The Stop-Ruto movement is gathering steam in Mt Kenya.
Politicians from the region who believe Deputy President William Ruto was behind their election defeats are working overtime to derail his plans to clinch the presidency in 2022.
The Star has learnt that former governors and MPs have meeting discreetly to strategise on neutralising Ruto in the region.
They are joined by officials who disagreed with the DP at the height of the International Criminal Court investigations.
Some business tycoons too have joined, as they fear their economic interests will not be assured under a Ruto presidency.
For a long time, Ruto has been considered the Jubilee heir-apparent and he remains a formidable contender. His position is less than assured, however, since the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga on March 9.
“The Kikuyu votes might go the direction Uhuru wants. And it is linked to the handshake. In that envelope, we had a name. And if your name is not in that envelope, you are wasting your time,” political analyst Herman Manyora told the Star last week on phone.
Most of the anti-Ruto meetings are in the homes of prominent politicians and business tycoons to avoid the attention of spies from the pro-Ruto camp. Leaders drive themselves inconspicuously or move with a few trusted aides.
Last week, a Mt Kenya governor held a meeting at his home with a number of State House officials, a top politician from the Rift Valley and a number of political bigwigs from the region, the Star has been told.
“The resolutions of the meeting were communicated to those who did not attend. They were also informed about their roles,” a source allied to former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo told the Star yesterday.
“We will always vote as a bloc anytime we feel threatened,” Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu told the Star.
“Mt Kenya people will vote for a candidate they believe will protect their interests. Our interests are jobs, ability to do business, security and the distribution of resources,” he said. Wambugu has said before that Mt Kenya will not vote automatically for anyone.
Interviews by the Star reveal that the idea of Ruto succeeding Uhuru is being resisted by one wing from Central region, hence, the early meetings by some politicians and business moguls.
“We don’t hate anyone but politics is about interests,” said businessman Weston Wanjohi, one of the coordinators of the initiative.
The politicians and business tycoons scheming to send Ruto home have also brought on board the clergy, artistes, heads of influential women and youth groups to reach out to the masses.
“They are moneyed, they have strong grassroots support and understand Mount Kenya political dynamics,” an insider told the Star.
They are also bringing on board politicians from others communities and are ready to support them so long as their interests are protected.
Some powerful individuals serving in Uhuru’s government are said to be involved but this is strongly denied.
Two weeks ago, Interior PS Karanja Kibicho told off Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko after the latter accused him of holding night meetings to plot with other civil servants against Ruto.
Kibicho denied Sonko’s claims. His portfolio includes intelligence and security.
Also targeted in the wider plot to neutralise Ruto are governors perceived to have been elected through the DP’s support and machinations.
Governors Sonko, Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu), and Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a) are perceived to be pro-Ruto.
Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth ran unsuccessfully for Nairobi governor and blamed Ruto for his defeat. He said the DP favoured Sonko.
In Kiambu, William Kabogo also blamed Ruto for his defeat, saying Waititu was the preferred candidate because of 2022 succession politics.
In Murang’a, former Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau, who ran against Wa Iiria, also blamed the DP for his loss.
Some of those opposed to Ruto are said to be close to registering a political party, as an alternative to Jubilee.
Ruto, a formidable politician, has never spoken about the claims against him.
A number of leaders from the region have been accompanying him to functions where they have been campaigning for the DP, four years to the elections.
The DP has been visiting Mt Kenya. His detractors agree he is no a pushover, given his huge financial muscle. He is also viewed as a clever, hard-working politician with a strong network. He has energy and strength to set up a strong campaign machine.
The DP recently launched development projects in Kirinyaga, the home of Kibicho, former Justice minister Martha Karua, and NIS boss Michael Gichangi. Observers see this as a bottom-up strategy to win over the masses.
Ruto was also forced to defend Health CS Sicily Kariuki after MPs threatened to impeach her. The CS is also seen as a Ruto point-person in Nyandarua.
“He wants the local masses to see him as a person to watch and work with. Ruto believes if someone visits you and you give him something, you have that area wrapped up,” Manyora said.
The DP has already reorganised activities in his office. The Team Uhuru political outfit is likely to be transformed into a Team Ruto or Hustler Movement, insiders say.
Posters, letterhead and logos of the DP’s campaign have already been done.
Isaac Ngugi — known as IG within Team Uhuru — who is the national coordinator, is being considered to head the Mount Kenya region for Ruto.
“Being a shrewd politician, Ruto is aligning his campaigns to respond to the needs for different kinds of geography. He understands Mt Kenya and is ready to take the gamble,” analyst Manyora said.
On Thursday, Uhuru told the politicians from his backyard to concentrate on service delivery, as Jubilee has its game plan for 2022.
He spoke during stop-overs at Kenol, Witeithie, and Githurai on his way back to Nairobi after attending Kenneth Matiba’s funeral service at Ihura stadium.
“These leaders think they are propping up themselves by always speaking about 2022. Let us work first. You think being the loudest will make you the Deputy President? You will be the last one,” Uhuru said in a mix of Kikuyu and Swahili.