A fortnight ago, Deputy President William Ruto announced that he had postponed his scheduled tour to the Ukambani region until further notice citing a surge in Covid-19 cases.
In a tweet on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, the DP said the move was part of his plans to significantly scale down public engagements amid the worrying Covid-19 trend that saw President Uhuru Kenyatta ban all political rallies and gatherings for 60 days.
However, there is more than meets the eye in the DP’s move as the same weekend that he was expected to start his Ukambani tour he was in Nyahururu raising the question as to whether the suspension only affected the scheduled tour to the three counties in Ukambani — Machakos, Kitui and Makueni.
A section of Kenyans argues that the DP’s Nyahururu function tour was justified as movement and interaction was controlled in line with the Head of State’s November 4 declaration that anyone wishing to hold meetings must observe all Covid-19 protocols including limiting the attendees to one-third of the sitting capacity and the wearing of face masks which is hard to control in political rallies that attract huge crowds.
To some, however, the DP’s move to suspend his tour to the three counties is linked to the infighting among his top supporters in the region.
Sources in the know claim that so bad is the situation that lawmakers from Ukambani kept off a Ruto meeting at his Karen home where he was to meet Kamba leaders sometime back.
The Members of Parliament are said to have told the second in command that they failed to attend the meeting because they were not comfortable with former Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama who they accused of bullying them.
Before Muthama announced his support for DP Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid, some of the MPs from the region who supported his ambitions include Victor Munyaka (Machakos Town), Vincent Musyoka (Mwala), Nimrod Mbai (Kitui East) and Fabian Kyule (Kangundo).
Notably, the MPs never swayed crowds in favour of the DP save for calls for the region’s kingpin Kalonzo Musyoka to throw his weight behind the “hustler” movement, which didn’t have much impact.
But Muthama’s entry is said to have turned things around in favour of the DP forcing the likes of Munyaka to play second fiddle.
Munyaka and Musyoka are reportedly quietly accusing the former Senator of hijacking the Ruto campaigns in the region.
The infighting is also linked to the money the MPs had been getting from the DP in the name of selling his name to the region’s electorates which they no longer receive.
Sources in the know claim that Muthama told the DP that he will finance his campaigns in the Ukambani region.
Munyaka and Musyoka, who were eyeing to lead Ruto campaigns in the region and benefit financially, now fear that Muthama is going to take control of the rallies.
There are also claims that Muthama received Ksh3 million from the DP to woo Kambas in Msambweni to vote for independent candidate Feisal Bader in the by-election scheduled for December 15 but did not engage the Kamba MPs and instead preferred former Senators Bonnie Khalwale (Kakamega) and Omar Hassan (Mombasa) to lead the campaigns.
After learning that the MPs were not happy, Ruto is said to have arranged for a meeting at his Karen home where the leaders were accompanied by 650 people. They were reportedly given Ksh4 million to share with each getting Ksh3,500. Also present was former minister Gideon Ndambuki.
The DP is expected to take advantage of Muthama’s influence in the region to divide the Kamba votes that have been going to Kalonzo and ODM leader Raila Odinga in past elections.
The DP is also eyeing Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana’s support in his bid to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta. Despite Kibwana’s declaration that he will vie for the top seat in 2022, his cordial relationship with the DP is a key indicator that he might throw his weight behind the “hustler” movement ahead of the poll.