The supremacy battle between Deputy President William Ruto and Kanu chairman Gideon Moi has degenerated into a nasty political warfare with each camp employing dirty tricks against the other to gain control of the vote-rich Rift Valley.
The rivalry is playing out in media houses, on the floor of both the Senate and the National assembly, in the counties across the Rift Valley and on social media.
In the latest incidents, Dr Ruto’s camp has raised alarm over what it claims are underhand dealings being employed by the rival camp to portray the DP in bad light.
They were reacting to reports in a section of the media that claimed President Uhuru Kenyatta snubbed his deputy at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) last Saturday.
The newspaper claimed the President used the passenger terminal and left Dr Ruto waiting at the presidential pavilion.
On Monday, none other than the DP took to Twitter to disown the claims and called the paper ‘desperate’. “FAKE NEWS ALERT!!! I was nowhere near JKIA. I am not surprised that some media houses and their owners are this desperate. Tuwasamehe tu!!” the DP tweeted.
The same week, Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen took to social media early to criticise a leader he claimed cancelled a TV interview he was to attend due to political reasons.
“I am sorry to let you know that my colleague has cancelled my appearance on TV tonight. I have always supported media freedom in Kenya. Unfortunately, the struggle between media ownership and editorial independence is real,” he said on his twitter handle. The media house in question is majorly owned by the Moi family.
The allegations come against the backdrop of heightened political campaigns in the vote rich region with the duo raiding each other’s strongholds as 2022 succession politics take shape.
On Saturday, Kanu secretary-general Nick Salat dismissed Dr Ruto’s camp’s accusations that the Moi camp is undermining the DP, dismissing the allegations as “cries of a desperate group”.
“The frustrations seem to be getting the better of them. The rope is tightening around their necks. They are drowning. And when one is drowning, they will clutch onto anything, even a leaf.
"Kanu has nothing to do with their problems. They are people whose days are numbered, so we are asking them to carry their own cross and leave Kanu out of this,” he told the Sunday Nation.
But in a quick rejoinder, the DP’s allies, Soy MP Caleb Kositany and his Keiyo South counterpart Daniel Rono, downplayed Kanu’s influence in the area, terming the independence party a “non-starter”.
“I thought he (Senator Moi) would be holding public rallies, but if his style of politics is boardroom meetings, we have no problem with that,” said Mr Kositany, referring to the Baringo senator’s recent forays in his Soy constituency.
In the past three months, Dr Ruto has toured Senator Moi’s Baringo backyard a record 10 times, even more than the senator himself, where he has been launching various development projects.
Senator Moi has on his part been meeting political and opinion leaders from the DP’s Sugoi backyard as he seeks to bolster his political grip of the region, which is the DP’s stronghold, a fact that has not gone down well with the latter’s allies who feel it’s a scheme to scuttle his influence in the region.
In his latest strategy of building political bonds with the electorate, the junior Moi met elders and leaders from Rift Valley and Western region at Sugoi, the home turf of the DP, who has stepped up his campaigns to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Senator Moi had earlier held a closed-door meeting with a group farmers to deliberate on issues affecting the agricultural sector as he consolidates support.
Dr Ruto is enjoying support in Rift Valley although Kanu and former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto-led Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) have made inroads in the region and won key allies of the DP.
The DP has been dealt a big blow after he lost prominent politician Zedekiah Bundotich Kiprop Buzeki to CCM party.
Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos has also ditched the DP’s camp and said he will work with Kanu after accusing the DP allies of insulting him.
Mr Buzeki said CCM will champion unity in the Rift Valley and warned a section of Jubilee politicians attempting to divide residents along tribal lines. He is expected to be installed as CCM secretary-general.
“We are committed to building a strong political network since you’ve demonstrated ability to unite Kenyans,” said Ernest Kirui, one of the Kalenjin Myoot Council of Elders who attended a meeting at businessman Sammy Kogo’s home in Sugoi.
The elders however challenged Senator Moi to come out openly on his intention to go for the presidency.
He has not publicly declared his interest to succeed President Kenyatta but has instead been raiding the DP’s home turf where he has demanded an overhaul of the agriculture sector that forms the economic backbone of the residents.
The battle for the control of vote-rich Rift Valley is shaping up and Baringo County is the epicentre of the tussle pitting the DP against Senator Moi and their supporters.
The senator’s allies have maintained the duo were free to vie for the presidency in 2022, dismissing warnings from some leaders that disunity might cost the community the presidency in 2022.
“There’s nothing like betrayal in politics. We only meet where our interests merge,” said Tiaty MP William Kamket, a close ally of Senator Moi.
Some Kieleweke team leaders were plotting to swap Dr Ruto with Mr Moi, which Mr Kamket seemed to confirm recently.
“There is no leadership vacuum in the Rift Valley. Jubilee was founded on a peace pact between two communities; the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin.
"This was not about the DP as an individual. He can be replaced with another person from the Rift valley. Senator Moi can easily take up the mantle as the Rift Valley kingpin,” said Mr Kamket.
This comes as political realignments take shape in the Rift Valley region following a shift in party alliances between Mr Moi and Dr Ruto’s allies as they seek to bolster their support in the 2022 succession politics.
Kanu has received a major boost in the region after former Cabinet minister Musa Sirma denounced ODM to join the party, while Dr Ruto raided Turkana County, snatching Governor Josphat Nanok – former ODM deputy party leader – who has vowed to support his (Dr Ruto’s) 2022 presidential bid.
“As Kalenjin, we should not be intimidated to vote for DP Ruto. In any case, I regret having led the crusade that declared him community spokesman,” said Mr Sirma in reference to the 2006 Eldama Ravine declaration where the Kalenjin community vowed to rally behind Dr Ruto.
On the other hand, Rift Valley leaders allied to the DP continue to pile pressure on President Kenyatta to declare he will support him as he had promised in the run-up to the 2013 elections.
Nandi Governor Stephen Sang and MPs Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), Caleb Kositany (Soy) and Daniel Rono (Keiyo South) said Rift Valley voted overwhelmingly for Jubilee in the last two elections, and the President should come out clean on his stand; if he will stand by the DP in 2022.
“The Kalenjin community supported the founding President Jomo Kenyatta, former Presidents Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki and now President Kenyatta. We expect the President to return the favour in 2022,” said Governor Sang.