans and called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to sack him, Ms Ngirici defended him.
Despite being a late entrant into UDA, Governor Waiguru will be the DP’s host during his visit of the region today, and this has not gone down well with Ms Ngirici who has said she has spent a lot of resources and time popularising the party in the region.
Murang'a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, a close ally of the DP, admitted that internal fights continue to rock UDA across the country but argued that it is helping to make the party strong and popular.
“The fights are expected in a popular party. This push and pull is very healthy for intra-party democracy. The party cherishes UDA founder members as they struggled in the journey. But it is not a closed party and hence it welcomes everyone,” said the senator.
He added: “Ours is a party that is receiving most defectors and causing jitters among the founder members of Tangatanga that have gone through hell. The founders have sacrificed personal wealth, faced arrests and lost parliamentary seats for the sake of the party.”
He said the only solution to the infighting in the party is conducting free, fair and transparent nominations.
“The panacea is free and fair nominations. Their reaction is understandable. But UDA has to remain open and democratic for it to grow,” Dr Kang’ata said.
In Nandi County, all the elected lawmakers allied to DP have ganged up against the Governor Stephen Sang, escalating tensions in UDA camp in the county.
The legislators are Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Cornelly Serem (Aldai), Vincent Tuwei (Mosop), Julius Meli (Tinderet), Wilson Kogo (Chesumei) and Senator Samson Cherargei.
The situation worsened after the governor was booed during DP Ruto’s tour of the county on Wednesday and the country's second-command said nothing about it.
Although they have maintained that they are fighting the governor over poor development, the battle has spilled over to UDA and the 2022 election with six legislators being in favour of gubernatorial aspirant Allan Kosgey for the party ticket.
“It is unfortunate that the governor has been busy launching projects which were completed by the former county administration or current legislators instead of initiating new ones,” said Mr Serem.
However, Governor Sang defended his work, saying that his critics are being sponsored by land cartels out to grab public utilities.
“My track record is clean and the lawmakers are fighting me because of my firm stand in defending public land. Some of these people claiming there is looting and mismanagement of public resources have pending corruption related cases,” said Mr Sang.
The fights in UDA have been particularly fuelled by the rejection of rebels who have joined the party by those who are pioneers.
For Soy MP Caleb Kositany, who is viewed as the DP’s de-facto spokesperson, those who have been siding with the Kieleweke team allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta should not be entertained.
“Some people who decided to work with people who despised us and kicked us out of Jubilee Party have started appearing in DP Ruto’s events but residents know what is best for them,” said Mr Kositany.
In what can be interpreted as escalating the war between the pioneers of UDA and critics who have gathered enough courage to “repent” and join the Hustler wave for their own survival, Dr Ruto said only upright leaders should be elected.
“There are some people who are not straightforward here. Make sure that you vote in straight-forward persons. Those pursuing personal interests at the expense of the community, those are the people I do not want,” said Dr Ruto in vernacular while campaigning in Chebolol, Uasin Gishu County.
In Migori, Governor Okoth Obado who has openly declared his support for the DP, is battling with former South Mugirango MP Omingo Magara over control of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Mr Magara recently said he had not relinquished PDP ownership but that talks were underway to hand Mr Obado a plum position in the party.
“How can a party leader run from his own home? You can even check with the Registrar of Political Parties, I am still PDP’s boss. We are working on ways to revamp the party,” Mr Magara said in an interview.
According to political commentator Hesbon Owila, the DP finds himself in a catch-22 between managing the pioneers of UDA and those who are viewed as johnny-come-latelies.
“Ruto has built a big outfit which has continued to attract a number of defectors, putting him in a fix on balancing the interests of pioneers and newcomers. This means that anyone who comes will have to be fixed,” he said.
In Nakuru County, Senator Susan Kihika and Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri are embroiled in a battle for supremacy. A while back, Mr Ngunjiri accused Ms Kihika of leading a team of former members of the county assembly and councillors to the DP’s Karen residence in August and fronting them as UDA coordinators while leaving out elected leaders.
Ms Kihika mobilised leaders from Subukia, Rongai, Bahati, Naivasha, Nakuru Town East, Molo and Nakuru Town West constituencies to the DP’s residence to the chagrin of Mr Ngunjiri, who described them as “a bunch of election losers”.
He claimed the senator had “assembled former MCAs, whom she has picked to coordinate her gubernatorial campaigns, and presented them before the DP as elected leaders and UDA grassroots leaders”.
“This will not be allowed to pass unchallenged,” he said of Ms Kihika’s move, which has isolated her from other leaders, including Molo MP Kuria Kimani, who said he was not consulted on the meeting.
“It’s important that we bring everyone on board the UDA ship. We must ensure that everyone is on the table in the spirit of inclusivity,” Ms Kihika said. She has announced her intention to challenge current governor Lee Kinyanjui in next year’s polls.
Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono, another ally of the DP, said the ongoing fights in the party will be addressed by Dr Ruto.
“It is only competing interests. It’s democracy at work. Children of one house do not always agree. But the ‘father’ will calm and reconcile them. We have one target... to hold free, and fair nominations,” Mr Rono told the Sunday Nation.
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa added: “UDA is a democratic party, people must fight through the nomination in a free and fair manner. The fights being witnessed are healthy and are a result of internal democracy.”