Inside Politics

Ruto’s strategy in a bid to tame Raila, opposition

Friday, March 17th, 2023 06:50 | By
Ruto at KICC on March 2, 2023, during the launch of Women Enterprise Fund. Photo/Facebook/State House Kenya

President William Ruto has laid out an elaborate strategy that includes allowing the much-touted Opposition mass action rallies as part of a scheme to weaken and isolate Raila Odinga in his strongholds.

The President is, however, categorical that the protests must remain peaceful.

Hinged on the perception that Raila has in the past used such means to negotiate his way into government, Ruto has been on a charm offensive in Opposition regions of Nyanza, Western and Coast, which are anticipated to be the epicentre of the protests.

Government insiders say the President’s aim is not only meant to weaken Raila’s muscles in his background, but also inflame internal fighting and suspicion within the Opposition outfit while at the same deflating their momentum.

Leaving nothing to chance, the Head of State is also said to have roped some members of the international and diplomatic community as well as religious to pile pressure on Raila to drop the mass action and instead “give the government more time” to implement its agenda.

Sources told People Daily that Raila had on Tuesday confessed to a section of his MPs about the pressure that some members of the international and diplomatic community was piling on him.

 During a gathering of MPs from Luo Nyanza at the home of Nyando MP Jared Okelo on Tuesday evening, Raila is said to have divulged how he was under pressure to drop the planned Monday protest.

“Let me tell you, Raila is under so much pressure. He shared with us what he has been going through and we were shocked. Now he is in a catch-22 situation,” an MP who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter told People Daily.

 But the MPs are said to have urged him on, discouraging him from dropping the planned mass action at the eleventh hour.

 Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka appeared to confirm this when he warned the international community against interfering with the internal affairs of a sovereign State and should instead leave it to sort out its problems.

 “The government is using foreign missions to incite the diaspora community against the Opposition as well as to paint them in bad light to the international community,” Kalonzo told a rally in Nakuru.

 With only three days to Monday, the day Azimio leader has set to begin his countrywide protests against President Ruto’s government and the high cost of living, security chiefs have been given firm instructions not to interfere with the demonstrations as long as they remain peaceful and the participants do not break any law.

 Sources in the Executive Office of the Presidency intimated that all Regional Police Commanders and County Police Commanders have been directed to allow the protests to go on in their jurisdictions for as long as Raila and his allies would wish.

 They have, however, been instructed not to allow any gathering that would be seen to be out to cause violence, destruction of property, agitation for violence or inciting members of the public against the authorities.

Delicate balancing

 “It is a delicate balancing act for the President as he, on one hand, intends to allow the demonstrations to be held peacefully while on the other, he wants to deter the same rallies from turning violent or into incitement platforms,” a senior police officer told People Daily yesterday.

 On Wednesday, Ruto assured Kenyans that they have nothing to worry over the planned countrywide protests by Azimio la Umoja next week.

 “The government will not allow loss of life, destruction of property and looting. We will not allow a few individuals who have refused to accept election results to cause chaos among peace loving people,” said President Ruto as he urged Raila to liaise with police over the planned demonstrations. And as he moves to flatter the Opposition on one hand by allowing the rallies, the President has been on an overdrive to weaken and isolate Raila in his strongholds by courting Raila’s allies with promises of goodies in the form of development.

 For over a month since Raila declared his intention to call for mass action, the President has been receiving delegations from the Opposition zones at State House in  Nairobi with the leaders distancing themselves from the protests and promising to work with the government.

 The latest of such delegation was on Wednesday when Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya led leaders from the county to State House, where he committed to working with President Ruto’s government, claiming the region has lagged behind for years for affiliating itself with the Opposition.

Following the State House meeting, the county boss says he has been promised among other goodies, funding to boost infrastructure development in the county, upgrade of Kitale town, acquisition of 150 acres from prisons for Kitale town’s expansion, modernisation and expansion of Kitale town to accommodate the growing population and the tarmacking of 30Km of roads within Kitale municipality.

 Earlier, on Monday, the President hosted close to 31 leaders from Raila’s backyard as part of a sustained political onslaught aimed at endearing himself to a region that barely voted for him in the last presidential elections.

The delegation comprised former governors Dr Evans Kidero (Nairobi), Zachary Obado (Migori), Jack Ranguma (Kisumu) and former Senators Fred Outa (Kisumu), Rose Nyamunga (Nominated) and former Police spokesman Charles Owino.

 The meeting came days after the President’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) opened an office in Kisumu.

Perhaps in a move also meant to counter the mass action call by Azimio, yesterday President Ruto nominated Kidero, Gumbo and Outa as Chief Administrative Secretaries.

The President has reportedly made inroads in Western, where he has won the support of Opposition governors Wilber Ottichilo (Vihiga), Paul Otuoma (Busia), Fernandes Barasa (Kakamega) Natembeya.

 The President is also said to have employed some churches to pile pressure on the Opposition chief to back down from the protest.

True democrat

 On Tuesday, the National Council of Churches of Kenya urged Ruto to reach out to the ODM chief for dialogue in a bid to forestall the escalation of ongoing protests.

 And yesterday, Kisii Catholic Diocese Bishop Joseph Okemwa Mairura told Raila that Kenyans would hold him responsible for any death, bloodshed and destruction of properties that may occur on Monday.

 Mairura asked Raila to call off the demonstrations and engage the government through dialogue and round-table negotiations of any wrong doing if he means well for Kenyans and the country.

  “I am asking Raila to be a true democrat by accepting that he lost the presidential election after the Supreme Court upheld the election of President Ruto. He should, therefore, focus on how to go about the position in 2027 instead of engaging Kenyans in destructive sideshows,” he implored.

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