Ruto vs Moi: Undercurrents in Rift Politics that will shape events in 2018 and beyond
There are strong undercurrents building in the Rift Valley that will shape Jubilee’s geopolitical position in the vote-rich region ahead of 2022. Rift Valley is a restless and shifty region which has, until recently – given UhuRuto near-undivided attention. But that could unravel before their very eyes going forward. Gideon Moi is spoiling to shake the UhuRuto equation and he is not making any excuses about his intentions. He has set his goal on wresting vote-rich Rift Valley from Ruto’s hand and he has started on a strong gear.
Shortly after Uhuru Kenyatta visited retired President Daniel arap Moi in November, we began to see the usually reticent Gideon, pitchforked into political significance in government circles. Kenyans were surprised when he received Heads of State during the UhuRuto inauguration ceremony in what was seen as a direct outcome of the meeting Uhuru had with the retired President. It got many Jubilee members wondering where, exactly, Uhuru was going with this. They saw it as a slap in the face for Ruto who had tirelessly fended off a strong opposition onslaught against Uhuru and the last thing they expected was the invitation of his bitter rival Gideon Moi to the high table.
During the last campaign period, Gideon Moi had initially sent mixed signals about his intention to support Uhuruto. Kanu secretary general Nick Salat even appeared at one point in NASA rallies saying that Kanu was ‘Ndaaaani’ with them. Every member of Jubilee was surprised at the move but not Ruto. In fact Kanu being in NASA was a welcome idea to Ruto who would now comfortably release his attack dogs on Gideon without the guilt. Somehow, Ruto felt that Jubilee could still beat NASA even with Gideon on their side.
However, when Mama Ngina visited the now restrained former President Daniel Moi in January 2017, it followed shortly that Kanu did a U-turn and began to support Kenyatta’s re-election. But the support was coming on the back of certain conditionalities that were not made public but whose intention and outcome can now be observed. Kanu joined the campaign trail for Jubilee but they were coming when the larger majority of Jubilee was already getting it dirty with NASA. Even then, Kanu was not as vigorous as should have been.
In fact, Gideon Moi never shared a platform with William Ruto except once or twice and even when he did so, it was not lost to all that the two were ill at ease with each other. After the Jubilee victory, there wasn’t much to celebrate on the Kanu side (especially after Nick Salat was floored in the senatorial race by a Jubilee candidate). Other Kanu candidates did upset mainline Jubilee candidates. And so the battle moved to Parliament and came to the fore during the EALA nominations.
The EALA Debacle
As the nominations and lobbying for the East African Legislative Assembly slots was taking place, DP Ruto as expected fronted his candidates. His main candidate was Bishop Jackson Kosgey. Kosgey however fell badly on the floor of the House in what observers say was from the fact that Gideon Moi was at odds with his candidature having once rivaled him for the Baringo senate seat. Or perhaps because he was backed by Ruto.
Other than being quite articulate and a great debater, Kosgey also represented persons living with disability and ethnic minorities. Kosgey was seen as a Ruto prime candidate, which fact was sufficient to have him sail through. However, in Kanu circles he was the challenger and sworn enemy of the Mois in Baringo. Sponsored by Ruto in 2013, Bishop Kosgey had contested under the URP for the Baringo senate race against Gideon Moi but lost by a wide margin (21,000 to 91,000). The Deputy President had him appointed as Chairman of the Kenya Film Classification Board.
In 2017, Kosgey did not contest but actively campaigned for Jubilee’s Senate candidate Simon Chelugui urging Gideon Moi to step down for Chelugui. However, during one of Uhuru’s campaign tours of Baringo, the President chose Gideon Moi to address the crowd instead of drumming support for the Jubilee candidate Chelugui. This was interpreted to mean that Uhuru preferred Gideon Moi over the Jubilee candidate and so Chelugui lost. This was perceived as a personal triumph by Gideon Moi over William Ruto. Speaking to this writer, Bishop Kosgey was resolute that he had been elbowed out of the Eala race by forces against the DP at the House. The man of the cloth is convinced that he fell on the side by machinations meant to politically embarrass the Deputy President.
The politics of goats
Just before Christmas, William Ruto was at the historic Kimalel goat auction in Baringo to buy goats ahead of the festive season. Ruto is following the Moi model of hosting thousands in his rural residence and must therefore find enough meat to feed them.
As the area senator, it was expected that Gideon Moi would grace the auction in his backyard now that the occasion was marketed as a key plank in the economic development of pastoralists – his constituents. Hundreds of farmers were set to fetch good prices for their goats but those arguments were besides the point for Gideon Moi who gave it a wide berth. The only plausible explanation could only be that it was because the chief guest was none other than William Ruto. A good student of the senior Moi, Ruto chose to splash Sh. 12 million to purchase 1000 goats at the auction. But that was not the real reason he was there.
The Kimalel goat auction must be seen in the light of its political significance. Founded in 1986 and led by the late Ezekiel Barng’etuny, President Moi graced the event annually, purchasing goats to feed the multitudes that thronged his residences. This continued faithfully until he left power in 2002. Corporate executives and government operatives often flocked to the auction located in the dry dusty outback if only to get political favours from Moi. Those jostling for his attention set aside a million or two or more to buy goats they didn’t need just to position themselves to curry favour with Moi.
When he left power in 2002, the auction fell silent and in fact died out completely for lack of patronage. It was not until the County Government of Baringo made the deliberate effort to revive it eleven years later in 2013. William Ruto quickly became the auction’s biggest patron. And this is not so much because of his deep pockets but because of his desire to put Gideon Moi in his place. Gideon Moi who doesn’t host massive delegations like his father, possibly lost a golden chance to patron the politically significant auction. This is now the newest political battleground which is happening right on his backyard.
Power and privilege
The person in the middle of all this rivalry is Uhuru Kenyatta. It so happens that the two protagonists are his firm friends. It must be quite awkward to have firm friends who are not speaking to each other. Politically, Uhuru owes nearly everything to the Moi family. However, it was William Ruto who has leveraged his access to and hold on power. His energetic campaigning and political maneuvering was responsible for Uhuru’s first and second terms. Socially however, Uhuru and Gideon Moi come from the same mold. They never really had to struggle for anything in their lives. Ruto grew up poor, wore his first shoes at secondary school and came to the city of Nairobi for the first time as an adult. Besides, he sold chicken and eggs to get by when Uhuru and Gideon were (aloofly) sampling the same chicken in high-end restaurants and eating poached eggs for breakfast.
Gideon was born when his father was a cabinet minister and was already quite wealthy. He was only three when his father became Vice President and was a teenager (aged only 15) when his father became President. He was thirty-nine when his father left power and by this time he was already a billionaire in his own right, many times over in fact. He then took over from his father as Member of Parliament and later Senator for Baringo. He has not known anything other than the trappings of power and has enjoyed it much longer than any politician alive in Kenya.
However, the polo-playing favourite son of retired President Moi, has firm enemies – political and otherwise. One of them is William Ruto and quite a number of other politicians and businessmen who have crossed his path.
Power and the money
In the mind of the common folk, at least in the Rift Valley, there is really no comparison between Ruto and Gideon Moi. Ruto the politician reaches out to the common mwananchi and easily connects with his troubles, and will easily looseNS his purse strings to solve his problems. But Gideon Moi is careful with his money, to a fault.
It is common knowledge that DP Ruto is very easy with (his) money, contributing to fundraisers and causes, rewarding political cronies and buying new ones. This is much to the chagrin of NASA politicians, who, led by Raila Odinga have bitterly criticized him for splashing what they say can only be corrupt money. At one point the heat was so much that Ruto was forced to scale down the ‘harambee’ contributions and if he made any, it was under the strict instruction that it should be kept discreet. If you must know this, then you should know Ruto was (is) the most sought-after chief guest of any ‘harambee’ in Kenya. If he comes, (or sends someone), then you are sorted. Even the President himself does not play in the same league as Ruto when it comes to fundraisers.
Money and the power
On the other hand if Gideon Moi is a wealthy businessman and politician, it is because he does not pour his money around. Even those around him find it hard to make him spend his money. On the campaign trail he will not easily part with his money unless he is sure you are getting the seat. Some attribute this attitude to the dismal performance of Kanu in its former strongholds. A friend of mine who was a strong gubernatorial candidate in 2013, chose to join Kanu on what he thought was a firm promise of financial support by the two Mois. He however fell flat because the money just didn’t come despite vehemently imploring the two Moi’s. He ended up exhausting his personal funds and almost became ruined financially.
Observers believe that the fight for the politically significant Kericho senate seat, in the 2016 by-election, was won or lost because of the money habits of the winner or loser (not the amount of money spent). This was the one occasion that Gideon Moi flexed his financial muscle to support the Kanu candidate but it was too much too late. Ruto’s generosity prior to the political duel saved the day for Jubilee. He had donated several buses to a number of schools and had conducted numerous ‘harambees’ and made (generous) funeral contributions. That had made all the difference. During the campaigns, Ruto decentralized the funds and there were various financial centres that moved things around in various corners. Kanu’s funds remained centralized and the outcome was clear.
Endorsement by Pastoralists
In June 2017, Emurua Dikirr Member of Parliament Johana Ng’eno surprised everyone when he ditched the mainline NASA parties including the Chama Cha Mashinani and joined Kanu. He defended his seat on a Kanu ticket and won. However, earlier this month, on the sidelines of the Pastoralists’ Parliamentary Group meeting held at the Nyali Sun Africa Hotel in Mombasa, Johana Ng’eno surprised everyone by endorsing Ruto’s presidential bid in 2022. He announced his intention to actively campaign for the Deputy President instead of his party leader Gideon who also has presidential ambitions.
Word has it that the combative Ng’eno is disappointed that his party leader had not supported him in a petition he is facing against the Jubilee candidate David Keter who had garnered a close 13,707 votes against Ng’eno’s 16,098. Ng’eno has now closed ranks with the Deputy President who had initially supported him back in 2007. But in the effort to please the Maa people, Ruto backtracked on that support and instead endorsed other (Maa) leaders which is how Ng’eno fell out with him. However, Ng’eno being the practical politician he is, has now openly supported Ruto over Gideon, it might just be about who doles out more money.
Demanding Cabinet slots
One of the key issues that is causing contention in Jubilee now, is the demand by Gideon for two Cabinet slots and at least four principle secretary slots and other senior Government appointments. Recent Press reports have it that Gideon Moi has demanded two slots for his close friend and Salat and another for KNCCI chairman Kiprono Kittony. While these are very able individuals in their own right, it is the fact that they are fronted by Gideon Moi which is causing disquiet in Jubilee circles. It appears that their appointment will not be well received by the URP wing of Jubilee, which, despite dissolution to join Jubilee, still appears to be alive and well.
Unless of course Uhuru knocks off two members of his side of the coalition to accommodate Gideon’s nominees. This would however have too many individuals from one region and the government will be imbalanced. As things stand now, former URP members are strong supporters of Deputy President and have no time for Gideon Moi. In the end, the undercurrents in the Rift politics will become more intense as we go to 2018 and as the clock ticks towards the next General Election.