Deputy President William Ruto was on Wednesday forced to issue a public apology to Kericho residents to cool down tempers arising from allegations that he had abandoned them and only turned up in search of votes.
It was the DP’s first visit to Kericho to campaign for the Jubilee candidate, 29-year-old Aaron Cheruiyot, in the March 7 Senate mini-poll after reports of an increasingly emboldened Kanu, which has ridden on the anger over unfulfilled promises and the folding up of the United Republican Party (URP) to “teach Jubilee a lesson”.
He spoke at a terse consultative meeting held at the Tea Research Institute in Kericho town attended by more than 5,000 people from the six constituencies who, though declaring support for the DP, told him that they were unhappy with how they were being treated.
The Jubilee deputy leader found himself hard-pressed to explain why mega projects that he had announced over a year ago and which had been lined up for Kericho County were yet to be implemented, in an interaction that also left local leaders extremely embarrassed and shocked at the sheer raw anger.
RACE AS A ‘WEAPON’
“On behalf of the Jubilee leadership and the government, I wish to wholeheartedly apologise to the people of Kericho for the unfulfilled projects. It has not been our intention to create an impression that we have abandoned you and if that has happened, I am truly sorry,” he said.
He asked the Kalenjin not to punish him for the mistakes of the local MPs that the residents had earlier claimed were the reason for the unusual rebellion.
“I have heard that you want to vote the other side so that Jubilee notices you. But that is wrong. Even if you want to punish me, please do not use a whole tree, just use a small stick,” DP Ruto told a charged meeting, using a Kalenjin expression to mean that punishing one must not be as tough as to kill them.
He likened the Kericho Senate race to a weapon that he said the opponents will use to lend credence to the claims that he had lost grip of the Rift Valley.
He referred to the vocal and rebellious Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi – the Kanu chairman – as “spoilers” and accused them of expending their time and resources simply towards scuttling his bid for State House in 2022.
RAILA ‘USING’ RIVALS
The DP, in an emotional one-hour speech, accused his rivals in the region of being used by Cord leader Raila Odinga to split the Kalenjin vote while his own Nyanza backyard remained united ahead of the 2017 General Elections.
He urged residents of Kericho to be careful not to be misled by politicians whose only aim was to deny him entry to State House, adding that they provided no alternative plan for national leadership for the community.
“Our political rivals, including Munya and Raila, are looking at us. Let us not use a rebellion through the Senate race to straighten up issues we can solve in-house,” he said.
He asked: “We supported Gideon Moi’s father when he was president until he retired and today he is telling us that some other people cannot rule this nation. Why is he looking down on me and thinking I cannot do this?”
The Deputy President said that it was unfair for the Kalenjin people to destroy the house he had built as he went across the country to sell himself ahead of the 2022 elections, when he hopes to rise to the top job.
Kanu, which has fronted former Health minister and Bureti MP Paul Sang, is backed by the vocal and rebellious Governor Ruto and Mr Moi, West Pokot Senator John Lonyangapuo and his Narok counterpart Stephen ole Ntutu (URP).
Defiant Jubilee MPs Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Zakayo Cheruiyot of Kuresoi South and Johana Ng’eno of Emurua Dikirr are also in this team.
The Kanu brigade will hold a massive rally at the historic Kapkatet Stadium in a show of might that will also feature Council of Governors chairman Peter Munya – another rebellious governor in the Jubilee basket – and Turkana’s Josephat Nanok.
The Deputy President’s public apology covered complaints from residents of Kericho County that most of the top government appointees in Kericho County are relatives of Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter.
Even then, the DP defended the appointments, saying the officers were qualified and that they had not known that they were Mr Keter’s relatives.
The DP specifically mentioned Dr Ken Sigilai, who chairs the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company, Betty Maina, the principal secretary for the East African Community and her Industrialization counterpart Julius Korir.
This came as CS Keter also acknowledged that Jubilee’s candidate in the Senate race, Mr Aaron Cheruiyot, is his nephew.
It was also a humiliating experience for Governor Paul Chepkwony and all the seven Kericho County MPs who were accused by speakers at the function of not doing enough to campaign for Mr Cheruiyot on the ground.
They also came under heavy fire from other speakers, who accused them of hiding from the DP the truth about the situation on the ground and forming a cordon around him, making it hard for anyone to reach him.
The MPs are Benjamin Langat (Ainamoi), Erick Keter (Belgut, Kanu), Leonard Sang (Bureti), Jackson Rop (Kipkelion West), Joseph Limo (Kipkelion East) and Justice Kipsang Kemei of Sigowet/Soin constituency, who all pledged support for Mr Cheruiyot.