By Moses Arap Menjo
EIGHTEEN villagers from different parts of Rift Valley were last Wednesday hosted at the Ruto owned Weston Hotel along Langata Road.
The group were among those that had earlier been identified as frequent callers to KASS FM talk shows and had been invited to Nairobi under an all-expenses paid trip sponsored by Deputy President William Ruto.
A good number of them were from the Kericho and Bomet counties. They were misled to believe they were coming to meet the Deputy President.
What was at stake?
The DP Ruto has found it increasingly difficult to endure daily criticism from his supporters on air through KASS FM. In going out of his way to dig up telephone numbers of KASS FM callers, contacting them and asking them to come to Nairobi, the DP was going the extra mile at stopping his rapidly dwindling reputation in Kalenjin counties.
The KASS FM frequent callers have set the political agenda for the Kalenjin in public barazas, markets, and on social media, and therefore the DP thought it wise to outrightly purchase the loyalty of these callers who have earned fame on air through their relentless criticism of the political con-game that is the 50/50 Jubilee coalition.
The perception in Rift Valley is that more public jobs are finding TNA beneficiaries at the expense of URP. The Kalenjin see the DP as having been reduced to an observer, and only become relevant when being misused to lead unpopular government programs such as Operation Usalama Watch that has seen hundreds of thousands of Somalis persecuted through ethnic profiling.
The calls to KASS FM reached a crescendo last month when career civil servant Kiplimo Rugut was unceremoniously replaced with former State House Comptroller Nelson Githinji as the Director General of the National Youth Service. To rub it in, Rugut was reportedly sacked via SMS by the powerful Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru, who was later to be seen conducting the visiting Chinese Prime Minister around NYS, with a forlorn Deputy President Ruto dutifully following behind them.
What did the eighteen have in common?
Like Hon Alfred Keter, Hon Zakayo Cheruiyot and Bomet Govenor Isaac Ruto, many ordinary Kalenjins have in recent weeks openly advocated for URP to walk out of its coalition with TNA. The resentment against the URP Leader William Ruto has reached alarming levels in the airwaves. Everyday, KASS FM receives thousands of calls in which the public freely comment on topical issues and in the last one month, the airwaves have been dominated by talk about URP being undermined by its coalition partner TNA, and the DP Ruto seemingly taking sides with TNA.
The eighteen who were mobilized to enjoy services at the posh Weston Hotel were discreetly identified as the most ardent critics of the DP and quietly summoned to Nairobi for a meeting with the boss. Never mind that KASS violated privacy and media laws by revealing the mobile numbers of these callers to the DPâ€™s handlers. Actually, the DP first began by greasing the show hosts to calm down listeners, but they too were overwhelmed by the anti-Ruto wave that is building up in Rift Valley.
Why Kass FM?
Arguably the most popular FM station in wholeÂ of Rift Valley that broadcasts exclusively in vernacular Kalenjin language with a daily reach of 4.5 million listeners, not to mention its online live stream, and two stations in diaspora. Its Len Nee Emet (What the Nation is saying) is a popular show on Kass FM that acts as a discussion forum on Kalenjin issues and is commonly used to gauge public mood in Kalenjin counties. Most of the eighteen individuals summoned at Weston are frequent callers to Len Nee Emet, which was popularised by presenter Joshua Arap Sang and led to his indictment by the International Criminal Court.
At Weston Hotel
The luxury Weston Hotel, now nearing completion, sits on a grabbed plot opposite Wilson Airport is a Ruto family investment. It has increasingly been used by Rutoâ€™s to host delegations in recent days.
On arrival at the hotel, eighteen Kass callers found that contrary to promises given before they reached Nairobi that they would be meeting Deputy President, they found Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Kosgey waiting for them â€œwith a message from the DPâ€.
Apparently Ruto had gotten wind that the presence of KASS FM listeners in Nairobi had been leaked to certain quarters and was unwilling to be seen with them publicly.
Sudi and Kosgey were therefore mandated by Ruto to have a honest chat with the the DP’s radio critics and implore upon them to tone down their anti-Ruto talk on air. Sudi explained that the DP is undertaking a delicate balancing act of placating President Uhuruâ€™s supporters who he expects will back his bid for presidency if he maintains calm and does not rock the Jubilee boat.
Each of the eighteen KASS callers, whose names are withheld, received a paltry Ksh15,000/- each as a token of appreciation from DP Ruto with each pledging to tone down their criticism of the DP and URP on Kass FM.
For his part, CS Kosgey is walking on thin ice as the constitution specifically prohibits cabinet members from engaging in politics.