Deputy President William Ruto appears to be treading on a political tightrope after he on Monday caved to mounting pressure and condemned remarks made by Meru Senator Mithika Linturi during Saturday’s rally in Eldoret.
While addressing a crowd at the Eldoret Sports Club, Linturi made remarks that led to outrage, with a section of the public claiming that his sentiment amounted to ethnic incitement.
Linturi’s use of swahili term, ‘madoadoa’ , seemed to have opened up wounds from the past, including the case against Deputy President William Ruto at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Ruto’s stand however appeared to contradict his key United Democratic Alliance (UDA) allies who have ganged up to defend Linturi over his remarks a pointer to a party not speaking from the same political script.
DP Ruto’s key lieutenants led by Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri and Muranga Senator Irungu Kangata waded into the debate immediately Linturi was arrested claiming his arrest was akin to political persecution.
However while addressing a public rally on Monday January 10, Ruto who appeared to cave into pressure cautioned UDA leaders to exercise caution in their remarks during public gatherings.
“We want every inciter in Kenya, whether from UDA or the other side, to apply the law equally so that we can secure our nation. We are a democratic party,” Ruto told a gathering in Bomet County.
DP Ruto has been on campaign trail and on Sunday he addressed a rally in Migori County where he continued to steer clear over the remarks by one of his staunch Mt Kenya supporters that has generated a heated debate in the country. ODM leader Raila Odinga led Kenyans in castigating Linturi and warned UDA leaders against making such reckless remarks that can plunge the country into chaos in the upcoming general elections.
As a sign of how the Linturi issue has divided Ruto’s camp, his key allies and top strategists condemned Linturi’s remarks on social media raising eyebrows as to whether the party has an operational communication command center for its campaign activities.
Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abudulahi and economists David Ndii who are part of the UDA advisory team in Ruto’s camp condemned Linturi’s comment with the strongest terms much to the surprise of his rivals. Other than condemning Linturi, Ndii widened the net and roped in Mathira MP Nderitu Gachagua over his remarks during the well-attended rally in Eldoret.
“Kenyan politicians suffer from microphone disease. Microphone+ crowd and they take leave of their senses. Both Linturi and Gachagua’s comments in Eldoret are sickening. MCs should be tasked to remind every politician of microphone disease before they take the podium,” Ndii posted on twitter.
On his part Ahmednasir wrote “Kalenjins in the Rift Valley (Eldoret) have a constitutional right to vote for a presidential candidate of their choice other than DP Ruto,”
According to Ahmednasir , all Kalenjins in the rift valley just like any other part of Kenya have a right to vote for other presidential candidates apart from William Ruto and that is why everyone must condemn Mithika Linturi’s madoadoa comment.
To buttress the latest arguments that the DP is running a one-man campaign show where he calls the shots without a clear command center his estranged allies Kirinyaga Women Rep Wangui Ngirici and Gatundu MP Moses Kuria have alluded to as a major cause of their fallout.
Ngirici recently claimed there is a clique within Ruto’s camp that is calling the shots in UDA and this had contributed to her decision to dump UDA.
“They are dictating who to vie for which seat and they even control what UDA leaders say during TV and radio debates or even in newspaper stories. That is why you see not all leaders associated with Ruto participating in these debates,” she said.
But Ngirici claimed that the cartel has the blessing of Ruto since the ‘gang’ operates without fear. She cited an instance when insults were hurled at her in a Tanga Tanga Whatsapp group.
Political commentator Ahmed Abudalahi says DP Ruto ought to have set the record straight that he is not party to what was said during the rally and earlier the better he did that to clear the air.
“The DP must show leadership by addressing the issue once and for all in order to put the matter to rest. Otherwise his continued silence gives credence to the ongoing allegations that the remarks had his blessings,” Abidulahi said.
He added that perception can be very costly politically and if he continues to throw caution to the wind with his deafening silence his opponents will make political capital out of such unfortunate remarks.
The DP continued silence since Saturday has been condemned with others saying his Bomet response can be viewed from the prism of ‘too little too late’
“The DP should have clarified the issue when he had the opportunity to speak after Linturi. He only urged Eldoret residents to rally behind UDA. He talked about other aspirants being free to campaign in the area but did not directly address Linturi’s remarks,” Agnes Wambui stated in her Facebook page,
On his part John Odhiambo took a swipe at the casual manner DP’s allies were defending Linturi and not asking the DP to clarify the issue.
“It baffles that DP Ruto’s foot soldiers are defending their ally and yet their boss on whose backyard the utterances were made has given the subject a wide berth for almost two days. He needs to show statesmanship and rise above party politics and condemn such incidents to avoid a repeat of the same,” he said.
Jackson Kibowen defended the DP saying Linturi’s remarks do not warrant his attention since his allies have spoken on his behalf. “ By the DP wading into the subject is giving his competitors fodder to escalate the matter. The matter is being handled by investigative agencies and as a senior government official he should have allowed the law to take its course,” Kibown said.
The term madoadoa has been used since 1992 – in reference to certain communities that were settled in the Rift Valley after independence.
“The desire to remove “foreigners”, derogatorily referred to as “madoadoa” or “spots” from their midst. The reference was mainly towards the Kikuyu, Kisii, Luo and other communities who had found permanent residence in the Rift Valley,” read the findings by the Akiwumi commission.
Ruto was among leaders from the Rift Valley who allegedly used the term that was used to plan attacks on other communities considered outsiders during the skirmishes.
The evidence against him at The-Hague-based court included testimony from a witness who testified hearing Ruto asking Uasin Gishu residents to remove madoadoa ahead of the 2007 General Election.