Deputy President William Ruto Saturday agreed to pick a running mate from the Mt Kenya region.
The DP also ruled out direct nominations for his allies in the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) in a tense meeting with politicians from the region held at a resort in Nanyuki.
The leaders also agreed to support any constitutional amendment through Parliament that has the “good things” that were in the Building Bridges Initiative, which was thrown out by the Court of Appeal a few weeks ago.
They vowed to back any constitutional amendment by the government that will anchor the one man, one vote system, create extra constituencies for populous areas and which has incentives like interest free loans for youths — provisions that were contained in the BBI.
Mr Ruto and his allies were heavy critics of the BBI, with some lodging cases in court to stop the process.
“We made it clear that we oppose a costly referendum and creation of many seats. But we agreed to back any Parliamentary route to amend the law that has the goodies without the liabilities,” said an MP who spoke to the Nation on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to talk to the media.
Safeguard Mt Kenya votes
Those at the meeting with Ruto successfully pressured the DP to name a running mate from the region to safeguard the six million votes that they expect to garner from the populous area, which was a political bastion of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2017 elections.
The DP said that the running mate will come from the region but asked for more time to consult and then narrow down on possible candidates for discussion. But they agreed that the process cannot be hurried and will have to be done near the August election date to stem any fallouts and build momentum for his candidacy.
Some MPs in the meeting also pressured Dr Ruto to give direct nominations to his allies who are being persecuted by the government for standing with him. Rejecting the move, the DP promised those who have stood by him that they will get government jobs and other appointments if they do not win their seats.
“He warned that if UDA does not manage party nominations well, it will lose crucial numbers and support. We were all told to go work on our grassroots,” a senator said.
Those at the meeting were also split on whether UDA should hold party elections. While some wanted them, others felt they will split the party and lead to defections and so they want interim officials appointed and elections held after 2022.
Earlier, the UDA allied politicians at the meeting ruled out the possibility of UDA getting into pre-election pacts with other parties. They said those seeking to ride on the party’s popularity must join it.
The politicians also officially declared DP Ruto their preferred presidential candidate.
“We are here today to tell the nation that after a rigorous process of examining who we can work with and support for the position of president next year, it is Dr William Ruto. We will support him through the UDA party and that is our focus for now,” they said in a statement.
This comes days after a section of leaders from Mt Kenya backed ODM leader Raila Odinga for the same seat. Last week, Mr Odinga met different leaders from the region and the DP’s meeting is seen as a move to counter the former Prime Minister.
They said any deal presented to them must be on UDA terms and maintained that they will only engage with other friendly political groups under the auspices of UDA to guarantee the DP’s victory.
Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki said they will continue mobilising more Kenyans to join the new party and field candidates for all elective seats next year.
“The framework of engagement will be open to partnership with people who are like-minded. Anyone who is speaking the language of the ordinary people is not our adversary but our partner. But this engagement will continue within the framework of the UDA party,” Prof Kindiki said.
The MPs also resolved that the party will register members and carry out internal elections.
“We commit to mobilise and urge our supporters to be part of this new non-tribal UDA party anchored on the new progressive and revolutionary bottom-up economic model. We have a national political organisation anchored on people-centred issues,” he continued.
The proclamation comes amid a stalemate with a section of the DP’s allies who say they will support the DP under their own parties.
Former Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria have issued a list of demands to the DP in exchange for the support of their parties. Mr Kiunjuri is the party leader of The Service Party while Mr Kuria heads Chama Cha Kazi.
Mr Kiunjuri has maintained that he will support Dr Ruto’s race for the country’s top political seat but he will not fold his party to join UDA.
The politicians at the meeting also said they will enter into a binding agreement with Dr Ruto to ensure that the interests of the people of Mt Kenya are prioritised in the next government.
“We will sign a charter with the DP that enshrines the interests of the people of Mt Kenya. But before signing the charter, there will be an ingredient on the guarantors who will assure that Mt Kenya region’s priorities will be honoured accordingly,” Mr Kindiki said.
Additional reporting by Nicholas Komu and James Murimi