Deputy President William Ruto has rolled out a new campaign strategy to pull ahead of the pack in the battle for State House as the clock ticks towards the August 9 General Election.
The DP has changed tack by courting regional kingpins to shore up his chances of succeeding President Kenyatta even as he popularises the bottom-up economic model.
After ignoring ethnic chiefs since 2018 when he hit the campaign trail, preferring to work with first-term MPs, the DP now seems to be leaving nothing to chance in his quest for power.
He has defended his pact with former Vice President Musalia Mudavadi of Amani National Congress (ANC) and Moses Wetang’ula of Ford-Kenya.
“Musalia is not a Luhya leader. He is a national leader who has come to join a national movement. Do not waste people’s time trying to make this an ethnic or village agenda. We are focused on bringing this nation together. We will not allow anybody to define this nation using ethnicity,” Dr Ruto said on Tuesday when he hosted a delegation from Laikipia County at his Karen residence.
While in Makueni County last week, the DP also reached out to Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka.
“Kalonzo is tired. He is fed up with that man and I ask him to join us to form the next government. I heard recently that your governor (Kivutha Kibwana) said you have sent him to join Raila (Odinga), have you sent him?” Dr Ruto posed.
The DP had framed the 2022 race as a competition between those banking on ethnic mobilisation and his own campaign fashioned around respect for one’s job, no matter how small.
He’s a beneficiary of ethnic mobilisation that delivered victory for him and President Kenyatta in 2013 when they rallied their two communities almost to a man — a feat they repeated in 2017.
Political analysts see the DP’s change of style as a matter of default, rather than design, citing Kenya’s ethnic politics.
“If Ruto manages to dismantle the belief that we all have to vote along tribal lines and vote class instead of tribe, then he is on the right path. But if he does not, then he is in for a rude shock,” said Prof Egara Kabaji of Masinde Muliro University.
Political analyst Javas Bigambo observed that the DP has to intensify the hustler narrative to reach the masses.
“The issue of dismantling tribal politics won’t succeed. As Dr Ruto makes that effort, his opponents are solidifying tribal cells and constellations, which they will use for political mobilisation. They are representing tribal interests. As such, tribalism is about to have an effect on the presidential election outcome. It may have a 45 per cent effect, the other factors being the economy, technology, and perception,” he said.
The DP has opened doors for more partners, a move viewed as a strategy to counter Mr Odinga’s tactics, who is working on a coalition around the Azimio la Umoja initiative.
The UDA, ANC and Ford-Kenya partnership is different from his earlier position, where he sought to push for a ‘six-piece’ voting pattern, a move that saw some small parties moving away from his camp.
UDA secretary-general Veronica Maina on Monday encouraged more parties to join their coalition.
“UDA is a big party, and we welcome more partners (with other political parties) who (agree) with the bottom-up policy to improve the lives of Kenyans. Our doors are open for others to join in,” she said.
Dr Ruto recently claimed that some ethnic-based political parties had been registered in the past few months to divide the people.
“We (UDA, ANC and Ford Kenya) have come together to stall the divisive politics and roll out a road map for the next General Election, even as we work on a national party,” the DP said.
“Any engagement between the parties will be published and filed with the registrar as required in law.”
Mr Mwangi Kiunjuri of The Service Party said the next government would be formed through coalition-building. “The next government will be formed by a coalition of parties,” he said.
Dr Ruto’s camp will hold rallies in Bungoma today and in Kirinyaga tomorrow.
“If you get 95 per cent of Rift Valley, 90 per cent of Western and 90 per cent of Mount Kenya, you are good to go. That tells you that the next government is in Bomas,” said Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru on Sunday during the ANC National Delegates Conference (NDC) at Bomas of Kenya.
Having been a member of the Pentagon in 2007, the DP seems to be putting together a similar team.
Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua and Kandara’s Alice Wahome are leading the charge in Mt Kenya, Garissa Township’s Aden Duale is the face of the pastoral community while Mr Mudavadi is expected to mobilise support in Western Kenya.