After months of agonizing on whether to jettison out of Jubilee party or not, Deputy President William Ruto has finally bitten the bullet and formed a new political party. Ruto’s decision followed what insiders say were numerous meetings of his advisers, mostly the legal team held in his private Karen residence, Weston Hotel, Nairobi and his Sugoi home, Uasin Gishu County.
Ruto’s inner circle includes Senator Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), MPs Caleb Kositany (Soy), Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), Farouk Kibet (personal assistant), Ken Osinde, the chief-of-staff and private secretary Reuben Maiyo and David Muge, the financial controller-cum-fundraiser. Former Moi university vice-chancellor Richard Mibey acts as the team secretary. Other prominent faces are Langata MP Nixon Korir representing the youth, Senators Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho) and Aden Duale, the National Assembly majority leader.
Sources say that the DP’s long term legal adviser Korir Sing’Oei leads the team of strategists and is behind the new party. Sing’Oei is based at the Ruto office as a legal adviser. He is also the head of policy. He operates a law firm, Sing’oei, Murkomen and Sigei with offices in Nairobi and Eldoret. The DP’s son, Nick Ruto, who was admitted to the bar, is also in the strategy team. Ruto’s recent dawn rituals with Talai elders was aimed at blessing his new political outfit. The visit split the Talai elders into two factions, with one group for the cultural rituals, and the other against. Stephen Sugut, a Talai elder, termed the event a “fake ceremony,” as the clan’s culture rites were not followed.
Sugut said Talai elders were not consulted ahead of the ceremony presided by Talai Council of Elders’ chairperson retired Reverend Canon James Baasi. It is alleged that the DP dished out money before and after the function, running into millions.
Back to party matters, Ruto, insiders noted, has accepted the reality that his chances of contesting the presidency on a Jubilee party ticket are nil, and hence, registered the United Green Party to be his vehicle in the 2022 presidential election.
The DP tentatively plans to unveil the new political party early next year in a grand launch to be held in Nairobi. Strategists are said to be currently working on the recruitment, party structure, branch composition and offices. The plan is to revive the network of the dissolved URP to be inherited by UGP. The initial plan was to have URP revived but the Registrar of Political Parties ruled out such a scenario. According to insiders, the party constitution allows it to enter into an alliance with like-minded parties. To remove the Kalenjin tag, the party has a national outlook with Senator Kindiki Kithure likely to be deputy party leader to take control of the Mount Kenya East vote bloc that is currently dissenting.
Governor Salim Mvurya of Kwale features in the lineup just like Bonnie Khalwale, MP Ben Washiali, Cecily Mbarire, Mithika Linturi, and Mohammed Ali of Nyali, just to name the no-ending list. Prior to the launch, the deputy president will tour all the 47 Counties opening offices and marshaling support for the party. Next year, Ruto is likely to step down as Deputy President to concentrate on marketing the new outfit. He intends to take the position of the official Opposition, leaving ODM leader Raila Odinga, who has ousted him in corridors of power to enjoy. Ruto’s timing to resign is based on the understanding that, by then political temperatures will be high, and the office of a deputy whose budget has been cut and powers trimmed in the recent Uhuru Executive Order will be of no value.
Whereas others want the party launched late next year after his resignation, a section of them are pushing it for early next year with machinery put in motion. They say Ruto’s resignation, and those allied to him from the government, will send shockwaves across the political terrain as it happened prior to the 1992 election when Mwai Kibaki resigned on Christmas Day to form the Democratic Party.
There are even those in ODM who fear that Raila will become the face of Uhuru’s failure in the next elections if he has Uhuru backing him. Ruto’s new party, alongside the Grand Dream Development Party, and Party of Development and Reforms, have for long been associated with the DP as his 2022 political vehicle though his allies have repeatedly denied the claims.
Those at the driving seat in the new party at the behest of Ruto include MPs Cornelly Serem (Aldai), Senator Cherargei, MPs Sudi and Kositany. The latter is the Jubilee Party deputy secretary-general. Insiders revealed that UGP’s registration application was forwarded to the Registrar of Political Parties at the height of Uhuru’s supposed war on graft when he ordered a lifestyle audit for civil servants.
Cherargei has openly stated they were shopping for a new vehicle for the DP for the purposes of 2022 polls. Sources say Ruto decided to take the bull by the horns after Uhuru took control of the ruling Jubilee Party, after officially kicking out officials affiliated to him and replacing them with his allies despite objections from his second in command. Ruto and his allies had mounted an aggressive campaign to stop the changes, but the secretariat went ahead and confirmed the new appointees. Those appointed included Lucy Macharia, Marete Marangu, former Kitutu Masaba MP Walter Nyambati, Jane Nampaso and James Waweru. The matters got more complicated for Ruto after the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal threw out a case his allies had filed challenging the change of officials in Jubilee’s top decision-making organ, the National Management Committee.
The tribunal ruled the case was prematurely filed by Kositany, Kihika and then majority whip Washiali. The DP was relying on a favourable ruling by the tribunal to overturn the NMC changes, regain control of the ruling party and thwart attempts by Uhuru’s allies to diminish his influence. The Deputy President suffered another setback after his allies were dropped from Senate leadership. Sources say the Deputy President has been using the break brought about by the Coronavirus to explore various options on how he will enter the 2022 presidential race with guaranteed success. With his new party, he will be able to form a new alliance with key political players opposed to the March 9, 2018 handshake between Uhuru and Raila.
Among those he is eyeing is ANC leader Mudavadi and his Ford-K counterpart Wetang’ula. The two were co-principals in NASA that fronted for Raila’s presidential bid in 2017. Ruto believes Mudavadi and Wetang’ula will never join Raila’s bandwagon in 2022, and hence, he has intensified his bid to win them over. Initially, the Deputy President was toying with the idea of taking over the Economic Freedom Party that was established in March 2017 by politicians from Mandera County who included then Senator Billow Kerrow and MPs Mohamed Huka and Fathia Mahbub after they left URP and the Jubilee Alliance. The Umoja Summit Party whose party leader is former Cabinet Secretary Suleiman Shakombo had also featured on his list.
Insiders add that Ruto is now crafting the lineup for the new party. In Rift Valley, Murkomen, Kositany, Kihika, Cheragei and Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri will be the torchbearers. In Central, Kirinyaga Women Representative Purity Ngirici, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, Mathira’s Rigathi Gachagua and Kikuyu’s Kimani Ichung’wah are featuring prominently in the list of those to be considered for top posts. In Western, Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, Sirisia’s John Waluke and former Kakamega Senator Khalwale are set to lead the troops. In Eastern, Ruto’s troops will be led by Isiolo Women Representative Rehema Jaldesa, Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai, Meru Senator Mithika Linturi and his Tharaka Nithi counterpart Kithure Kindiki.
Others set for big seats include Narok Women Representative Soipan Tuya and Nyaribari Chache MP Richard Tongi. Former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri is also expected to fold his new party, The Service Party, to join the new outfit. In Nairobi, Ruto is planning to give embattled Governor Mike Sonko the torch to lead the troops. In Coast, Ruto plots to have Taveta MP Naomi Shaban and Women Representative Lydia Haika occupy key seats alongside Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa. Former Women Representative Joyce Lay is also said to be warming to Ruto’s camp.
Others earmarked for plum posts include Nyali MP Mohammed Ali and Lunga Lunga’s Khatib Mwashetani. In Kisii, one of the senior posts will go to deputy Governor Joash Maangi. Initially, the Deputy President wanted Nyaribari Masaba MP Ezekiel Machogu and his Bonchari counterpart John Oyioka to take key seats but they have developed cold feet after being coerced by State operatives to denounce him. In North-Eastern, Ruto wants Duale to lead the troops. Duale is sitting on the edge after Kieni MP Kanini Kega collected over 120 signatures from MPs to impeach him. It is just a matter of time before he is kicked out.