William Ruto’s election victory signals shift in Kenya’s political dynasties
Kenya’s founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, once wrote that his Kikuyu ethnic group, the largest in the country, governed itself according to “democratic principles”.
But, in a country whose electorate has long voted on ethnic lines and for established political dynasties, it came as a shock to its political heirs when the Kikuyu people of Kenyatta’s home region of Mount Kenya voted overwhelmingly for Vice President, William Ruto, a Kalenjin. Ruto’s party, the UDA, and its allies have also swept through the nine governorates of Mount Kenya.
“We have underestimated how much our people have been taken over by the UDA,” said Jeremiah Kionigeneral secretary of Jubilee, the party of incumbent president and son of Kenyatta, Uhuru, who backed veteran opposition, Raila Odinga.
Ruto, who has cast himself as a ‘scammer’ in the face of political titans, won by a narrow margin this week and Odinga, a Luo who was in his fifth bid for the presidency, is challenging the election result in front of courts.
It is unclear when Ruto will take power, but his triumph heralds a move away from ethnic voting and independence-era politicians. Although Ruto has been nationally declared winner by a slim margin of 1.64 percent of Kenya’s total vote, he won a landslide victory in Mount Kenya, Kenyatta’s home territory.
With an average voter turnout of around 67%, slightly above the national average of around 65%, Ruto won some 80% of the vote while Odinga won over 18% in the nine counties combined. Mount Kenya regionaccording to data from Egalitarian policya platform for sourcing official results.
“We are certainly very democratic. We grew up with Uhuru, but he disowned us, betrayed us, so we all voted for Ruto,” said Margaret Njeri Mubuu, a neighbor of the Kenyatta family in Mutomo town. She is also the leader of a group of nearly three dozen Kikuyu in Mutomo who voted en bloc for Ruto.
For the first time since the return to multiparty politics in the 1990s, no Kikuyu candidate has run for Kenya’s presidency. Transcending ethnicity, Ruto delivered a cross-ethnic ‘nation hustler’ message with promises to invest heavily in agriculture, which resonated with farmers in Mount Kenya who are facing higher food prices and fertilizers.
“People no longer vote on an ethnic basis,” said Gabriel Kagombe, who was elected MP for Mutomo under Ruto’s UDA party. “Ruto said this nonsense of people voting on a tribal basis, and having no other consideration in the ballot other than tribe, must end. He succeeded in killing tribalism in this country. It is the dawn of a new era.
A growing elite detachment from his power base also contributed to Ruto’s victory. While the Kenyattas have become one of the wealthiest families in Kenya, residents of Mutomo complain about the lack of a hospital and secondary school, clean water and land grabbing by “the state”. deep “.
Uhuru Kenyatta was so sure of his support in the region that he did not visit “the people.” Ruto took the opportunity to travel to the most remote villages of Mount Kenya and talk to the lowest sellers in the market. He took a strong populist approach and his populism won,” said Peter Kagwanja, who campaigned for Odinga and is the head of the Africa Policy Institute, a think tank in Nairobi.
“The president ignored the area, people were just fed up,” said Justin Muturi, Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya and Spokesperson for Mount Kenya Communities. “They just thought William Ruto was the best option. People resonated with his down-to-earth approach and his economic message and people’s concerns. They felt he was closer to them than Uhuru Kenyatta. It has nothing to do with being Kikuyu or not anymore.
The results in Mount Kenya indicate a shift away from ethnic politics, which in previous polls had led to deadly post-election violence. “This time we didn’t care about the tribe. We have just voted for a man in whom we believed, a man who supported us through the ages and who needed our support,” said Cecily Mbarire, the governor-elect of Embu with Ruto’s once-ally party. by Kenyatta.
The same families have dominated the Kenyan political scene since the 1960s when Jomo Kenyatta and Odinga’s father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, vied for power in the aftermath of independence from Britain.
Ruto, a protege of the late President Daniel arap Moi, handed over his Rift Valley constituents to Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013 and 2017 against Raila Odinga on the understanding that he would succeed the president in 2022. The Kikuyu have taken this to heart , they said. But Uhuru Kenyatta instead swung to throw his weight behind his old foe, Raila Odinga. In doing so, he has “broken” the Kikuyu principle of keeping one’s word, or Kiriikosaid Joel Kumuru, an 87-year-old farmer from Mutomo who voted for Ruto this time.
It was “a betrayal,” Kikuyu Group member George Keingati told Mutomo. “It doesn’t matter if Ruto is a Kalenjin, he is one of us now, he listens to us.” The change also confused voters. “This time he was telling us that Ruto was no good, but whoever faced them before, Raila, now he’s good. How? It makes no sense,” said Joseph Kamau, a 27-year-old Kikuyu mechanic from Nyeri.
Odinga has until Monday to appeal. The court then has two weeks to decide. Kikuyu voters warn that Odinga’s attempt to push for a replay is unwelcome. “We have rejected them now and if they try to come back, we will reject them again, and in greater numbers, we will bring more people,” Mubuu said.
Echoing the losses felt by Odinga and Kenyatta, Gideon Moi, son of the longtime former president, lost his Senate seat. “It’s an erosion of that power cluster,” said Macharia Munene, a Nairobi-based political analyst. “People are turning away from this, saying they won’t be taken for granted anymore.” For Kagwanja: “Old dynasties are gone, maybe new dynasties will come. Ruto itself evolves as a dynasty.