Kenyan government officials are working to stave off a potential political showdown between rival supporters of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, at a public gathering marking the country’s Mashujaa Day on October 20.
The two leaders, who are at odds over President Kenyatta’s successor, are expected to make a rare public appearance at the event in the Kirinyaga district of central Kenya, the president’s backyard, apparently behind Ruto’s offer against Kenyatta’s request.
Kirinyaga is one of 10 counties in the country’s largest electoral bloc, where the rivalry between the president and his deputy was the most intense.
With President Kenyatta retiring next year and no credible leader in his base claiming he is the dominant political figure in the region, Dr. Ruto built a sizeable following there, to the chagrin of the President’s loyalists.
Officials led by Interior Minister Karanja Kibicho, chairman of the committee that organizes the holiday celebrations, has in recent weeks stepped up lobbying against local politicians and groups like Boda Boda drivers who may cause trouble.
Officials were also interested in highlighting full or ongoing government development projects in the region to counter a popular line of attack by pro-ruto politicians on President Kenyatta’s legacy.
Entry to the 10,000-seat stadium has been limited to 2,000 due to current Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings, but officials who organize the Mashujaa Day event expect greater participation on the roadsides where political entourages usually go Make stops to address supporters.
The last time President Kenyatta and Dr. Ruto were seen together at a public event at this year’s Madaraka Day celebrations on June 1st in Kisumu.
Kisumu is the political stronghold of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who, together with DP Ruto, are the alleged front runners in the race to succeed President Kenyatta in 2022.
A peace mobilization campaign by local leaders, including a roadshow by Mr Odinga in the run-up to the event, made for a peaceful and disruption-free day that even saw Dr. Ruto was warmly received by the crowd.
But the political temperatures in the country have risen since then, and the relationship between the president and his deputy has deteriorated further.
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Dr. Ruto has been on the wrong end of the stick for the past 53 days, starting with being prevented by immigration officials from flying to Uganda on a private visit on August 2.
An August 23 television interview in which President Kenyatta publicly urged his breakaway deputy to resign for the first time, rather than criticizing his administration’s policies, appeared to encourage Home Office officials to be more aggressive against Dr. To proceed ruto.
Security at his headquarters in Nairobi was rapidly downgraded, with elite paramilitaries being replaced by police officers from the administration.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i revealed details of Dr. Ruto’s personal wealth.
But the state crackdown also has a siege mentality in Dr. Ruto’s camp, which has led him to step up his campaign, particularly in President Kenyatta’s backyard in central Kenya.
Days after his alleged possessions and wealth were exposed during an appearance on the parliamentary committee by Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i, Ruto organized a campaign tour of parts of central Kenya, during which he drew huge crowds in an apparent show of force.
Given Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru’s recent public show that she went to the DP camp, will Ruto resist the temptation to stage another show in Kirinyaga?