NEWLY-ELECTED KENYAN LEADER ENDS VOTING BY TRIBE, ANALYSTS SAY
Aug. 22, 2022 (GIN) - Is the two party system a thing of the past? Low voter turnout in the U.S. seems to reflect disenchantment with a single choice between Democrat and Republican. Kenya is no
This month, Kenyans tossed the traditional toss-up between the Luo and Kikuyu ethnic groups to choose William Samoei Ruto, a Kalenjin. His party, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and its allies, took the political experts by surprise when he easily won all nine governorships of Mount Kenya - once considered a sure bet for a Luo.
Raila Odinga, son of a prominent Luo figure in Kenya’s struggle for independence, was making his fifth attempt at the presidency and was expected to sweep in the Luo region. Support from the outgoing president, Uhuru Kenyatta, failed to put him over the top.
Meanwhile, “Ruto went to the remotest villages of Mount Kenya and talked to the lowest of market vendors,” said Peter Kagwanja who campaigned for Odinga and is head of the Africa Policy Institute, a think-tank in Nairobi. “He took a strong populist approach and his populism won.”
Margaret Njeri Mubuu, an elderly activist in the Kikuyu community, explained that she abandoned the party for its elitism to vote for Ruto. Meeting him at a campaign stop, she asked for help thwarting plans by the National Land Commission to evict villagers from their ancestral lands.
"The government that you voted for is not a government of breaching the law,” Ruto replied. “No one will be evicted forcefully so long as you have the ownership documents.”
“(Kenyatta) ignored the region, people were just fed up,” said Justin Muturi, speaker of the National Assembly for Mount Kenya. “People resonated with Ruto’s down-to-earth approach and economic message and concerns of the people. It has nothing to do with being Kikuyu or not anymore.”
Elected member of parliament from the UDA, Gabriel Kagombe, offered this explanation: “People no longer vote on an ethnic basis… Ruto said this nonsense of people voting on a tribal basis, having no other consideration than tribe, must come to an end,” he told the Guardian UK.
“Ruto has managed to kill tribalism in this country,” Kagombe said. “It’s the dawn of a new era.”
Ruto’s stump speech included vows to invest in agriculture which resonated among farmers in Mount Kenya facing higher food and fertilizer prices.
Although now a wealthy man, the 55 year old Ruto stresses his early roots as a roadside food vendor selling local chicken to passing truck drivers. He walked long distances to school, shoeless, knocking his toes on rocks and leaving bloody toenails behind. But that was his past.
Many admire the politician able to go from being a hustler to a millionaire with an estimated net worth of over 41 billion Kenyan shillings (US$333,899) and is ranked among the top 10 richest people in Kenya.
Meanwhile, Kenyan president-elect Ruto says that if there’s a court challenge to the election results, “we will engage in those” as East Africa's most stable democracy awaits a likely petition from losing candidate Raila Odinga. w/pix of W. Ruto