After making what was seen as significant inroads into President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Mt Kenya political base, tables are fast turning on Deputy President William Ruto, whose allies in the region seem to have developed cold feet.
This follows the ongoing brutal purge of the DP’s allies from key positions in the Senate and National Assembly, a move that has sent shockwaves in Ruto’s camp, with some of his supporters now seeking to return to the President’s corner.
Politicians associated with the President revealed that their opponents, who have been vocal in the pro-Ruto Tanga Tanga group, have been reaching out to them in what appears to be a change of tune in Uhuru’s favour.
The President has lately been on the warpath, firming up his control of the region and instilling discipline in the governing Jubilee Party.
Some of Ruto’s supporters from Mt Kenya region, who were previously vocal in defence of their boss, have faded from the public arena, with some fearing that the President might take the war to their constituencies and lock them out of Parliament in the next General Election.
Kieni MP Kanini Kega, a staunch Uhuru supporter, yesterday said some of his counterparts from the DP’s camp have been approaching him for accommodation after Uhuru’s purge started.
“The moderate ones we have welcomed them back. The extremists are still out there and today out of 75 MPs in the region, 62 are behind the President. What are these numbers they keep talking about?” posed Kega.
His Nyeri Town counterpart Ngunjiri Wambugu, said Mt Kenya MPs, who have been drumming up support for the DP’s 2022 presidential ambitions, are “very scared” and some have been approaching him seeking to shift their loyalty.
“Some have confessed that they blindly followed the DP after being misled by a few Tanga Tanga diehards that Ruto and Uhuru were working together and that is why the numbers appeared big. But from what is happening, they have realised they were fighting the wrong battle.
I have actually been talking to my colleagues on their behalf so that they can be pardoned,” said the MP, a fierce critic of the DP.
Former Agriculture Cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, who had projected himself as the face of rebellion in the region and a possible Ruto running mate come 2022, has gone silent despite his declaration that “he was going nowhere” following his sacking late last year.
It has established that apart from the MPs who had shifted allegiance to the President, nearly all governors from the region have thrown their weight behind Uhuru.
Notable leaders who were initially vocal in the DP’s favour but have since changed tune, include Muran’ga Governor Mwangi wa Iria, his Nyeri counterpart Mutahi Kahiga, former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege and nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura.
Those who have toned down their pro-Ruto rhetoric, include Laikipia Woman Rep Cate Waruguru, who has been one of the faces of defiance, and her counterparts Faith Gitau (Nyandarua) and Rahab Mukami (Nyeri).
Dozens of MPs who have been accompanying Ruto to public rallies in the region have also gone silent.
Currently, the only vocal MPs in Ruto’s camp are Mathira’s Rigathi Gachagua, Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu) and Kikuyu’s Kimani Ichung’wa, who has declared that he will “support the DP to death”.
Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, a tough-talking supporter of the DP, yesterday acknowledged that the President’s actions had sent shivers down the spine of some of the Mt Kenya leaders, but doubted if it will have long-term effects to Ruto’s disadvantage.
“If you are going to change through the mouth, are you going to change the position of your heart? You can change your stand publicly to save yourself or to escape a problem but the heart of the people you are silencing cannot change.
When the government is dissolved (for the elections), where will those hearts be?” he posed.
Ichungw’a said no amount of intimidation will move him. “If you think you will intimidate me by removing me from a committee or even recalling me as a Member of Parliament to change a stand I believe in, please try another one,” he said.
Mathira’s Gachagua said: “Intimidating leaders will not work. In fact, it will work in the opposite way.”
But political analyst Dr Michael Mugo said most of the DP’s foot soldiers in Mt Kenya had developed cold feet after the President made good his threats to “deal with the noises in the mountain and take control of the party” and the effects will be long-term.
“The thing is that most of the MPs who have been speaking against the President are scared after Uhuru warned that he would deal with them. They had underrated Uhuru and mistook the power of the person they were supporting (DP),” he said.
Recently, Waititu declared support for Baringo Senator Gideon Moi’s Kanu party barely months after Ruto’s lieutenants put up a spirited fight to oppose the impeachment motion that threw him out.
And in January, Kahiga who has been supporting the DP, ditched the camp, saying he regretted the position that saw him being left out of a list of governors from Mt Kenya region who met Uhuru in Mombasa for meeting on the Building Bridges Initiative.
A week before, his Murang’a counterpart Wa Iria who had hosted the DP on several occasions, warned that his county will no longer be used as a platform to insult Uhuru.