The declaration by President Uhuru Kenyatta that his choice of a successor in 2022 will be a shocker has unsettled Deputy President William Ruto’s Rift Valley backyard.
The statement heightened anxiety in Ruto’s camp and some of his allies called it the clearest indication yet that Uhuru may renege on his promise to back Ruto for the country’s top job.
“You can’t take the President’s remarks lightly. They mean a lot, especially when they come at a time when Kenyans are aware there was an obvious political deal for 2022. The DP should know that the master is not happy,” Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny said.
Speaking in Nyeri on Thursday, Uhuru also read the riot act to MPs from his Mt Kenya bastion, saying they were focussing on his succession and ‘loitering’ instead of spearheading development projects.
In May, Uhuru threw a jibe at Ruto and publicly accused him of loitering (kutangatanga) across the country in weekend politicking.
Some observers say Uhuru’s latest salvo was directed at pro-Ruto lawmakers who have been aggressively marketing Ruto’s presidential bid despite, repeated cease-and-desist warnings by the President about 2022 politicking.
Uhuru and Ruto’s once tight camaraderie appears to have hit rock bottom after President Kenyatta’s handshake on March 9 with Opposition chief Raila Odinga.
The Ruto brigade remains suspicious of the deal and has publicly claimed it’s meant to split the Jubilee political machine.
Kutuny termed the President’s remarks on Thursday as weighty and a clear indication that Ruto is no longer the heir apparent.
“He [Uhuru] has become a President playing his cards close to the chest. This is a wake-up call to the Deputy President and his team that all is not well. He should know that he is no longer the guaranteed successor,” Kutuny told the Star in an interview.
He said the President could have been angered by some issues that he urged Ruto to reflect upon, even as he campaigns for 2022.
Former Kipkelion MP Magerer Langat also said the President’s words were indeed loaded.
According to the former assistant Energy minister, Uhuru is simply preparing the country, including Rift Valley, for his choice of successor, and that might not please some people.
“Every time the President goes around he is pushed to kind of declare that he will support his deputy and people also want to know what is in the handshake.
Is it going to spoil the equation? So, I think that having been asked several times, he [Uhuru] just decided to call the bluff and said ‘I am going to shock you guys’,” Magerer told the Star.
Two weeks ago, Uhuru tactfully dodged the endorsement talk at Kapsabet showgrounds, despite being cornered by Kalenjin politicians to reiterate his pledge to endorse Ruto.
Days later, Bomet MPs stormed out of an Uhuru event, after being denied a chance to speak. Blocking them is believed to have been a tactic by State House to block the succession talk.
“The President is simply telling us he has no business with Ruto,” political analyst Martin Andati said, summarising the latest political moves.
“He is also telling the Jubilee MPs who have been running around with Ruto that they are wasting their time. He is not with Ruto and those who will try to go against him in Mount Kenya in 2022, he will ensure that they are all kicked out.”
However, former Bureti MP Franklin Bett said the President’s statement was intended to rally his government behind development in securing his legacy, as opposed to prioritizing his successor.
“I don’t want to speculate much but at least the President has spoken his mind that he is concerned with development and not 2022 politics. He wants his pledges implemented and the Big Four agenda on track,” Bett said.
The former Roads minister warned that any succession talk is likely to undermine the President’s development agenda and that Uhuru was in right to suspend that to the ‘opportune time’.
“The next elections are four years away. Any declaration would ignite vicious political wars of loyalty and alignment for personal attention on what one would get from the prospective presidential candidate,” he said.
But former Kajiado North MP Moses Sakuda maintained that the Uhuru could be exploring other options as to who will be his successor.
“The President has looked at the political terrain, the handshake deal and the need to bring Kenyans together and as it looks like something is on the horizon,” Saduka said.
He told the Star that like retired President Daniel Moi, Uhuru could have “become a giraffe” and seen far beyond than other politicians.
“As it stands, it looks like that choice may not be Ruto. Something is cooking in the kitchen and in the fullness of time it will be revealed. Ultimately Ruto is out,” Saduka said.
The ex-MP said the push by a section of Ruto’s allies to force the President to publicly endorse Ruto could have backfired when some walked out on him in Bomet a week ago.
“They had boxed him into a tight corner. Now he has answered them that he has wide options,” he said.
Bomachoge Chache MP Alfa Miruka, a key Ruto ally from Kisii, told the Star the President’s remarks shouldn’t be taken lightly in the context of his succession battle.
“This is an issue of concern for those of us who are supporting the Deputy President. It is a serious matter that cannot be swept under the carpet,” he said on the phone.
The lawmaker urged the President to consider supporting the DP to ensure an enduring legacy when he retires.
“It is Ruto who can ensure continuity of the President’s legacy by successfully implementing their joint manifesto and the Big Four. The President shouldn’t keep us guessing,” he said.
Tiaty MP William Kamket appeared to blame the DP for his own woes, accusing him of engaging in blackmail through his Central Kenya supporters to force the President to endorse him.
“I think the Mt Kenya MPs were being used by the DP to try and push the President into a corner. But the President was a clever politician. You cannot box him into a corner. He has demonstrated time and again that you cannot corner him,” Kamket told the Star.
He also said that the President could have been making a serious statement to silence those keen on making him a lame duck.
Kamket said the President was unhappy with attempts by some DP backers to ‘blackmail’ him and to force him into a tight corner over his successor.
By The Star