Deputy President William Ruto has camped in Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka's backyard for the past two days, leading to the defection of a section of Ukambani clerics and other elites in the region to his side.
Clerics, university lecturers, business people and high-ranking civil servants in Kitui, Makueni and Machakos counties have joined a growing list of politicians popularising Dr Ruto in the region widely perceived as Mr Musyoka's stronghold. Yesterday, he extended his forays in Ukambani as he addressed roadside rallies at Kabati, Kalundu and Migwani townships in Kitui County.
The DP made a case for his presidential bid as he met a section of Ukambani elites during a two-day retreat at a Kajiado hotel to crowd-source ideas for a people-centred economic model, which is at the centre of his campaign.
The Saturday Nation has learned that the DP is planning a major meeting in the region next month. “The planning of a major workshop in Ukambani to validate the proposed economic model is underway,” a highly placed source involved in campaigning for Dr Ruto in the region said.
Dr Ruto addressed roadside rallies at Emali, Sultan Hamud, Malili, Kyumbi and Mlolongo townships, and also hosted hundreds of clerics drawn from Makueni County.
Tucked in the crowds were some 10 Kitui Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) led by Kwa Vonza’s John Mbaki, a NARC politician and former ally of Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu who has turned into one of her fiercest critics. At Emali Township, James Mbaluka, a businessman and politician who was a key supporter of Mr Musyoka announced his defection to Dr Ruto's camp. "We have been blindly following a worthless cause that has no development agenda," he said to wild cheers.Until he bolted out, Mr Mbaluka was the coordinator of the Wiper campaign in the upcoming Nguu/Masumba ward by-election in Makueni County.
He has since become the chairman of Dr Ruto's campaign in the county. The October 14 by-election is widely seen as a supremacy battle involving DP Ruto, Mr Musyoka and Prof Kivutha Kibwana. Mr Musyoka is supporting Wiper's Eshio Mwaiwa, while Dr Ruto is behind United Democratic Alliance candidate Daniel Musau. Prof Kibwana has teamed up with Machakos chief of staff Mwengi Mutuse to support Timothy Maneno, an independent candidate.
Prof Kibwana has also taken a hit after the DP raided his key support base - clerics in the county. Two days after Mr Mbaluka announced he had joined Dr Ruto's camp, a team of Makueni clerics openly endorsed Dr Ruto's presidential bid.
"We support Dr Ruto’s presidential bid because it is premised on bringing Kenyans together and empowering them,” Bishop Jackson Muema, the head of Deliverance Church of Kenya in Kajiado and Makueni counties, and the chairman of the association of Makueni clerics said when the DP hosted more than 500 members of the lobby at on Thursday.
The endorsement comes at a time the deputy president has been enjoying fanatic following from unusual quarters. The chairman of the National Council of Churches of Kenya who is also the head of the African Brotherhood Church Timothy Ndambuki is among the vocal supporters of Dr Ruto in the region.
The outspoken cleric believes that Mr Musyoka, Prof Kibwana and Machakos governor Alfred Mutua have slim chances of succeeding President Kenyatta as they have not been campaigning and "bonding with the church" as aggressively as the Deputy President. But Mr Musyoka has dismissed the calls for unity, arguing that the region was solidly behind him.
“We are banking on the endorsement of President Kenyatta to ascend to State House but when he toured the Ukambani in July the president decried glaring divisions among the key leaders. The leaders should endeavor to unite so that we find our way in the next government,” Mr Ndambuki said a week ago while commissioning ABC Katitika church in Kitui County.