August 9

DP, Karua trade barbs in bid to win Central’s heart

Monday, July 4th, 2022 01:34 | By
Deputy President William Ruto at Laare Trading Centre, Igembe North, Meru county, yesterday. PD/DORCAS MBATIA
Deputy President William Ruto at Laare Trading Centre, Igembe North, Meru county. PD/DORCAS MBATIA

The race to win voters from the Mountain heated up yesterday with the Kenya Kwanza team, led by Deputy President William Ruto, directing pointed criticism against Martha Karua—Raila Odinga’s running mate in Azimio-One Kenya.

Karua has been Raila’s top campaigner in the region and is credited with driving Raila’s rising fortunes in the Mountain that is also President Uhuru Kenyatta’s political home turf.

Ruto and Raila are locked in a tight race for the presidency and the Mt Kenya region is seen as a significant bloc, having more than four million voters. The region has been heavily tilted in Ruto’s favour but Raila has been making inroads there since he picked Karua as his running mate.

Besides addressing issues that affect voters there—such as improving the prices of tea and finding markets for miraa—the leaders on the opposing camps have also set out to show rivals as unfit for office.

Azimio has questioned Kenya Kwanza’s commitment to fight corruption. And yesterday, they criticised Ruto over his remarks last week that there was a day in 2017 that he considered slapping the President.

Uhuru’s election had been nullified by the Supreme Court, and according to a widely shared audio recording, Ruto is heard claiming that the President wanted to give it all up. At that point, Ruto says in the recording, he wanted to slap Uhuru.

Azimio leaders yesterday criticised Ruto over the remark, saying a politician who can think of slapping the President is not fit to be commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

No moral authority

But Ruto also hit back, targeting Karua directly for the first time and accusing her of pushing for Uhuru to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court in 2013. Uhuru was at the time seeking the presidency with Ruto, his co-accused as his running mate.

Kenya Kwanza had avoided taking on Karua directly but yesterday said she could not be trusted because she had wanted Uhuru tried at ICC.

Both Ruto and his running mate, Rigathi Gachagua, said Karua had no authority to lecture them on how to relate with President Uhuru.

Speaking in Igembe South on the second day of his tour of the region, Ruto asked: “Where were you when we formed the government (in 2013)? We know you very well; you have never supported Uhuru. You have never campaigned or voted for him and now you are the people who are trying to defend him”.

The DP was speaking in reference toKarua’s role as Justice minister during the handling of the ICC cases against Uhuru and himself relating to the post-election violence of 2007. The violence was sparked by a dispute over the results of that year’s presidential election.

Gachagua also took a swipe at Karua, who is also set to be in charge of the Justice Ministry if Azimio wins next month’s election.

“I want to tell my sister Martha Karua that you have no capacity and moral authority to speak on behalf of the President. You were not available when he needed help and support,” said Gachagua.

He also accused Karua of walking out on the then President Mwai Kibaki when he faced challenges from Raila. Kibaki also hailed from the Mt Kenya region.

“Anybody who could not work with President Kibaki, the gentleman of Kenyan politics, has no business being in leadership. Martha Karua opposed Uhuru in 2013 against the wishes of Mt Kenya. Spare us,” said Gachagua.

And while addressing a rally at Laare in Igembe North, Ruto said he had no personal differences with his boss, instead claiming that he was blocked from power during Jubilee’s second term. 

“Stop asking me why I did not deliver because you know why. In our first term we worked smoothly and delivered some of our development promises,” he said and promised to implement President Uhuru’s Big Four Agenda if elected.

Ruto also took a broad swipe at his critics, who have said he does not respect the President. He said that the manifesto he unveiled last week did not mention anybody’s name as alleged by Azimio leaders.

But speaking in Nairobi, Karua warned Kenyans against electing Ruto as president, saying he lacks the temperament and integrity for the office.

Reacting to media reports that Ruto almost slapped Uhuru following the 2017 nullification of the presidential election, Karua said Ruto lacked respect for his office as Deputy President.

In a thinly veiled reference to Ruto, she said there were individuals who want to be elected simply because they are angry.

“If you see them tell them that wananchi are equally angry because they have no food on their tables. Being angry will not make you be elected as president,” said Karua during various stops in the capital, where she drummed up support for Raila.

“Stop abusing the President,” Karua said. “If you will ever be elected president, you also need to be respected. I am not telling you not to criticise anyone, do it in a respectful way.”

Empty promises

Karua warned Kenyans that if a leader does not respect the office that he holds, he is unlikely to change if he ascends to a higher one.

“Kenyans must be able to judge some of these leaders through their utterances and actions, as being Christian is not by baptism only or by going to church frequently, it’s the character,” she told congregants at African Divine Church in Westlands. “Those of us seeking political offices, let’s be patient and stop threatening those occupying the offices you seek to ascend to,” she said.

But speaking in Meru, Ruto claimed that Raila and Karua were the President’s enemies because they have never supported the Jubilee government. 

He was responding to Uhuru’s sentiments yesterday that some politicians were making empty promises yet they had failed to discharge their mandates over the last eight years. “We have seen leaders moving around making a lot of noise about what they will do, yet they had an opportunity to serve the country for the last eight years,” Uhuru had said at the weekend while officiating at a military passing out parade.

But yesterday, Ruto blamed the economic hardships facing Kenyans on the 2018 handshake between the President and Raila.

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