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Will Mt Kenya vote for Ruto or Mudavadi?

Patrick Mwangi @PeopleDailyKe

The recent announcement by Jubilee Party vice-chairman  David Murathe that Deputy President William Ruto should retire with President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022 and that Mt Kenya region owes nobody a political debt has stirred up the hornet’s nest.

No other pronouncements on the same matter, some of which have been even more inflammatory, have managed to raise the same level of indignation. A probable reason could be that Murathe is not just another politician — he is the President’s confidante and longtime associate.

Murathe asked the people of the Western region to “give” Mt Kenya region “somebody we can work with”.

This, being said in the presence of ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, was taken as an indicator that Murathe was tacitly indicating Mt Kenya region’s preferred candidate for the presidency come 2022.

Kibaki allies

This is not the first time Mudavadi is being fronted by Mt Kenya region elite. In 2013, he was the preferred successor of President Mwai Kibaki’s close associates, a plot that collapsed spectacularly.

If Mudavadi becomes the candidate of the Mt Kenya elite, he will come up against the election juggernaut that is being assembled by Ruto, the self-proclaimed “hustler.”  What the people of Mt Kenya will then be asked to do is to weigh the two candidatures and decide which of them carries more weight.

Consequently, a look at the political balance sheets of the two aspiring presidents, in terms of where they stood in support of the presidential candidate fronted by the Mt Kenya region in the last two elections would provide a good platform on which each will be assessed.

Joint ticket

Let’s take a look at Mudavadi’s balance sheet. In 2013, Uhuru, Mudavadi and Ruto were discussing the possibility of a joint ticket.  It had gone to the point where Uhuru was said to have ceded the candidature to Mudavadi, then backed by Mt Kenya elite.

However, the two were to fall out, and Mudavadi decided to abandon Uhuru and form his own coalition — the Amani coalition, which was buttressed by his party the UDF.

He proceeded to run against Uhuru in 2013 and lost, polling a measly 400,000 odd votes against the winner’s six million plus. Clearly, that political account went into deficit.

Come 2017, Mudavadi joined forces with a perennial presidential contestant, Raila Odinga, to face off with Uhuru in the August 2017 election. Indeed, Mudavadi was Raila’s chief campaigner. This was after Uhuru had expended considerable political capital in wooing Mudavadi over the course of the intervening five years to no avail.

Kenyans will recall the declaration by Mudavadi that Raila had been elected president, yet the vote counting was still in progress after the August 8, 2017, election. Indeed, he went ahead to demand that the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission (IEBC) declare Raila president.  Of course, Raila was eventually beaten by Uhuru.

Mudavadi stuck with Raila’s decision to boycott the poll called after the Supreme Court nullified Uhuru’s August 8 win, a decision that raised political temperatures in Kenya to boiling point, and sparked chaos in opposition strongholds that resulted in the deaths of several of their supporters.

Uhuru again triumphed in the repeat election and was declared president and subsequently sworn in. By this time, Mudavadi’s political account in Mt Kenya was completely broke. Further, Mudavadi has yet to demonstrate his capacity to mobilise the entire Luhya nation into one voting bloc that he can bring to the table. There, he also starts with a serious deficit.

ICC indictment

Turning to Ruto, he and Uhuru joined hands to contest the 2013 election as president and deputy president following their indictment, and that of their associates, by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

ANC Party leader Musalia Mudavadi (right) with Jubilee vice chair David Murathe at the Maragoli Cultural Festival in Mbale, Vihiga County, on December 26. Photo/FILE

In that election, Ruto would mobilise the entire Kalenjin community to vote for Uhuru who went ahead to whitewash Raila by polling 6.1 million votes to the latter’s 5.3 million, taking him past the threshold needed for a run-off.

The same scenario played itself out in 2017, where Ruto once again successfully mobilised the Kalenjin vote. This enabled Uhuru to post 8.2 million votes, swamping Raila’s 6.7 million and avoiding a run-off.  That can only be said to have been a huge deposit in Ruto’s political account in the Mt Kenya region.

This poll was annulled by the Supreme Court, citing massive irregularities. A repeat poll was ordered, but the opposition, sensing defeat, decided to boycott. Uhuru contested the repeat poll and won with 7.4 million votes. Again, Ruto was in the middle of drumming up the numbers.  Another huge deposit.

After this performance, he has eradicated all doubts about his capacity to mobilise the Kalenjin vote and sway it to his political direction. That is a cheque waiting to be cashed.

As the clock ticks towards 2022, the political balance sheet will become a critical dynamic as Mudavadi and Ruto seek to sway voters in the Mt Kenya region. So which account will have funds, and which account will be overdrawn? You be the judge.

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