William Ruto and Raila Odinga

Deputy President William and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga at a past function.

| File | Nation Media Group

The Mt Kenya headache in Raila Odinga, William Ruto deal

What you need to know:

  • Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, a staunch ally of the DP, says that a Ruto-Raila alliance would be an almost sure ticket for the State House.

Deputy President William Ruto risks losing the vote-rich Mt Kenya region if he enters into an alliance with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the DP’s allies have warned, posing the biggest headache in the ongoing talks between the two political heavyweights.

DP Ruto has made significant inroads into President Uhuru Kenyatta’s backyard since the two fell out politically, positioning him as the potentially biggest beneficiary of the 8-million votes in a region that historically votes as a bloc.

The former Prime Minister has struggled to woo Mount Kenya voters in previous political contests that have set him against presidential candidates from the region, an outcome that the DP’s allies say could cost him significant support were he to team up with Mr Odinga.   

“We all know, including the DP, that there is no way Raila can fit into our coalition unless he joins the Hustler Nation and votes for Ruto. Take it from me that the DP is not interested in a coalition with Odinga,” said Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua yesterday in reaction to the proposed political deal.

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Mr Odinga’s deputy in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), the Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, last week set tongues wagging after he met DP Ruto to discuss a reported political deal.

“Oparanya has realized that Kakamega is gravitated towards the DP and he pursuing his own political interests. We are meeting him again soon for further discussions,” claimed Mr Gachagua yesterday in a broadside against the ongoing talks.

DP Ruto's allies in Mt Kenya see the proposed alliance as being injurious to what they say was impressive inroads made by the deputy president in the region which, together with Nairobi and neighbouring counties, have as many as eight million votes— an important constituency for any candidate with presidential ambitions.

The Mathira MP insisted that there is no way DP Ruto could form a collation with Mr Odinga, whom he said has “destroyed each and every party he has joined throughout his political career”.

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Sure ticket

Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, a staunch ally of the DP, says that a Ruto-Raila alliance would be an almost sure ticket for the State House, but is worried how Mt Kenya voters would react to such a political union.

"In my view, this is something we may need to dig deeper into and understand how our people would react to it. We are with the DP because our people have told us to align ourselves with him. Can they change if he aligns with Raila? I cannot tell,” said Senator Kang’ata, who lost his Senate majority whip position after refusing to cut ties with the DP.

“I know a Raila-Ruto alliance would be a sure bet to the State House, it would be unstoppable. If they add a Kikuyu into it, the merrier. As for Kikuyus rallying behind it, in my view Kikuyu leaders have sacrificed and invested a lot in Ruto," he quipped.

While President Kenyatta's point men are said to favour the One Kenya Alliance of Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Gideon Moi and Moses Wetang'ula; others, including vocal Jubilee Party vice chairman David Murathe, have said they have no problem with the Ruto-Raila camaraderie as long as the ODM leader flies the flag in the 2022 contest.

Meru Senator Mithika Linturi said DP Ruto “does not need a coalition with Mr Odinga since he has won the hearts of Mt Kenya residents”, but added that “they would not mind extra votes from Luo Nyanza” that Mr Odinga would bring to the coalition.

“In fact if he (Mr Odinga) were to join our coalition he would be spoiling for Ruto in Mt Kenya region because already the ground is not favourable to him. We even suspect that the Ruto/Raila collation is a creation of the intelligence who are using the media to try and test the waters on what would be the impact of such a union,” he said, yesterday.

He said any coalition, were it to happen, would not have Mr Odinga as the presidential candidate “because we already have our candidate. If Raila wants to support Ruto we have no problem with that."

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Two scenarios

The Ruto-Raila teams, according to insiders in their camps, are exploring two scenarios. One is having the ODM leader run for President and DP Ruto as the Prime Minister.

The second option proposes the DP as President and Mr Odinga as Prime Minister.

DP Ruto’s political negotiators are said to include former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, who is, however, yet to make her stand publicly known.

Mr Odinga’s side is said to include his deputies - Governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa) and Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega) as well as Dr Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and former Unctad secretary general Dr Mukhisa Kituyi.

Mr Oparanya told Nation that whereas his meeting with Dr Ruto discussed a possible alliance, “there is still nothing conclusive.”

In the first scenario where Mr Odinga is the proposed presidential candidate, he is to be deputised by a senior leader from either Mt Kenya or Lower Eastern (Ukambani) where Ms Ngilu and Dr Mutua have been proposed to counter Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who is leaning towards the One Kenya Alliance.

Ms Karua is earmarked for the Mt Kenya region to fill the gender equation.

In the Ruto president scenario; he is to be deputised by either Ms Karua or Mr Kiunjiuri from Mt Kenya region since he has proved to attract support from the region.

In both scenarios, Mr Joho and Mr Oparanya, who have made applications to fly the ODM party presidential ticket, would land the deputy premier positions.

President Uhuru’s allies yesterday sounded bullish, putting on a brave face as the talk of an alliance between Mr Odinga and the DP gathered mementum.

Jubilee Deputy Secretary General Mr Joshua Kutuny said "Raila-Ruto talk is not a big deal", insisting that the ruling party was still comitted to the Handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.

 “As the president has indicated 2022 is not a priority at the moment, the party has remained uncommitted on discussing the 2022 political formations for obvious reasons. We don’t want to divert the agenda for national building and unity of the country but this doesn’t mean we are not keenly watching the political unfolding as we move towards 2022,” Mr Kutuny told Nation yesterday.

He added: “Every political step also has its political solution. So we are not worried at all. The bottom line is that every political step has its own solution and we have a solution for every political step."

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Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri, another Uhuru ally, said a possible alliance between Dr Ruto and the ODM boss will give President Kenyatta leeway to influence his succession more so in the vote-rich Mt Kenya region.

 At the moment, Mr Ngunjiri said, Dr Ruto was a viable presidential aspirant because of the 30 percent of Mt Kenya, which he says will disappear were he to team up with Mr Odinga.

 "If Ruto and Raila were to work together, we are back to 2007, Mt Kenya would unite away from both.  If Uhuru won’t support the Ruto-Raila coalition, he would easily swing the region to support anyone else," Mr Ngunjiri said.

Jubilee vice chairman Mr David Murathe had earlier told the Nation that they would wait to hear from Mr Odinga himself if indeed he was in secret talks with DP Ruto.

“Oparanya is telling us it was a chance meeting and at the same time saying that Jakom (Mr Odinga) was aware. Others are also telling us that Oparanya is not with Jakom — now what do you believe? We will wait and hear from the horse’s mouth,” he said.

Yesterday, some of the president’s troops accused Mr Odinga’s men of being impatient over “non-existent betrayal.”

“Uhuru is struggling so much to prove he is with Raila, but the Raila team is really struggling to prove that Uhuru is not with Raila,” said an MP in President Kenyatta’s circles,” he added.

He pointed out that the ODM team should not fall in the DP’s trap to “erode their relationship with the President as they are imagining they can be readmitted into the Head of State’s fold after their fall out.

One Kenya Alliance

Mr Kutuny insisted that the President and Mr Odinga’s relationship remains tight.

“Last time the president came out publicly with Raila Odinga and they went round undertaking audit on government projects including opening of some road. So for anyone to allude otherwise is only being selfish or insincere,” Mr Kutuny said.

The warnings by the Uhuru, Ruto men in Jubilee and from Mt Kenya is just one of the many hurdles facing the Ruto-Raila alliance talks.

Top of the things to balance out is the decision on who will fly the flag.

But an ODM MP who sought anonymity told Nation that they were concerned that the President was “entertaining the One Kenya Alliance despite their attacks on Mr Odinga who has remained loyal to him.”

“Raila cannot stomach attacks from political nondescripts in the name of pleasing Uhuru. It is unfortunate that even some civil servants have continued to attack him and undermine his BBI project without any intervention of the president,” added the legislator.

He pointed out that they were also concerned that despite Mr Odinga welcoming the president to his Nyanza backyard after the ‘Handshake’, the Head of State was not keen on planning a joint Mt Kenya tour.

In the Rift Valley, the DP's allies said for the Ruto-Raila alliance to work, Mr Odinga must be willing to back Dr Ruto for the top job.

“If Raila is coming on board as an elder and his entire bloc, we will overwhelmingly welcome him but coming with conditions like asking Ruto to step down for him, that is something we will never accept because that will interfere with our bases,” said Bomet senator Christopher Lang'at.

Belgut MP Nelson Koech was also hesitant about the hinted alliance between the duo, saying Dr Ruto's Hustler Nation campaign had made new friendships that he said risked being severed by bringing Mr Odinga onboard. The first-term MP insisted that were the alliance to come to fruition, it should only be for Mr Odinga to support the hustler nation course and not to gain power.

"Hustler Nation has pulled on from the arrangement we had from Jubilee Party, if anyone wants to join us, it is fine but not with the purpose of taking power. It should be of convenient of hustler movement, narrative and share same aspirations. In my own judgement, it is still early days to start talking about Raila working with Ruto,” said Mr Koech.

Additional reporting by Gitonga Marete

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