Latter-day Young Turks waiting to flex muscles in government
William Ruto election as Kenya’s fifth President has come with the emergence of a new generation of “Young Turks” who bucked the trend and played a major role in his campaigns and are now angling to reap benefits as the new administration takes over tomorrow.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has already set the tone for the ceremony, saying he will hand over the instruments of power as required by the Constitution even as he expressed his reservations with the Supreme Court ruling, which upheld IEBC’s declaration that Ruto had won the August 9 presidential election.
With Uhuru set to exit the stage, the incoming President will have his hands full in managing the bold and abrasive youthful leaders who took on the old guard during presidential campaigns and pushed for Ruto’s election.
Many of the young politicians handed their competitors resounding defeats in the races for governor, senator and MP seats.
Among the most vocal were Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa and his Kiharu counterpart, Ndindi Nyoro, who used abrasive political manoeuvres to drum up support for their presidential candidate, eventually tilting the scales in Ruto’s favour in his battle with Azimio One-Kenya flagbearer Raila Odinga. Others who were equally vociferous were Irungu Kang’ata (now Murang’a governor), Kipchumba Murkomen, Oscar Sudi, Samson Cherargei and Moses Kuria, all of who pulled no punches in their campaign messaging.
Although Kuria did not win in Kiambu, he was instrumental in shaping the political narrative, especially around the presidential contest.
Most of the vocal leaders hail from the Mt Kenya region, just like Deputy President-elect Rigathi Gachagua, a first-term MP who is now a heartbeat away from the presidency.
A few others are from Ruto’s Rift Valley backyard, the most visible being Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot and his Trans Nzoia counterpart Allan Chesang.
Like the “Young Turks” of the 1990s, they took on authority figures and government agencies in a brazen style in the run-up to the August 9 election.
With the administration taking over tomorrow, they will most likely be demanding a place at the high table as they seek to cash the dividend of their hard-hitting campaign rhetoric.
Ichung’wa, Kang’ata and Nyoro are among several leaders positioning themselves to become the new faces of politics of the Mt Kenya region under the Ruto administration. They will be competing in that arena with Gachagua, who is not only their elder but now their political senior in the government and ruling party pecking order.
Their efforts have seen political heavyweights such as Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe and Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni fall by the wayside.
Others who fell under the yellow UDA wave were former Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Amos Kimunya and former governors Nderitu Muriithi (Laikipia) and Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), who hitherto commanded influence in the Kikuyu community due to their proximity to President Uhuru, the leader of Jubilee and chair of the Azimio Council, the coalition’s highest decision-making body.
The new crop of politicians are reminiscent of the early 1990s when the doyen of opposition politics in Kenya Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was surrounded by young acolytes, including James Orengo (now Siaya Governor), Gitobu Imyanyara, Kiraitu Murungi, Paul Muite, Raila, Anyang’ Nyong’o, Mukhisa Kituyi and Martha Karua who gave President Daniel arap Moi a hard time with their unrelenting criticism of his administration.
Many of these politicians joined government when Mwai Kibaki succeeded Moi in 2002.
Having dethroned several pro-establishment governors and lawmakers, the new crop of Young Turks are positioning themselves to occupy the vacuum left in their respective regions, not to mention a slice of the “Hustlers’ cake”, including appointment of their allies to positions in government agencies.
While Raila appeared to put almost all his eggs in the hands of the old guard who have been tried, tested and proven in the past, Ruto took more risks by working with the youthful candidates, who put their necks on the line given the political dynamics that played out in places like Mt Kenya and parts of Nyanza.
Ichung’wa, now the only MP in Mt Kenya serving a third term, is now eyeing the position of Majority Leader in the National Assembly, a position that could make him the senior most among his peers.
His candidature, however, will be largely determined by UDA’s need to ensure regional balance now that the Speaker is from Western Kenya and his deputy is from Rift Valley.
Should Ichung’wa succeed, this would see him play a key role on behalf of the government since he will be the Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly.
This could increase his visibility in the political arena, as happened with Aden Duale, who also served in the same position before being dropped.
Another man to watch will be Ndindi, a crusader of the hustler nation against the dynasty narrative. He broke a three-decades-long history to secure the Kiharu seat for a second term. The constituency has had a long history of not re-electing sitting MPs since 1988 when the seat was held by Kenneth Matiba, himself a firebrand politician who also gunned for the presidency and finished second after Moi in the 1992 election. Ndindi is expected to secure a House leadership position.
Kang’ata, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja, Wesley Rotich (Elgeyo Marakwet) and outgoing Chief Administrative Secretary Ababu Namwamba, who headed Ruto’s presidential campaign’s international relations wing, are also angling for top seats.
In Nakuru, Susan, the daughter of the late politician Kihika Kimani, has earned her space in the political arena after first becoming one of the first female senators in 2017, and this year, winning the governor’s seat.
Kihika had crossed swords with the establishment, as a result of which in 2020, she lost her position of Majority Whip in the Senate.
After the August polls, she is now one of ten women governors, and one with the most diverse political experience, having served as Speaker of the Nakuru County Assembly at one point.
Another young politician to watch is former investigative journalist Mohammed Ali, who in 2017, used his association with Raila to win the Nyali parliamentary seat as an independent candidate. This time round, he switched political camps, and was re-elected on a UDA ticket, becoming the only MP from the party in Mombasa County. The legislator is a man to watch, especially in the sharing of committee seats in the National Assembly.
So is South Mugirango’s Silvanus Osoro whose fortunes have risen due to his association with UDA. He is among those eyeing the position of Majority Whip in the National Assembly, and the need to have the face of Kenya in the leadership of the Legislature could favour his candidature.
Osoro has been Ruto’s point man in the Gusii, and despite the region being one of Raila’s strongholds, he, for a second time won against the ODM wave.
The equally controversial Kimilili MP Didmas Barasa, is also expected to go for a key post in the National Assembly after he went against the grain and secured his seat in a region that has been Raila’s traditional stronghold.
The MP will, however, have to deal with the criminal case hanging over his head like a sword of Damocles, following a fatal shooting on election day.