Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition campaign team yesterday held a strategy meeting in Nairobi on a day Dr Ruto continued to woo new allies in a scheme to bolster his numbers both in Parliament and in the event of a fresh election.
Demands for new faces to lead Mr Odinga’s campaign team have since rocked the coalition ahead of the verdict by the Supreme Court set to be rendered tomorrow.
In Kenya Kwanza, Dr Ruto is already targeting politicians who backed Mr Odinga in the disputed August 9 polls in a plot aimed at chipping away the former premier’s support base.
Dr Ruto and Deputy President-elect Rigathi Gachagua have been holding a series of meetings with elected leaders from both his strongholds of Mt Kenya and Rift Valley, as well as from areas that backed Mr Odinga.
The latest development is informed by the small margin by which Dr Ruto won the polls after he garnered 7,176, 141 (50.49 per cent) against Mr Odinga’s 6, 942, 930, representing 48.85 per cent, according to the results announced by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati.
In the event of a rerun, Dr Ruto expects the new entrants – many of whom campaigned for Mr Odinga in the concluded polls – to back his bid.
Garissa Township MP-elect Aden Duale told Sunday Nation that more leaders were on their way to Kenya Kwanza. Mr Duale claimed that most parties that signed agreement with Azimio were intimidated and blackmailed into backing Mr Odinga.
“Those people joined Azimio through intimidation and blackmail. Now there is freedom and everyone is moving away,” Mr Duale said, without providing evidence of the same.
“ We have the numbers both in Parliament and on the ground.”
Kimilili MP-elect Didmus Barasa said the alliance has the numbers to win a repeat election if ordered. He, however, remained optimistic that the apex court will dismiss the petition.
“Our decision to reach out to leaders from Azimio is for us to have control of Parliament. It is also part of bringing the country together. We are optimistic the petition will be dismissed because we won the election free and fair,” said Mr Barasa.
Dr Ruto held a meeting with Nyeri County leaders, led by Governor Mutahi Kahiga, at his official Karen residence. The meeting came barely a day after he hosted Meru leaders where the immediate former Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi declared support for Kenya Kwanza. Mr Murungi led a delegation of his Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP) – an Azimio affiliate party – to switch camp.
Since his declaration as the president-elect, Dr Ruto has raided Mr Odinga’s camp, leaving the Azimio camp with a trail of defections that threatens its popularity in some parts of the country.
Apart from Mr Murungi, former Makueni governor Kivutha Kibwana, Tiaty MP William Kamket and Ugenya MP David Ochieng have all abandoned Mr Odinga.
Mr Ochieng, who is also the Movement for Democracy and Growth (MDG) party leader, led a delegation of former Kisumu governor Jack Ranguma, former Kisumu senator Fred Outa and former Kisumu West MP Olago Oluoch to declare support for Dr Ruto. The leaders backed Mr Odinga in the August 9 polls.
United Democratic Movement (UDM) party leader and Mandera senator-elect Ali Roba was the first to lead Azimio elected leaders in joining Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza.
Mr Roba, deputy party leader and Marsabit governor-elect Mohamud Ali, Mandera governor-elect Mohamed Adan Khalif, Mandera deputy governor-elect Ali Maalim and Wajir senator-elect Abbas Sheikh have all switched camps.
Others are MPs-elect Umulkheir Kassim (Mandera), Bashir Abdullahi (Mandera North), Kullow Hassan (Banisa), Joseph Lekuton (Laisamis), Mangale Munga Chiforomodo (Lunga Lunga), Abdul Enrahim Haro (Mandera South) and Adan Haji (Mandera West)—all elected on UDM. Moyale MP-elect Guyo Waqo (UPIA) and Kanu’s Wario Guyo Adhe (North Horr) – all Azimio affiliates – have also declared support for Kenya Kwanza.
But Azimio secretary general Junet Mohamed yesterday remained bullish in the face of the defections, stating that “visiting Karen is not part of the clause spelling out how to legally exit” from a coalition. “It is clear that Azimio remains the largest until otherwise decided by the parties to legally exit,” said Mr Mohamed.
The coalition yesterday held a meeting to start planning for another two months of campaigns should the Supreme Court orders for a repeat presidential election.
“Our campaign team is having a meeting this morning. Much of our deliberations will be clear after Monday,” said a senior Azimio official.
Mr Odinga’s head of campaign and former Laikipia governor Ndiritu Muriithi said the coalition has been holding meetings to review political developments in the country.
Mr Muriithi attended a meeting convened by President Uhuru Kenyatta in Mombasa on Wednesday, the same day Mr Odinga held a meeting with Azimio leaders from Mt Kenya.
“The meetings are primarily state of play. You will note that in the postponed elections that have since been held, Azimio came out stronger. The two principals were happy for the performance of the week,” said Mr Muriithi.
“The meetings are normal review of what is going on. The team is positive and we look for a better future,” he added.
Jubilee secretary general Jeremiah Kioni said the coalition’s plans in the event of a fresh election will be communicated once the verdict is known.
“I was with Raila on Friday and many things are likely to happen after the Supreme Court’s verdict. The ruling will have major political ramifications that will spill over into the House leadership,” said Mr Kioni.