President Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto exchange greetings during 18th Annual National Prayer Breakfast at Parliament Buildings on May 27, 2021. 

| Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Uhuru Rift tour to counter Ruto wave, showcase projects 

What you need to know:

  • The Rift Valley leg of the tour will see the President visit Trans-Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Nakuru counties.
  • The president's planned being interpreted as tailored to tame his deputy William Ruto's popularity across the country.

President Uhuru Kenyatta will next month visit his politically estranged deputy William Ruto’s Rift Valley backyard in a whirlwind inspection tour of government projects across the country. 

Allies of the President say the planned tour is part of plans to counter what they termed a political narrative pushed by Dr Ruto and his allies that the Jubilee administration has been unable to implement its Big Four agenda after the President’s March 2018 ‘handshake’ with ODM leader Raila Odinga. 

The Rift Valley leg of the tour, coming after next week’s Ukambani trip, will see the President visit Trans-Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Nakuru counties.

The Head of State will thereafter travel to the Coast and later Mt Kenya, in a new schedule his allies say is meant to consolidate and showcase the achievements his administration has made in his legacy-driven second term in office.

Coming after DP Ruto’s recent revelation that he is prepared to vie on the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket in the 2022 General Election, the move is being interpreted as tailored to tame the country’s second-in-command’s popularity across the country.

“After the planned Ukambani visit, the President will be coming to Rift Valley and it will start with Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and wind up with a tour of Nakuru. What the President is doing is to ensure that his manifesto promises are accomplished as he approaches the end of his second term,” Jubilee deputy secretary-general Joshua Kutuny told the Nation.

Though the exact dates are yet to be unveiled, Mr Kutuny said the President will visit Trans Nzoia County where he will issue title deeds, then head to Uasin Gishu where is he expected to issue more title deeds and launch the Sh5 billion Eldoret bypass.

Mr Kenyatta will wind up the region’s tour in Nakuru, where he will also issue title deeds and accord the county a city-status charter, which the Senate approved last month.

In what is seen as an effort to pacify and unite his political troops with the aim of locking Dr Ruto out of his succession matrix, Mr Kenyatta is expected to start his countrywide tour with Ukambani on June 28 and 29.

Dished out goodies

Mr Kenyatta will begin his tour at the Konza Technopolis in Machakos County, before proceeding to inspect the Thwake dam project in Makueni County and later launching the Kibwezi–Kitui road.

Details of the tour were announced after the President hosted leaders from Kitui, Machakos and Makueni counties at State House, Nairobi, two weeks ago. 

The second leg will see him open Kitui County Textiles Centre and visit a county administration-owned stone crusher, which produces 1,200 tons of ballast per day, before proceeding to see the collapsed Wikithuki irrigation project in Mwingi North.

The meetings target the backyards of seven Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) supporters, namely the President, ODM leader Raila Odinga, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka of Wiper, Mr Mudavadi of Amani National Congress (ANC), Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula, Mr Moi of Kanu and National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) boss Charity Ngilu.

Last month, Mr Kenyatta toured Mr Odinga’s Nyanza stronghold and dished out a number of goodies, though there were murmurs some people were sidelined in the sharing of the “handshake goodies”.

“I have done much more than I was able to do even in my first term. Why? Because I have been able to focus on working in conjunction with my colleagues. I have been able to focus on the development agenda and not the political agenda,” the President said recently and reportedly hinted at backing one Nasa principal in next year’s general election.

Interviews with his key allies yesterday revealed the visits are meant to help the Head of State debunk myths that BBI had derailed the Big Four Agenda, as claimed by the DP and his allies.

“During these tours, people will get to know what the President has done. If people interpret these tours as aimed at solidifying his support base ahead of next year’s poll, that is a different story,” said Mr Kutuny.

He went ahead: “One of the things the President has emphasised is to be given time to complete the projects he started. Remember also that this is a President who was arm-twisted by his own team and has admitted he did not do much in his first term because he relied on the wrong team and feels that in the second term he has done quite a lot.”

Misplaced priorities 

On Saturday while in West Pokot, Dr Ruto said the Jubilee administration got its priorities wrong by shifting focus from working to improve the economy to constitutional review.

"We will rework the Big Four Agenda because we were distracted by the issue of changing the Constitution. For the past four years, nothing has taken place in government. We have been derailed by a lot of politicking," he said. 

Mr Kutuny argues that the impediments to the implementation of the President's agenda have long been cast aside, giving the Head of State ample time to achieve his agenda.

“The President is more interested in letting people know what he has done. Of course there has been a contrary opinion – that the President has not done enough. The President is saying, you know what, let me take up my responsibility of commissioning my projects. We are seeing a President who is after implementing his agenda,” he said. 

The Cherang’any MP added that the President is rallying together like-minded leaders for the sake of finding a candidate who will continue with what he has started.

Eldas MP Adan Keynan, who is also secretary of the Jubilee Party coalition in Parliament, says as the President comes to the homestretch of his term, he has to venture out of his office to show Kenyans what his administration has done.

“The President has been doing outreach programmes. But now that he is approaching the end of his term, he has to showcase all the things he has been doing. This is the climax of his legacy and he has to work around the clock. He will be visiting all the regions to showcase all the projects his government has undertaken and ensure they are completed on time,” disclosed Mr Keynan.

It has also emerged Mr Kenyatta will hold six public rallies in Mt Kenya during which he will try to bring back together Mt Kenya West and Mt Kenya East into the solid block that voted for him almost to a man in 2013 and 2017.

Uhuru succession

The President only needs to snap out of aversion to political confrontation, go to the ground in Mt Kenya and assert himself, Sports Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia had told the Nation.

"We are only interested in the President addressing our people in prominent public functions in Meru, Nyeri, Nyandarua, Murang'a, Kirinyaga and Embu, and the headstrong advantage that Dr Ruto thinks he has in the region will simply go up in smoke," Mr Kinuthia said in a recent interview. 

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said the President is taking the message of the Big Four Agenda to every corner of the country to cement his legacy.

“Absolutely. This is his legacy and he is the leader of the government delivering it. He will take it to every region and explain to each exactly what the Big Four Agenda means locally for now and in the long term. This way, Kenyans will be able to relate the Big Four agenda to local growth and life opportunities, and use them,” Mr Wambugu explained.

Political analyst and governance expert Javas Bigambo argues that by rallying all the  leaders against DP Ruto, Mr Kenyatta will get to influence his succession. 

“It seems to be a re-enactment of 2007, where you have a political formation of all against one. It is a deliberate mechanism of using legalities to create factional hatred,” said Mr Bigambo.

Former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar, a key ally of Dr Ruto’s and his pointman in the  Coast region after Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya pulled out of the camp, says the President is keen on propping up tribal chiefs with the aim of scuttling his deputy’s presidential quest, which he says does not worry them.

“Uhuru is trying to balkanise the country. In his mind, Raila is just a Luo leader, Gideon Moi for Rift Valley, Matiang’i for Kisii, Ali Hassan Joho together with Salim Mvurya and Amason Kingi for Coast. Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula for Western. Kalonzo Musyoka for Ukambani but in our minds, we are building a formation that is beyond ethnicity and with one agenda, which is economic transformation,” Mr Omar told the Nation.

'Selfish agenda'

But Leader of Majority in the National Assembly, Mr Amos Kimunya, accused the DP and his allies of pushing what he described as a ‘selfish agenda’ at the expense of development and national unity.

“The government is running. The Big Four Agenda is ongoing. It is only some people in the government who do not seem to know that, just because they are busy campaigning for selfish initiatives,” said the Kipipiri MP.

Gatanga MP Joseph Nduati accused the DP’s camp of insincerity with regard to the President’s development record.

“No one should say the President is not working. In fact, quite a number of projects are ongoing, including in his Mount Kenya backyard - roads, dams and electricity,” said Mr Nduati.

Bomet Senator Christopher Lang’at said the President’s planned tour is aimed at “drowning his deputy politically”.

“After the handshake, expectations were that bringing Raila on board would afford the President a conducive environment to implement the Big Four Agenda. But what he has done is to ensure his business empire thrives,” said senator Lang’at. 

In his first term as Deputy President, Dr Ruto launched and inspected mega projects by the government.

Back then, he would issue orders on the completion timelines but eight years later, his focus now is on constituency projects being implemented by his allies, following a political falling-out with President Kenyatta.

Through Executive Order Number 1 of 2019, the President appointed Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to chair the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee, pushing the DP to the periphery.