President Uhuru Kenyatta will roll out a bare-knuckle war using state machinery to deflate Deputy President William Ruto’s formidable influence in Mt Kenya.
The Star understands President Kenyatta’s strategists have crafted an elaborate grassroots-driven programme starting in January to counter Ruto and vanquish his State House hopes.
According to the plan, Cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries, CEOs of state agencies and parastatal chiefs will all hit the ground running to preach the Jubilee gospel and glorify its scorecard.
Agriculture CS Peter Munya let the cat out of the bag when he revealed the relentless and meticulously orchestrated plan to take the President’s message to the grassroots.
“As the region’s leaders, our role shall be to deliver the message to the people as from next year,” Munya said.
Having irretrievably fallen out with his second in command, DP Ruto, the President has left no doubt that his favourite is ODM boss Raila Odinga.
The latest plan is aimed at clearing the way for Raila in Mt Kenya, especially after he received strategic endorsement from key political leaders and tycoons of the powerful Mt Kenya Foundation.
The President’s move is to whip the entire public service to take Ruto head on from January, trash the hustler narrative and market Raila as Uhuru’s preferred successor.
The deployment of state machinery against Ruto could complicate his combative bid to succeed his boss, despite their bitter falling out.
Key public servants from Mt Kenya will lead the onslaught against Ruto as the President goes flat out to shore up the region’s perception that his scorecard is excellent.
Of the 21 CSs, Mt Kenya boasts of six, while seven of the 31 Chief Administrative Secretaries also hail from the region. At least 15 of the 44 PSs also come from the vote-rich region.
Most CSs and PSs have been joining Raila in his countrywide Azimio La Umoja tours, signaling their support for him.
Speaking about the details of the message, Munya said part of the assignment would be to explain to the region’s voters why they must turn out in large numbers to participate in the 2022 general election.
There are fears of voter apathy fuelLed by the lack of a formidable presidential candidate from the region as Uhuru retires. The voter registration numbers are low, despite continuous registration.
“We want to ensure that the region delivers a commanding number of votes in next year’s polls,” he said, dismissing those critical of civil servants’ participation in politics.
Munya affirmed that CSs will boldly step up their activities, including ‘politicking’ to give the region direction.
“You cannot intimidate us by telling us that we can not play politics. I have been in politics for a long time and no one holds the monopoly of engagement as far as the 2022 general election is concerned,”he said.
The CS, who is a fierce critic of Ruto, spoke it Kagio, Kirinyaga county, on Friday accompanied by Interior PS Karanja Kibicho.
Munya and Kibicho met 350 representatives from 10 counties across the region, including the region’s council of elders, youths, people with disability and other groups.
This was seen as part of the President’s fresh plan to turn the tables on Ruto as he seeks to maintain grip on the region’s politics even after retirement.
Kibicho also referred to the January programme, warning against attempts to divide Mt Kenya into East versus West.
“We need to put our house in order early enough so that our people will not vote blindly. As a result, we need from January to start sensitising them on the need to ask the right questions to politicians who are begging for their votes,” he said.
Top state officers would be expected to hold town hall meetings with select groups of opinion leaders, including local politicians, teachers and boda boda officials.
Other meetings that will largely be drawn up by the Office of the President, will involve chiefs and their assistants as well as clan elders.
Raila might be invited to some of the meetings as part of the wider scheme to market him.
During the meetings, the grassroots leaders would be advised on both political and development messaging that they will pass on to cross the divide and shore up Uhuru’s support.
President’s position is standard and everything he orders us to do, we shall dutifully do and later ask the reason for doing it. If he orders us to jump, we shall do so and then get to know the reason for doing it later
PS Karanja Kibicho
“From next year, it is going to be bare-knuckle combat because as public officers, we will be heeding the President’s political direction on his succession,” a PS already briefed about the plan said.
While the strategy might be extended to other regions, there are indications it will largely Mt Kenya-centric because of Ruto’s influence.
Kibicho, an influential PS in Uhuru’s administration, insisted that Mt Kenya will follow the President’s political direction to the letter.
“His position is standard and everything he orders us to do, we shall dutifully do and thereafter ask the reason for doing it. For example, if he orders us to jump, we shall do so and then get to know the reason for doing it later,” he said .
The new plan could deflate Ruto’s narrative that Jubilee has failed in its second term because of the President’s handshake with Raila in 2018.
Ruto has held numerous tours targeting the vote-rich region, pointing out Jubilee’s misses in the second term but strategically taking massive credit for the successes of the same administration he criticises.
Fears are growing in Kenyatta’s camp that Ruto’s bottom-up economic model and hustler narrative are gaining traction and hurting his succession plans.
The President’s team would be showcasing his solid scorecard as part of the plan to demolish the hustler nation narrative.
For instance, the team will be touring various development projects being undertaken across Mt Kenya to assess their progress as well as sensitise the public on completed ones.
Some of the mega projects initiated by the President in Mt Kenya include the 582km Mau Mau Road that traverses Meru, Embu, and Tharaka Nithi counties. The key road is being built in honour of the Mau Mau freedom fighters.
The team will also explain the massive resources pumped into the agricultural sector, including reforms in the milk, tea and coffee sectors.
The President appears to have directed his Cabinet and top state officials to support Raila, eight months to the polls.
Just last week, Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, ordered chiefs and their assistants to campaign for Raila because he is the President’s choice.
Matiang’i said all officers serving in the security sector must follow the President’s instructions.
“I am telling chiefs and their assistants and the deputy county commissioners that we must support the President’s direction,” Matiang’i said in Kisumu.
“When the President forms the queue and gives direction of leadership, we in the security sector must be the first to follow,” Matiang’i said.
By The Star