A charm offensive by Deputy President William Ruto to firm up his grip on the Rift Valley bastion has sent his rivals back to the drawing board.
The DP, who has faced a political onslaught from President Uhuru Kenyatta and key Opposition bigwigs, has sought to consolidate the vast Rift region ahead of the 2022 General Election.
His move is likely to isolate and jolt some of his fiercest critics from the region as he lays the ground for a first stab at the presidency next year.
The DP’s allies have also softened attacks on their rivals from the region in a game plan to court them to join the Tangatanga camp.
The ceasefire is also a scheme to reduce antagonism and whittle down animosity within Ruto’s backyard.
On Tuesday, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, one of the DP’s fiercest defenders, remained upbeat the Rift Valley will be placed under lock and key by Ruto’s camp.
“There is nothing to hide about the DP’s popularity across the region and that is why you will continue to see many leaders declaring their support to work with him, they are joining the winning team,” Sudi said.
According to Sudi, the DP is willing and ready to work with all leaders from the Rift Valley and, indeed across the country, as the 2022 presidential contest gets down to the wire.
Emurua Dikir MP Johana Ngeno, a former-critic-turned-buddy, declared the Rift Valley is the DP’s stronghold and will not be permeated by ‘junior rivals’.
“The Deputy President wants to work with all leaders in the Rift Valley and beyond irrespective of their political differences; he is determined to forge unity of purpose,” he said.
Ngeno said the DP has elaborate plans to have the people of the expansive region speak in one voice ahead of 2022.
“Part of what is happening is that of consolidating the gains we have made and breaking into new territories by bringing all leaders together,” he said.
In the last week, the DP has held a couple of meetings and harambees in his Rift Valley turf.
More public engagements are on the cards to maintain the DP’s visibility on the ground amid the looming BBI campaigns.
Ruto is said to be keen on wooing back to his political fold some of his critics from the region, complicating options for his rivals including Kanu chairman Gideon Moi.
“The Deputy President wants to work with all leaders in the Rift Valley and beyond irrespective of their political differences, he is determined to forge unity of purpose,” he said.
Emurua Dikir MP Johana Ng’eno.
Already, Ruto has bagged former Bomet Governor Isaac Rutto, his hitherto antagonist from the South Rift, successfully managing to neutralise Moi’s influence.
There are efforts to have West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo, a Kanu member cross over to his side as the window of alignments and realignments sweeps across the Rift Valley.
The DP over the weekend visited Lonyangapuo at his Eldoret office, signaling the unfolding political machinations by Ruto’s camp to isolate Moi.
Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos, a key Gideon ally, is said to be targeted by Ruto’s political strategists.
Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny and his Nandi Hills counterpart Alfred Keter have been breathing hot and cold on their political allegiance to either Ruto or Gideon.
Gideon is backed by a handful of MPs including Moiben’s Silas Tiren, William Kamket (Tiaty) and Ainabkoi MP William Chepkut.
On Tuesday, Kamket played down the DP’s influence in the Rift Valley saying the Building Bridges Initiative referendum will vanquish him.
“He is just a paper tiger,” declared Kamket. Gideon has a plan that would annihilate the DP ahead of the 2022 polls, he said.
“Kanu, as we have said, will soon roll out its road map to activate the grassroots and strengthen branches as we ready for next year. Nobody should try to wish away Kanu,” Kamket said.
Gideon, the scion of Kenya’s second President is embroiled in a bitter rivalry with Ruto amid signals their frosty ties would further deteriorate ahead of next year’s presidential duel.
Gideon is aligned to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s wing of Jubilee Party after he inked a post-election coalition with the ruling outfit last year, further escalating his differences with Ruto.
Gideon’s dalliance with Uhuru and Raila has put him at the succession matrix, often threatening the DP’s fortunes in the Rift Valley.
There have been indications that Gideon would cobble up an alliance with Raila in a bid to block Ruto’s ascension to the presidency.