Amid President Uhuru Kenyatta’s intensifying succession battle, Deputy President William Ruto on Thursday met the Rift Valley Council of Elders at his Karen home.
The meeting came two days after it emerged that President Kenyatta was planning a new strategy to tame the DP ahead of the 2022 General Election.
While Mr Kenyatta is using community and church elders from the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities to neutralise DP Ruto’s deep forays in the vote-rich Mt Kenya and Rift Valley regions, he is using the Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luhya and Kisii councils of elders.
Many pundits are of the view that Dr Ruto’s strategy will help him win a sizable number of non-Kalenjin voters in the Rift Valley.
On Saturday, Rift Valley Council of Elders chair Gilbert Kabage told the Nairobi Today that he led a delegation of 50 elders from Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Baringo, Laikipia and Nakuru counties to the Karen meeting.
According to sources who attended the meeting, DP Ruto affirmed that he was eying the presidency.
“Dr Ruto said he had not changed his mind about becoming the next President,” said Mr Kabage.
The elders said the DP told them that the divisions in Jubilee Party originated from people claiming to be helping the President achieve his agenda.
He is said to have reiterated that he and Mr Kenyatta were jointly elected to help Kenya achieve its development agenda and dismissed leaders claiming to be helping them separately.
“Dr Ruto does not understand what some politicians mean by saying they are helping President Kenyatta or Dr Ruto as they were elected together,” said Mr Kabage, the DP’s close ally from Nakuru.
The official said the agenda was peace and that they assured the DP that he was their son, that they were behind him and could not hide it because the peace they enjoy is not determined by Mt Kenya politicians.
“We have been seeking to visit the DP since 2015. This time around we managed to get an opportunity to talk to the DP,” he said, adding the succession must be smooth and that no amount of arm-twisting will stop the DP in his bid to succeed Mr Kenyatta.
Mr Kabage described Dr Ruto’s presidency bid as unstoppable, citing his deep roots in churches and other circles.
He said President Kenyatta’s idea of sending select members of the Kikuyu Council of Elders to a weeklong benchmarking tour of the Buganda Kingdom, to learn how numerical strength helps a community have a say in the government, was a sign of fear and a recipe for chaos.
“Our Constitution vouches for unity governments. This new strategy of taking elders to Uganda might be hidden in the Building Bridges Initiative report,” Mr Kabage said.
“What will Mt Kenya gain by having its own kingdom yet millions of community members live in the Rift Valley? Where do they expect us to go after they form their kingdom? We can’t all fit in this kind of arrangement and that is why our support is solidly for Dr Ruto.”
The chair further warned that the strategy would balkanise the country.
“This kind of leadership is unacceptable. Mr Kenyatta has completed his 10-year constitutional tenure so he should peacefully go. The late President Daniel arap Moi ruled Kenya for 24 years and did not leave behind a kingdom but a united country,” said Mr Kabage.
Mr Kabage said the Rift Valley Council of Elders only recognises the November 2, 2012 handshake between Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto at Afraha Stadium, Nakuru.
“If that handshake is dead, the two leaders should call us and declare the political marriage dissolved. We shall respect their decisions,” he said.