Secrets of Raila-Ruto-Uhuru Talks
Even as the two erstwhile political enemies-turned-friends, William Ruto and Raila Odinga try to paint a rosy picture of their newfound political camaraderie, it is emerging that there are intrigues, tensions and suspicions underneath it all as well as counter-moves.
It is also emerging that the Ruto-Raila talks may have spurred a counter-offer for the Eldoret North MP from Uhuru Kenyatta and his TNA party.
So the big question is: Could Ruto have sent overtures to the ODM leader as a way of increasing his political value to other potential suitors knowing that they will come with bigger and better offers to prevent him from crossing over to the PM’s side?
Most likely so. After all, Ruto as a politician is smart as a whip and blessed with equal measures of charisma and cunning. What is not in doubt though is that the flurry of political activities in the last few days has made the former Agriculture minister the most-sought-after political partner.
Ruto has Raila and his ODM party beckoning with offers from one side, and Uhuru and TNA is on the other side with other political goodies and counter-offers.
“Ruto has become like a highly-prized footballer being sought by all the major league clubs and now he has to sit down ponder which way to go,” said an insider in one the two camps pursuing the former minister.
The big question is: which side will the Eldoret North MP be playing for when the whistle is blown for 2013 General Election?
Although Ruto seems keen to keep his cards close to the chest, sources close to the three sides of the discussions confided to The Standard On Sunday that indeed the Eldoret North MP has had offers from the two political protagonists – Raila and Uhuru – but was yet to decide which way to go.
The Uhuru camp is said to have made overtures to Ruto with an offer of making him Uhuru’s running mate and an added political sweetener of 50 per cent of the Cabinet and key Government appointments besides the additional offer of being the one to nominate the leader of the majority party.
And reports from the ODM side had indicated that Raila had also sent similar overtures to Ruto with a running mate offer and a significant portion of government.
Interviews and discussions with multiple sources indicate that Ruto’s key lieutenants were uncomfortable with the possibility of the talks leading to the Eldoret North MP abandoning his presidential bid to support either of the two.
But on the other hand, and at a personal level, Ruto on his part has been under pressure to up his political profile to counter an emerging new political dimension in the Rift Valley, where Gideon Moi, Nicholas Biwott, General (Rtd) John Koech, and Kipruto arap Kirwa have quietly been working on building an alternative power base outside Ruto.
The underlying principle behind the Gideon-Biwott-Koech-Kirwa group is to provide a political counter-weight to the United Republican Party leader William Ruto.
The three former MPs in the group – Gideon, Biwott and Kirwa – are interested in vying for senator in Baringo, Keiyo Marawket, and Trans Nzoia under a negotiated single political banner that quietly seeks to tap on anti-Ruto sentiments in some parts of the expansive Rift Valley region.
Gen (Rtd) Koech, who is the chairman of UDM party, is interested in the senator’s seat in Kericho County.
So at one level Ruto has been aware that some leaders from the region have been exploring ways and means of chipping away pliable parts of the bedrock of his political support to build a substitute political base.
This may explain why Ruto decided to stir the political waters and create a commotion that was bound to cause ripples and, hopefully, bring his friends and foes to the fore thus enabling him to make his choice on which side to take.
However, beneath the spotlight of political courtship that Ruto finds himself under, there are the strong undercurrents from his home base where there is fear that if Ruto, who has emerged as the supreme political leader in RVP, is not on the presidential ballot, this will lead to voter apathy in the vote-rich province.
Indeed, looking at voting patterns among the largest and most politically active ethnic communities – Kalenjin, Luo, and Kikuyu – it emerges that when a community does not have a strong contender in the race for State House, voter turnout drops drastically.
Another factor that complicates things for any of the big league presidential contenders regarding whether to run or be running mates is the issue of political careers of key supporters and financiers.
Since 1992, regional voting patterns have tended to favour politicians aligned to presidential candidates from their regions.
For instance, in 1992, Kenneth Matiba and Mwai Kibaki divided votes in Central and Mt. Kenya region to the extent that even the strongest of politicians from these regions who was not ‘properly aligned’ politically fell.
The same trend happened in other parts of the country, most notably in Nyanza where only politicians aligned to the Oginga Odinga axis made it to Parliament in a contest that saw the death of many political giants in the hands of ‘properly aligned’ minnows.
For Ruto, besides carrying the fate of his close political allies in his hands and determining their future by the way he plays his political cards, there is also the pressure on the ground from a community that after being in power for a good 24 years, has not had a presidential candidate in two elections.
“The Kalenjin community has not had a presidential candidate since 1997, when former President) Moi ran for his last term of office. Many politicians around Ruto are banking on him to carry them along and boost their chances by being the first serious presidential candidate from the community,” said an MP from the Rift Valley Province.
With three key positions – Governor, Senator, and MP – up for grabs in each county in the March 4 elections, the pressure for serious presidential candidates has intensified.
Political analysts say that the serious presidential candidate will not just influence their own political fates by choosing to run or not, but also the fates of party aspirants for governor, senator, and MP.
“The influence Ruto would have on the political future of his key lieutenants would increase if he is on the presidential ballot. But if he is not, his ability to carry along many of his lieutenants would go down significantly” explained a political strategist working with one of the key presidential aspirants.
And this phenomenon of communities wanting to support their sons and daughters (and those around them) to the hilt when they pursue the top seat is not limited to Rift Valley or Ruto.
It is a motivating factor behind regional support for all the big league presidential candidates. But on the other hand, well-crafted political alliances have also been known to supersede communal biases leading to definitive political changes.
So will William Samoei Ruto be playing the number two position wearing the ODM jersey in 2013 or will he be wearing the TNA one? Has fate intertwined their political careers?
The answer to these questions is likely to emerge in the coming week, but suffice it to say that since the advent of the ICC issue, Ruto and Uhuru have had more in common than any other two politicians in the presidential race today.
Source: The Standard