What you need to know:
- DP has framed 2022 elections as a competition between those banking on ethnic mobilisation and his own campaign.
- The newly-formed One Kenya Alliance has been dismissed as a tribal grouping
Deputy President William Ruto has sidestepped regional kingpins, instead preferring MPs spread across the country to lead his presidential campaign anchored on a ‘hustler nation’ sloganeering, a strategy critics term risky.
With rivals ganging up against him, the DP has framed 2022 elections as a competition between those banking on ethnic mobilisation and his own campaign fashioned around respect for one’s job, no matter how small.
A beneficiary of ethnic mobilisation that delivered victory for him and Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013 when they rallied their two communities almost to a man, a feat they repeated in 2017 to be re-elected, now with multiple forces ranged against him, the DP has seemingly reviewed his strategy.
Aside from the ‘hustler’ messaging, the DP has often paraded scores of MPs to project his camp’s power, but analysts argue relying on lawmakers, who don’t necessarily command a regional following, is risky since more than 60 per cent of MPs lose their seats at general elections.
Political commentator Herman Manyora says the DP is taking a huge risk by betting against regional kingpins.
Tribes and their kingpins
“The DP must appreciate that Kenyan politics is based on tribes and their kingpins. Besides the Rift Valley, Ruto does not have the support of any other leader of a tribal bloc. There is also a high possibility at this point that Ruto will face a united force comprising the One Kenya Alliance and Raila Odinga,” Mr Manyora argues.
The DP has particularly dismissed the newly-formed One Kenya Alliance of Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, Kanu’s Gideon Moi, his Wiper Democratic Movement counterpart Kalonzo Musyoka and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula, as a tribal grouping.
In an unusual praise of the Raila Odinga-led ODM recently, the DP said only Mr Odinga and himself with his United Democratic Alliance (UDA) had the best chance to form a national political party.
“In Kabuchai, Matungu, and Machakos, UDA was running against tribal parties in those regions. When I call a meeting of MPs allied to me, there are 150 people who are from all over Kenya. And I know that is how to solve Kenya’s problems. We are sadly going a retrogressive way of founding our democracy on tribal political parties led by regional tribal chieftains,” he said a fortnight ago.
Although he downplayed the importance of by-election wins by ANC, Ford Kenya and Wiper, UDA’s loss showed that the point men the DP has picked in current and former legislators might not be a match for the regional political chiefs who are influential in their backyards.
Tea and photo session
Ruto ally and Belgut MP Nelson Koech said the path the DP has taken is the future of Kenyan politics — that of having like-minded MPs behind a presidential candidate with an ideology like the hustler nation message.
“The current crop of regional leaders is obsolete and overrated. Their moving from one’s compound to another’s for tea and photo session in the present Kenya does not translate to votes; in fact they are a baggage to any serious national leader contending the presidency. Theirs is to wait to blackmail serious presidential materials,” Mr Koech said.
He added that those underestimating the power of mobilising behind the ‘hustler nation’ mantra, are making a huge mistake.
The DP has painted himself as the epitome of what a hustler can achieve, and his campaign as a demonstration of the numbers of the hoi polloi and their place in decision-making.
“They despise me. They think because I was once a chicken seller, I should never be President. Shock on them! I want to tell them: These people you despise, the bodaboda man, and the small scale traders, those are the people that will help us form the government in 2022,” the DP has often said.
Soy MP Caleb Kositany said the DP’s bid to form a national party, instead of embracing tribal kingpin politics, should be celebrated.