William Ruto

Deputy President William Ruto in a church service at House of Hope in Kayole on January 10, 2021.

| Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

The tyranny of numbers game unravels

What you need to know:

  • President Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto needed 98 per cent of the Mt Kenya voting bloc to win in annulled 2017 poll.
  • The Gema bloc appears to be heading into the next elections deeply divided.

The big bloc vote the Gema community has wielded for years appears to be splintering, going by events in the region as the 2022 General Election approaches. 

Initially divided along ‘Kieleweke’ and ‘Tangatanga’ factions allied to President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, a further rift has emerged pitting camps west and east of the mountain.

The fallout between the President and his deputy has also prompted members of the community outside the traditional central Kenya, particularly those in the Rift Valley, to warn they would not “betray” the DP and would honour the promise to help him succeed Mr Kenyatta whom he campaigned for in 2013 and 2017.

This would suggest the Gema bloc, which the two Jubilee leaders rallied, alongside the Kalenjin vote almost to a man, in what has been referred to as the tranny of numbers to beat the Raila Odinga-Kalonzo Musyoka ticket twice in 2013 and 2017, heads into the next elections a tower of Babel.

The divisions, partly informed by the fact that there is no clear leader with President Kenyatta retiring, threaten to splinter the Mt Kenya vote. 

The region’s nine counties boast about 4.4 million votes as per 2017 data by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which is topped up by another sizeable bloc of Gema communities in the “diaspora” — Nairobi, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu and other parts of the country.

Mt Kenya East, which comprises Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Meru counties, had about 1.23 million voters in 2017. 

The region’s tally is projected to rise to 1.68 million next year.

Governors Martin Wambora (Embu), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi) support the installation of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi as Mt Kenya  spokesman, a development rejected by leaders from Mt Kenya West who have vowed to field a presidential candidate in 2022.

Registered voters

“We have supported Jomo Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru. If we hear of another presidential candidate from that side, we won’t be party to it. Enough is enough,” Mr Murungi said.

Meru Senator Mithika Linturi added: “We, the people from Mt Kenya East, are not of a lesser god. It’s time the west reciprocated the support we have given them over the years.”

Meru had the highest registered voters in 2017 at 702,480, followed by Embu (309,468) and Tharaka Nithi (213,154).

Projections show Meru has the potential for a million votes, Embu (418, 184) and Tharaka Nithi (261, 050) to make 1, 684, 643 by next year.

In the last General Election, Mt Kenya West had 3.2 million registered voters spread over Murang’a, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Kiambu, Nyandarua and Laikipia counties.

Kiambu had 1.2 million votes, Murang’a (587,126), Nyeri (456,949), Kirinyaga (349,836), Nyandarua (335,634) and Laikipia (246,487).

By 2022, Kiambu is projected to have 1, 670, 281 voters, Murang’a (714, 072), Nyeri (534, 424), Kirinyaga (434, 599), Nyandarua (410,500) and Laikipia (323, 455) to make 4, 087,331.

That suggest Mt Kenya has  a combined potential of about 5.6 million votes next year.

Nairobi in 2017 had 2.2 million votes, Nakuru (949,618) and Uasin Gishu (450,055).

Biggest losers

The number in Nairobi is expected to hit the three million mark, Nakuru (1.3 million) and Uasin Gishu  (735, 511) next year.

Even in the 2017 presidential election that was subsequently annulled by the Supreme Court, Jubilee required 98 per cent of the Mt Kenya stronghold to beat the National Super Alliance with a 1.4 million margin.

“Mt Kenya loses its political influence if it remains split. It cannot command the power that comes with the votes it has,” Mr Wambugu Nyamu, a political analyst told the Daily Nation.

The DP could be among the biggest losers if the bloc is fragmented as his success in the race is largely dependent on a united Mt Kenya. 

Perhaps it’s being alive to this reality that the DP has coined the “hustler” narrative to win over votes across Kenya and make up for a possible loss of the united Gema-Kalenjin ethnic behemoth Jubilee rode on to power and retained it five years later. 

ODM leader Odinga could most likely benefit from the split.

“Raila has not lost his voting block and national influence. A divided Mt Kenya means Ruto will automatically lose,” Mr Nyamu said. 

University of Nairobi lecturer  Herman Manyora says DP Ruto needs a bigger chunk of the region’s vote to win the presidency.

“Should Mt Kenya West field a candidate, expect a runoff. Ruto will be the biggest loser. He stands a better chance if he names a running mate from the region though I don’t see him winning,” Prof Manyora said.