DP Ruto walks a tightrope in rewarding allies should he win

Deputy President William Ruto.

Deputy President William Ruto. 

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

With his presidential campaign getting into full swing, Deputy President William Ruto is walking a tightrope managing expectations of main figures in his team expecting payback in Cabinet slots and other key positions should the Kenya Kwanza Alliance win the poll.

Like his main rival Raila Odinga, the DP has already made promises to accommodate various allies should he form government, but at least for the most part has not locked himself into specific commitments.

The only two individuals who managed to extract specific dockets from the DP are Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya boss Moses Wetang’ula, who teamed their respective parties up with DP’s United Democratic Alliance to become the principal partners in the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

They both abandoned presidential bids they had announced to back the Ruto bid, and in return Mr Mudavadi, a former vice-president, was rewarded with the post of Prime Cabinet Secretary while Mr Wetang’ula, the Bungoma senator, was promised the Senate Speaker seat.

Matching his ‘sacrifice’

Mr Wetang’ula has, however, taken out an insurance policy in the event that the Ruto presidential bid or his securing a majority of seats in the Senate fails; he will be defending his Bungoma senator seat.

Also abandoning his presidential bid to back the Ruto campaign was National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, who will expect a post matching his ‘sacrifice’.

Apart from their individual rewards, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula were also promised 30 per cent of government appointments, which would mean at least seven Cabinet slots for their western Kenya region.

This means that, even before he constitutes his Cabinet, the presidential aspirant will have just 15 slots to share out among other claimants.

Other bigwigs who are banking on a Ruto win for Cabinet slots include Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, who suffered a major disappointment on being passed over for running mate despite edging out his main rival, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, in internal party voting.

He had pulled out of the race for Tharaka Nithi governor in expectation that he would be picked as a running mate for the Kenya Kwanza boss, making the rejection hurt even more as he was left stranded.

Subsequent appointment as the alliance’s chief campaign agent was hardly compensation enough as he had announced a sabbatical from active politics, but he would surely welcome a senior appointment, most likely as Attorney-General having served as the DP’s lawyer during the International Criminal Court trials.

Former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter, who resigned the post to try and reclaim the Kericho Senate seat but lost out to unranked newcomer Eric Mutai in the UDA nominations, will also be in the line-up for reward.

So will a large number of outgoing county governors now playing key roles in the Ruto campaign machinery.

Key among them is Mr Josephat Nanok (Turkana), who is Kenya Kwanza’s campaign director-general. Mr Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Mr Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Mr Salim Mvurya (Kwale), Mr Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Prof Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Mr Martin Wambora (Embu), Mr Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu), Mr Samuel Tunai (Narok) and Mr Okoth Obado (Migori) have all thrown their lot with the DP.

Some of them, such Mr Wambora, Mr Tunai, Mr Mandago and Mr Obado have all scaled down their sights to run for Senate in their respective counties.

Promise of Cabinet slot

Mr Mutua defected from Mr Odinga’s Azimio coalition to the Ruto side on promise of a Cabinet slot, but has since declared that he will also be running for the Mwala parliamentary seat.

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, who at one time was tipped as a likely running mate, faces uncertainty in defending her gubernatorial seat with the resurgence of her main opponent Wangui Ngirici, the incumbent Woman Rep.

The nomination of Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as Mr Odinga’s presidential running mate has excited her Kirinyaga backyard, which could further complicate matters for Ms Waiguru.

Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula extracted the promise of 30 per cent of government as reward for supporting the DP, but that came with a catch; they should deliver 70 per cent of votes from their region.

Even if the target is unattainable, the deal exposed the DP in other regions that were not given clear agreement on their share of government should the Kenya Kwanza Alliance win.

Mt Kenya support base

There was grumbling from the Mt Kenya support base, which is expected to provide a huge chunk of Ruto votes that it did not have any clear pledges on share of government, and that even the Deputy President-designate from the region would assume an office with key powers transferred to Prime CS Mudavadi.

United Democratic Alliance (UDA) Chairman Johnson Muthama says they’re confident of forming government after the August 9 polls, adding, every Kenyan regardless of political leaning is entitled to a job in the Kenya Kwanza government.

At the same time, he pointed out that there are many opportunities in government which will absorb leaders in the DP’s camp.

But in the event that their boss loses, Mr Muthama adds, “That will not stop us from being Kenyans. We will remain as Kenyans and we will be in Kenya and those who will be appointed by whoever wins will serve Kenyans. The government should serve you as a Kenyan without consideration of your political leaning.”

Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, on the other hand, insists that leaders in UDA and Kenya Kwanza were not supporting the DP in exchange for positions.

“Those leaders are supporting DP for the values and principles he stands for, not for the seats. They support his vision of bottom-up, his economic manifesto and development records,” Mr Kang’ata says.

More political realignments

Political analyst Dismas Mokua argues that the country is now at the octane space and is likely to witness more political realignments.

“Elections are around the corner and both political leaders and supporters are realigning. The realignments are informed by ethnic nationalism, ethnic majoritarianism and selfish interests,”  he says.

Already the DP’s UDA party has faced major defections, with former national treasurer Omingo Magara and former vice-chairman Kipruto arap Kirwa joining Mr Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja camp.

But Mr Mokua argues that Mr Magara and Mr Kirwa’s defections have little impact on the DP’s influence.

“It is not unusual to have Omingo Magara and Kipruto Kirwa review their interests. A similar situation obtained with governors Alfred Mutua and Amason Kingi moving to Kenya Kwanza,” Mr Mokua says.

Keeping his allies

Political vacuums, he notes, don’t exist in Kenya and any defection is immediately filled by their competition with varying degrees.

But even as the DP grapples with the challenge of keeping his allies as campaigns enter the homestretch, senior government officials insist that reports from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) have put Mr Odinga ahead with about 60 per cent.

The DP’s allies have already dismissed the reports by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho and Information and Communications Technology Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru, saying, the two government officials were simply “laying the ground for election rigging.”

On the other hand, Dr Kibicho also insists that the DP’s camp was setting the stage to reject the results.