Regions most visited by Ruto, Raila as August elections near

The vote-rich Mt Kenya, Rift Valley and Western regions have been the most visited areas by Deputy President William Ruto and his main rival Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition party presidential candidate Raila Odinga in the past six months.

Analysis by Nation Newsplex reveals that between January 1 and June 12, 2022, Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga spent their efforts in the three regions as the vote hunt for the August 9 General Election enters its homestretch.

Collectively, the three regions account for more than half, 11.1 million, of the 22.1 million registered voters.

In the past six months, Dr Ruto has visited Mt Kenya 36 times.

This tally excludes rallies addressed by other Kenya Kwanza leaders in his absence, including his running mate Rigathi Gachagua, Democratic Party (DP) leader Justin Muturi, Tujibebe Wakenya Party’s William Kabogo, Chama Cha Kazi (CCK)’s Moses Kuria, Amani National Congress (ANC) boss Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula.

Of the 36 visits in the counties of Embu, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Laikipia, Meru, Murang’a, Nyandarua, Nyeri and Tharaka-Nithi, Dr Ruto has visited Kiambu nine times in the past six months, with Nyandarua taking second place with five visits.

Embu, Kirinyaga, Murang’a and Nyeri have been host to Dr Ruto four times each while Meru and Laikipia three times each.

Mr Odinga, on the other hand, has been in the region 15 times this year. He held two major rallies in the region with one at the Thika stadium in Kiambu County on January 15 where he officially launched his presidential bid and another at Ihura stadium in Murang’a on January 29. He has visited all counties in the region for rallies apart from Tharaka Nithi and Embu.

The Odinga tally, like that of Dr Ruto, excludes rallies addressed by leaders allied to him, including his running mate Martha Karua, who has been camping in the region marketing their candidature since being named on May 17.

The nine Mt Kenya counties, which predominantly vote as a bloc, have the highest share of registered voters with over 4.7 million voters collectively.

Of the 6.2 million votes President Uhuru Kenyatta and Dr Ruto secured in 2013, some 3.2 million (52 per cent) came from Mt Kenya counties.

In 2017, this percentage remained almost constant as the region handed the Jubilee pair 4.1 million (50 per cent) votes of the 8.2 million they amassed.

Mt Kenya then was regarded as President Kenyatta’s backyard, giving the Jubilee ticket 97 per cent of its vote, leaving Mr Odinga a paltry three per cent.

The president has since fallen out with his deputy and switched support to Mr Odinga, but has been unable to carry along his base which still leans heavily towards Dr Ruto.

Both the Deputy President and Mr Odinga picked running mates from the populous region, Rigathi Gachagua and Martha Karua respectively, with the latter seen as a more popular figure but still to be assessed on the actual votes she brings to the Azimio.

The latest opinion poll by Infotrak Research shows the region is still under Dr Ruto’s grip, but with Mr Odinga having made significant inroads compared to his dismal performance in previous elections.

The Infotrak poll shows Mr Odinga will lead in 20 counties from Coast, Northern, Lower Eastern, Western, Nyanza and Nairobi at 9.3 million votes; while 16 counties from Northern, Mount Kenya and Rift Valley will cast their lot with Dr Ruto, translating to 8.4 million votes.

Another key region is in the former Rift Valley province comprising Dr Ruto’s strongholds such as Baringo, Bomet, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kericho, Nandi and Uasin Gishu.

These six counties have not been visited often by either side, with DP Ruto holding rallies only five times and Mr Odinga visiting Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties in one day, where he received a hostile reception as he attended Mzee Jackson Kibor’s funeral.

Dr Ruto has not bothered with intensive campaigns in his secure regions. The six counties have over 2.2 million voters with DP Ruto hoping to retain the support he had in previous elections.

Deputy President William Ruto in Karatina

Deputy President William Ruto during a campaign rally.

Photo credit: Photo | DPPS

Other counties in the Rift Valley region which are considered swing counties are Kajiado, Narok and Nakuru.

Dr Ruto has visited Kajiado five times while Mr Odinga has been there thrice in the past six months.

In Narok, DP Ruto has been there twice while Mr Odinga has held major rallies in the county thrice.

Both counties have 861,164 voters with Mr Odinga hoping to sway the electorate to his side now that both Kajiado Governor Joseph ole Lenku and his predecessor David Nkedianye are backing his presidential bid under the Azimio coalition.

Mr Lenku is defending his seat on ODM while Mr Nkedianye is running on Jubilee.

In Nakuru, Dr Ruto has done seven visits in comparison to Mr Odinga’s three visits. The county, which has slightly over one million voters, is now a battleground with both sides convinced of securing a win.

Campaign leaders Susan Kihika for Kenya Kwanza and Lee Kinyanjui for Azimio are up in battle for the governorship position as well as delivering votes for their presidential candidates.

Higher up north of the Rift Valley, Turkana has hosted Mr Odinga twice while Dr Ruto is yet to visit the county.

West Pokot and Samburu counties have each been visited once by both sides. The three counties have 554,238 voters in total with both candidates appealing to the residents with promises of finding solutions to rampant cattle rustling and access to water.

Another region that has seen a buzz of campaigns is Western Kenya. Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Trans Nzoia and Vihiga bloc have been visited by Dr Ruto and his local pointmen, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula, 22 times this year.

Mr Odinga, who still enjoys support in the region, has been there 14 times in his bid to retain majority support from the 2.5 million registered voters.

Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula have been tasked to deliver the key votes.

Down at the Coast region previously dominated by Mr Odinga, Dr Ruto has made 22 trips in contrast to the 10 of his principal rival.

Mr Odinga has done two major coastal tours, visiting the counties of Kilifi, Kwale and Taita-Taveta twice each while Mombasa and Tana River have hosted the Azimio team thrice and once respectively.

Firmly behind Mr Odinga in 2007, 2013 and 2017, the region now has 1,953,528 registered voters.

Azimio la Umoja Coalition Flag Bearer Raila Odinga, addressing supporters in Kinoru Stadium, Meru County

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition party presidential candidate Raila Odinga, addressing supporters in Kinoru Stadium, Meru County.

The DP is hoping to at least double the 258,000 votes he got alongside President Kenyatta in 2017.

In the Nyanza region which consists of Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Kisii, Migori and Nyamira counties, the Azimio and Kenya Kwanza presidential candidates have each visisted seven times this year.

Dr Ruto has avoided the Odinga strongholds of Siaya, Homa Bay and Kisumu counties, focusing attention on Kisii, Nyamira and Migori where he is recording gains.

The last time Dr Ruto visited Kisumu in November 2021, his motorcade was stoned by a mob in Kondele.

Mr Odinga’s camp has visited all the counties in the region at least once this year. The region which has always voted in favour of Mr Odinga has slightly over three million registered voters.

In the Ukambani region, or Lower Eastern counties of Machakos, Kitui and Makueni, Dr Ruto has intensified campaigns with 14 tours this year compared to Mr Odinga’s two.

Dr Ruto has been to Machakos six times and four times in Kitui and Makueni each.

Mr Odinga, on the other hand, has only been to Machakos twice.

In 2017, the three counties handed Mr Odinga nearly one million votes. The region now has 1.69 million votes and Mr Odinga hopes to maintain his popularity in the region after Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka agreed to support his bid again.

Another region which is often forgotten is the expansive but sparsely populated North Eastern Kenya, which comprises Wajir, Garissa, and Mandera in the former North Eastern Province, as well as Isiolo and Marsabit in Upper Eastern.

Dr Ruto has been to Wajir three times for rallies and town hall meetings, and just recently visited Mandera and Garissa counties.

Isiolo and Marsabit are yet to host him but the DP has held several meetings with leaders from the two counties at his official Nairobi residence.

Mr Odinga on the other hand has visited only Wajir County since the beginning of this year.

The five counties have 866,006 registered voters.

In Nairobi, Dr Ruto has met residents 13 times this year to popularise his presidential bid while Mr Odinga has done 10 rallies so far. In the last election, Mr Odinga got more votes from the county than the Uhuru-Ruto duo.

Running mates

Meanwhile, the naming of running mates by both candidates sparked a lot of conversation. The choices of Martha Karua and Rigathi Gachagua have been seen to be a key influence in how people vote in the upcoming polls.

Immediately they were picked, they hit the ground running with Ms Karua taking the campaign trail to her home county of Kirinyaga. She led the campaigns without Mr Odinga and has been to various counties in the Mt Kenya region 14 times since she was announced as Mr Odinga’s running mate.

Mr Gachagua, who also hails from the region, has visited the nine counties 20 times already since he was picked as running mate on May 15.

In the Rift Valley region, Mr Gachagua has done 13 rallies while Ms Karua has been there five times.

Mr Gachagua has mainly focused on Dr Ruto’s strongholds of Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo-Marakwet and Kericho; while Ms Karua has been to Nakuru thrice and just recently in Uasin Gishu.

The two have also been to the Ukambani region two times each and at least once in the Western region.

In Nairobi, both Ms Karua and Mr Gachagua have held rallies four times with their presidential candidates alongside them.

They have not held major rallies in the other parts of the countries since they were picked but Ms Karua has been to Garissa and Mombasa for other events.