Deputy President William Ruto has silently reprimanded his close lieutenants after the Kibra constituency loss, a race largely hyped as a referendum vote pitting him against ODM leader Raila Odinga.
The lieutenants had been promised a win or at worst a loss by a very small margin in a by-election that goes down as one of the most expensive mini polls in recent history.
Disappointed with his foot soldiers, Mr Ruto cancelled a meeting scheduled on Thursday evening at his Karen residence, a close aide told the Media.
The campaign leading lights, who had been on the ground, were already on the way to meet him when he called off the meeting.
The close aide, who spoke in confidence, said the Deputy President was infuriated after spending so much time, energy and resources on the campaigns only for the Jubilee Party candidate McDonald Mariga to garner only 11,280 votes against ODM’s Bernard Okoth’s 24,636 votes.
“He feels wasted and drained after the loss,” the aide said. DP Ruto is said to have spent a fortune in the campaigns.
The original plan, according to two DP foot soldiers, had been that they “supervise the polls” then retreat to his residence for a post-mortem analysis, but he could not stand them.
“The boss changed his mind and called to say he’d not be receiving any visitors since it was getting late. He was in a foul mood,” the source said.
In Kibra, residents we spoke to had nicknamed the DP’s residence in Karen “Hotel”.
“He is a very generous man. When we used to go there, he used to give us food and some cash to go home with,” said James Onkundi, a boda-boda operator in Kibra.
Despite the bravado that he has exhibited in his Twitter posts, claiming that the loss felt like a win for him after making inroads in Kibra constituency, Mr Ruto is also said to be disappointed with some Jubilee Party officials who failed to support Mr Mariga’s campaign.
Notably, Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju and other officials allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta failed to turn up for the campaigns while those who did supported Mr Okoth, the ODM candidate.
As the voting began, Mr Ruto took to Twitter, posting: “The people of Kibra have turned up in numbers to vote for their MP resisting the violence narrative by our opponents. Peaceful voting is going on in many polling centres and security officers are on alert to deal with acts of lawlessness. Change is imminent!”
In an attempt to downplay the loss, he later tweeted, “Pongezi (congratulations) Benard Okoth for Kibra. Congrats Mariga, Team Jubilee & supporters for daring the so called ‘bedroom’, braving the chaos/violence to double our vote from 12 per cent (2017) to 26 per cent now. Our competitors came down 78 per cent (2017) to 52 per cent. They retained the seat we have served notice.”
The media can reveal intrigues in the campaigns in which police officers based in Kibra, Lang’ata and Kilimani withdrew their services to the Mariga team on the eve and day of the elections.
“Whereas we enjoyed their services during the campaigns, the officers informed us that they had been instructed to stop working with us. Some of them were redeployed and a new team brought to provide security during the elections,” said Higgins Mbugua, a political strategist at the core of the Mariga campaign.
On Thursday, Tangatanga, a group of politicians associated with Mr Ruto, claimed that they had been roughed up by goons as police officers watched.
“We spent the entire morning seeking security, but no one would listen to us. More enforcers were only sent in the afternoon and the officers in most of the polling stations watched as the harassment went on,” Mr Mbugua complained.
Some of the politicians who were either threatened with violence, beaten, ejected from polling stations or forced to flee the constituency were Senator Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), MPs Nelson Koech (Belgut), Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Vincent Musyoki (Mwala) and Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East), and former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale.
Others were Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua and South Mugirango’s Silvanus Osoro. Mr Gachagua’s car was stoned and his bodyguards had to shoot in the air to escape a mob baying for their blood.
Mr Osoro, who entered a tallying centre wearing sunglasses and a kanzu, was roughed up and his bodyguards “disarmed” but their harassers later returned the guns.
Both Dr Khalwale and Mr Barasa were beaten up on two occasions by rowdy youths.
“It was a very difficult place for us to be. There was a lot of intimidation and violence meted on us,” said Mr Koech.
Some of the Tangatanga politicians have denied claims that they were informed of a meeting at the DP’s residence after the polls.
The Belgut MP said that the climate in the constituency after the voting was not conducive even for the agents to meet after the voting.
Dr Khalwale said he spoke to Mr Ruto at 5.30pm and briefed him on what was happening.
“The instruction we got was to remain in the polling stations and closely monitor vote counting to the end,” said Dr Khalwale.
He added that there had been no plans for a meeting at the DP’s Karen home. “Had there been plans for a meeting, the Deputy President would have told me about it,” he said.
Mr Washiali said he had not been informed of any such meeting. “We are yet to convene a meeting for a post-mortem on how we performed as a party in the Kibra by election,” the Mumias East legislator said.
Dr Khalwale and Mr Washiali accused supporters of Mr Odinga of violence and scaring women away from the vote.
Kimilili MP Eseli Simiyu shifted blame to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission for allowing campaigns for over two months, heightening tension among communities in the constituency.
“We need to be careful how we run and manage our electoral practices. There has been a lot of violence in Kibra, but IEBC is yet to punish anybody. Kibra has provided a good lesson to the Luhya community after they found themselves supporting Mariga while others supported Eluid Owalo of ANC,” said Dr Simiyu, Ford-Kenya secretary-general.
Analysts say the mpoll and the Building Bridges Initiative will change existing political formations and give rise to new affiliations.
Masinde Muliro University lecturer Robert Egesa said the by-election provided good lessons for politicians and could lead to new alliances ahead of 2022 elections.