Uhuru locks Rift as Rutto, rebels support Jubilee

BY THE STAR

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President Uhuru Kenyatta is raiding NASA, 37 days before Polling Day and is poaching opposition leader Raila Odinga’s trusted allies to fortify his reelection bid.

Uhuru’s victory in the August 8 General Election was nullified by the Supreme Court on September 1, when it upheld Opposition leader Odinga’s challenge. It cited irregularities and illegalities and ordered a rerun, now scheduled for October 17.

The President has gone flat out and as been rewarded with a wave of defections.

On Friday he won a declaration of support from former Bomet Governor and NASA principal Isaac Rutto.

“Today I have returned to where I belong,” Rutto told a cheering crowd.

Emurua Dikir MP Johanna Ng’eno of Kanu, who has been a fierce critic of DP William Ruto, also returned to the fold at a Jubilee rally at Kapkatet grounds in Kericho county. Ng’eno pledged to work with the government and called on the DP to unify the Kalenjin nation.

Uhuru is touring Jubilee strongholds to shore up his support and quell dissatisfaction ahead of his epic rematch with Raila.

After successfully challenging the presidential election, NASA has yet to start campaigning. It launched a fundraising drive, seeking help from millions of supporters to hire choppers, vehicles and buy campaign merchandise.

Time is running out and D-Day is fast approaching for the country’s first presidential rerun. In a frenzied effort to reinforce Jubilee turf and neutralise his arch rival, Uhuru is on a vote-harvesting blitz, seeking to win the hearts of Raila’s allies.

The President yesterday led his brigade in a big rally at the symbolic Kapkatet grounds. Kanu chairman Gideon Moi attended.

Former Kuresoi South MP Zakayo Cheruiyot and former Narok CCM governor aspirant Patrick Ntutu were not present, though they have declared support for Uhuru.

The return of Rutto — who lost reelection in a landslide — and the trio heralds a new political order in Rift Valley and a major victory for the DP.

The Star has established Rutto, Moi and Ng’eno decided to attend the event after a meeting in Nairobi on Tuesday night. Rutto and the DP have buried the hatchet and are expected to share campaign platforms going forward.

Rutto fell out with the DP after the 2013 elections over a raft of issues, including the decision to disband the URP, which they had formed as a vehicle to unite the Kalenjin community.

Rutto, the leader of Chama Cha Mashinani, lost the Bomet governor’s race to Jubilee’s Joyce Laboso, a shocker that tore his political lifeline in the NASA coalition.

He had been the fifth NASA principal and has kept a low profile, avoiding public functions.

In a surprise blow to the opposition, he showed up at the rally in Kericho town and declared support for Kenyatta’s reelection.

“We are here and we have come to support you and vote for you so you continue working for Kenyans,” Rutto declared.

This ended days of speculation on his next move after his humiliating defeat.

In a showcase of Kalenjin unity, Kanu chairman and Baringo Senator Gideon — who has clashed publicly with the DP over Rift dominance — said the community would speak with one voice in the rerun.

More than 10 governors from the region, Jubilee MPs and numerous elected Rift Valley leaders attended the rally.

“We want to show the world the Kalenjin community is one. We want to vote to the last man to ensure Jubilee wins,” Moi said.

The DP dismissed the opposition’s attempts to split the community, welcomed Rutto and said the region was now firmer than ever in support of Uhuru.

“He is a good man because he has decided that at all costs this time round we must walk together. Gideon is here, Isaac is here, we shall walk together,” Ruto said.

Ngeno said the community was bigger than an individual and they decided to come together for the sake of harmony and tranquility in the region and the nation at large.

He apologised, however, for his “misdeeds” of going against the DP and at one point asked the crowd whether they welcomed him back to Jubilee.

“The community is bigger than me, bigger than Rutto and anyone else. that is why we are saying we closed the shop there and vowed to come back home,” he said.

As the campaign comes down to the wire, Jubilee is targeting NASA strongholds to shore up its numbers.

Former Nyeri Senator Mutahi Kagwe yesterday said Jubilee has almost locked up support from the entire Rift Valley and now will focus on Turkana.

The northernmost county of the Rift Valley voted for Raila on August 8 and its Governor Josphat Nanok has been a close ally of the former Prime Minister.

“It is very clear now. Indications are that even those people who were against Uhuru Kenyatta and Jubilee in the beginning have seen the winning combination. It would be good for Turkana to support the President because of all the development projects he has lined up for the area,” Kagwe said.

He urged former Wiper Secretary General Hassan Omar, who quit his post on Thursday, to join Jubilee.

In Western Kenya, the backyard of NASA principals Moses Wetang’ula (Ford Kenya) and Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Jubilee received a boost when a section of opposition leaders backed Uhuru’s reelection

Since the August 8 polls, those who joined Kenyatta’s campaign team from the opposition include former Vihiga Governor Moses Akaranga, Bungoma governor candidate Alfred Khang’ati and former presidential candidate Cyrus Jirongo.

On Monday, Uhuru met a delegation of Luyha leaders — election losers — at State House, Nairobi, where they pledged their support.

In Ukambani, former Kitui Senator David Musila has also announced his support for the President, another defection from NASA.

On Friday Uhuru and Ruto, while campaigning in Kapkatet, appeared to respond to the turmoil at the IEBC.

The two said they are less concerned with internal wars as Jubilee prepares for the repeat presidential poll.

“Use your independence to do good for our country, do your job and let us stop monkeying here,” Uhuru said.

The fired-up President demanded electoral agency commissioners stay out of the political arena and refuse to be dictated to by politicians.

He accused the IEBC and the Judiciary of being oblivious to the repercussions of their actions on the economy and said he would not “permit” them to hold the nation hostage any longer.

Tearing into the Judiciary yet again, Uhuru accused the courts of overturning the will of millions of Kenyans.

“The job of elected leaders doesn’t belong to the IEBC, it doesn’t belong to the High Court, or Raila, but the people of Kenya,” he said.

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