By James Wafula in Nairobi.
Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto has a date with destiny after he was cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to contest the August 9 Presidential election billed as one of the toughest ever witnessed in East Africa’s largest economy.
Dr. Ruto, 57, is the UDA Presidential candidate and Kenya Kwanza political coalition flag bearer widely seen as the main challenger to former Prime Minister and four times Presidential contender Raila Amolo Odinga of the Azmio coalition.
IEBC boss Wafula Chebukati made the announcement on June 3 2022 at the Bomas of Kenya after Ruto and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua submitted their documents to the commission.
This now puts to rest wild speculation that had seen some activists file cases in court seeking to block Ruto from the race. The argument was that Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta were elected on one ticket of Jubilee in 2013-2017 and that both should retire together having served the mandatory 10 year two term constitutional limit.
“The application of William Ruto and running mate to participate in the August Presidential election is approved. I will now present you with a certificate of registration,” Chebukati said amid cheers from his supporters and Kenya Kwanza leaders who accompanied him to Bomas.
DP William Ruto thanked the IEBC for their role in ensuring Kenyans have credible elections and urged them to remain fair while executing their mandate.
“I’m delighted to receive the certificate that will allow me and my deputy to participate in the August polls. Mr Chairman, we’re committed to the code of conduct we have signed. We are confident that you are up to the task and we will work with you diligently,” he said.
To the media outlets, the DP said it is time they are fair and balanced when covering political campaigns ahead of the polls.
“It is the most decent thing to do. We have raised these concerns. We also urge you (IEBC) that you treat all the candidates in this race equally,” he said.
“We will work with all Kenyans in this election,” he said and urged Kenyans to remain peaceful during the electioneering period.
Ruto was accompanied by Kenya Kwanza leaders including; ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, Tharaka Nith Senator Kindiki Kithure, Kandara MP Alice Wahome, UDA secretary-general Veronica Maina, among others.
After presenting his papers, Ruto stormed the city on a whirlwind tour culminating in a major rally at the historic Kamukunji grounds in Kamukunji Constituency.
He is drumming up support for his candidature from the 2.9 million voters in Nairobi. Latest opinion polls in Nairobi have put Odinga ahead of Ruto replicating the same in Mombasa and Kisumu, Kenya’s three largest cities.
Ruto starts from a tight corner of having lost clout after naming of running-mates with Odinga scoring big after he picked former Justice Minister Martha Karau, a civil rights firebrand of the Moi era.
Commentators say Gachagau may well deliver substantial votes in mount Kenya but he is likely to be a hard sell in Western, Coast and Eastern which are battle ground areas for swing votes.
Even as Ruto campaigned for his Kenya Kwanza candidates during the tour of the city he was well aware of the formidable axis he faces assembled by his boss Kenyatta who insists the DP is the wrong man to succeed him. Kenyatta argues its time the Kikuyu-Kalenjin tribes that have monopolised power since independence in 1963 from colonial Britain, gave other tribes a chance to rule. Kenyatta has marshalled support for Odinga despite being an opposition leader and twice his bitter foe 2013-2017.
In 60 years, the Kikuyu have produced three out of the four Presidents while the Kalenjin had one man Moi ruling for 24 years. Of the three, two have come from one family a father and son- Jomo Kenyatta (1963-1978), Uhuru Kenyatta (2013- 2022).
The tight race has now entered the home-stretch and is still widely predicted to be a dead heat neck to neck with none of the two main contenders Raila-Ruto having 50+1 but his could change overnight. Indeed the outspoken internal security PS Dr. Karanja Kibicho claims Odinga now has 60 percent against Ruto;s 40 percent but this is yet to be authenticated and appears greatly exaggerated.
Ruto’s caravan made at least seven stopovers to sell his bottom-up economic model.
He started from South C, South B, Mukuru, City Stadium, Gikomba, Majengo and finally Kamukunji. The August 9 Express Train has now left the station on a non stop trip that will end at State House. Who emerges victorious remains to be seen ■