Deputy President William Ruto has mounted aggressive campaigns to buttress his 2022 presidential bid, clocking at least 300 stops across the country in the last 18 months.
Despite President Uhuru Kenyatta’s early campaigns warning, which led to his angry speech in Kasarani last weekend, Ruto has sustained a countrywide tour blitz ostensibly launching development projects and conducting church harambees, accompanied by politicians branded as Team Tangatanga. The tours are christened development tours.
In the last one and half years, the DP has, for instance, largely sustained frenetic tours in the opposition stronghold of Western Kenya, Uhuru’s Central Kenya backyard and in the capital, Nairobi.
Ruto has visited Nairobi 18 times, Kiambu (16), Kakamega (13), Bungoma (9), Nyeri (9) and Embu five times in the tours, but has heavily shunned opposition leader Raila Odinga’s Luo Nyanza turf.
While the DP’s critics have slammed him for engaging the 2022 high-gear campaigns, his staunch supporters claim he is merely performing the functions of his office by inspecting development projects.
According to his proponents, Ruto is Christian who has also gone out of his way to donate to churches as well us help communities by mobilising funds for community projects.
Whether in public events or church functions, Ruto has always been accompanied by a coterie of his troops who have not shied away from affirming their support for him in 2022.
However, the tours have depicted the DP as a man with a massive financial war chest ready not to spare any coin to galvanise support for his 2022 presidential bid.
In fact, Ruto’s strategists have revealed to the Star that his diary is fully booked in the next one year, signaling his tenacity to scour villages for votes.
lAst week, Cherangany MP Joshwa Kutuny said Ruto’s tours are aimed at projecting him as a front runner, but warned, “His strength is his weakness and his aggressiveness his weakness.”
The MP, who is a Ruto critic despite coming from the Rift Valley, warned the DP to read the signs and cited the alleged rousing welcome for opposition leader Raila Odinga in Narok during the Madaraka Day celebrations.
“Too much availability until it loses test is at times dangerous. In politics, scarcity makes value,” he said, insisting Ruto received a cold reception, despite his many trips to Narok county in the recent past
But National Assembly Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali dismissed the DP’s tours critics, saying Ruto has ‘become a household name in Kenya’ and will reap full benefits in 2022.
“He (Ruto) is coming to Bungoma very soon. He is there for the people and has gotten into the people’s minds,” Washiali, a key Ruto ally in Western Kenya, said.
Responding to claims that DP’s trips are political, the Mumias East MP said it was unfortunate that Ruto’s opponents are not sincere with their criticism.
“It is obviously clear that Ruto’s trips are development-oriented. He has been coming to Western to inspect development projects or conduct harambees to empower the church,” he said.
Former Kakemega senator Boni Khalwale, a new catch for the DP in Western, laughed off the DP’s critics saying ‘Western Kenya needs Ruto even more.”
Insisting that all Ruto’s trips to Western Kenya have been about development and not politics, Khalwale blasted opponents saying they have panicked.
“I don’t know what those who have panicked will do when Ruto starts his campaigns because he hasn’t yet,” he said.
How I wish he could come more [frequently]. We appreciate his tours because they are have brought more development.
Former kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale
The politician popularly referred to as the Bullfighter — for his love for bullfighting escapades — said the opinions of Ruto’s critics could have been informed by his predecessors, who made the office lame duck.
“His (Ruto’s) predecessors were not swift and aggressive as he is. Kenyans must have thought that is how occupants of that office should carry themselves,” he said.
We should appreciate that we have someone with that capacity to move around the country, Khalwale said.
Kimilili MP Didmas Barasa warned Ruto’s opponents against slamming his countrywide tours, saying they have lost focus and want to clutch at straws.
“Our competitors have panicked. They should focus on what the DP is doing when touring the country rather than linking it to 2022 politics,” he said.
Barasa, another key ally of Ruto in Western region, insisted that Ruto has been visiting various regions on invitation by political leaders to either launch projects or help in Harambee.
“We have seen our opponents have also started harambees and launching projects in trying to play catch-up,” he said.
ODM treasurer Timothy Bosire said by working outside the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee Ruto “smacks of ‘open defiance.”
“This shows a clear split in Jubilee, manifests a divided leadership and demonstrates the inability to work as a team and smacks of a man pursuing his own dreams outside the President’s framework,” the former Kitutu Masaba MP said.
Bosire said the DP’s countrywide tours are purely personal and political by “a man who is in a hurry and bad mannered to do things his own way.”
“By pursuing his own agenda, Ruto is at loggerheads with the president’s programmes and therefore defiant of the presidency,” he said, noting that he should instead work with the projects committee chaired by Interior CS Fred Matiang’i.
Siaya Woman Representative Christine Ombaka said the projects the DP has been launching across the country are ‘discriminatory and fake” with a 2022 agenda.
“If they are really genuine, why are we not seeing the line ministers involved? He is just doing the launch himself. It is simple, he is campaigning for 2022,” she said.
Earlier president Uhuru appeared to clip Ruto’s 2022 wings when he established the National Development Implementation Committee of the cabinet chaired by Matiang’i to oversee all government projects.
With the launch of projects being the heart of the DP’s 2022 campaign strategy, Ruto quickly opted for church fundraisers and donations to sustain his countrywide tours.
When not making a trip to one corner of the country , he is hosting various delegations at his official Karen office for meetings seen has part of his 2022 presidential campaigns plan.
Recently, in a clear indication yet that the DP is keen to endear himself to the voters, he has changed tact, adopting the “hustlers nation” tag .
In recent months, Ruto has been showing up in roadside eateries to share meals with the electorate, buying and sharing roasted maize or even just stopping to greet the commoners.
A fortnight ago on Saturday while in Busia county, Ruto took off his expensive shoes and wore cum boots to join farmers plant rice. He also stopped by the roadside to buy roasted maize.
The following Sunday, while attending a church function in Nyandarua county, he stopped by a roadside food kiosk and ordered for a cup of tea and mandazi.
He would also buy roasted maize by the roadside moments after gracing another church function in Dagoreti South constituency, Nairobi.
During the church service, which was also attended by a host of MPs allied to him, Ruto has defended his countrywide tours which his critics consider as part of the 2022 campaigns.
“We have people to serve and others want me to stay in the office. My role is to see government projects are implemented well and spend time with the people,” Ruto said in a church function in Kiambu.
The DP attended two church functions one at the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) Kasuku, Oljororok, Nyandarua County and later on closed the day in Nairobi’s Dagoreti constituency.
On Saturday, he made two stops in Samburu county, in the morning he landed in Baragoi, Samburu North before making other stop in Samburu East also to launch women empowerment projects.
On Friday, he traversed Busia county, the first event was to launch the Sh5.8billion, 10,000-acre Lower Nzoia Irrigation Project, which will benefit 12,000 households in Port Victoria, Budalang’i, Busia county.
Within the same Budalang’i constituency, Ruto presided over the handing over of a five-acre parcel of land to the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Institute by Busia County Government.
In the afternoon, he flew to the nearby Butula constituency to attended a function at Kingandole secondary school.
On June 2, the DP who is normally accompanied by a huge delegation of MPs and governors allied to him attended three church functions.
He started his day at St Martin’s Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) before proceeding to Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) both within Ruiru constituency, Kiambu county.
In the afternoon, he joined worshippers for another function at St Veronica Catholic Church Githurai, Nairobi County.
On May 31, Ruto who was accompanied by even MPs crisis-crossed the larger Kisii region popularise the Jubilee development agenda and attending church harambees.