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Kenya:Ruto banks on grassroots leaders to make inroads at the Coast

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Deputy President William Ruto yesterday left Mombasa after a two-day tour where he roped in a new crop of grassroots leaders to his side.

Ruto, who met several groups of people, including the elderly, the women, religious leaders and political leaders, says he is on a path to recover the country from “the grasp of political conmen and fraudsters”.

However, political analysts say the DP still has a long way to go to build a grassroots network in Mombasa and the Coast region as a whole.

In his meetings, Ruto was accompanied by former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar and Nyali MP Mohammed Ali. Other leaders from the Coast region who joined him include MPs Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga), Athman Shariff (Lamu East), Lydia Haika (Taita Taveta county), Rehema Hassan (Tana River county) and senators Juma Wario (Tana River) and Christine Zawadi (nominated).

Political commentator Mkwakuja Mrombo said Ruto is looking to build his numbers at the Coast to satisfy the constitutional requirements of a presidential win.

Article 138( 4 ) (b) stipulates that for one to be declared elected as President, they must receive at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in each of more than half of the counties, which in this case is 24 counties.

“He knows that the Coast region is still largely an ODM zone but he is only trying to get the necessary votes from the region as a top-up,” Mrombo said.

He said for one to get grassroots support, one must have a network and connection at the core and not from politicians. This is what Ruto is trying to get in Mombasa. The DP has a large following in Rift Valley and has made significant inroads in the Western and Central regions.

Omar may appeal to university graduates at the grassroots owing to his focus on education, while Ali might appeal to youths who have grown from humble backgrounds.

The two are the key point men Ruto has in Mombasa after former allies Badi Twalib (Jomvu MP) and Ali Mbogo (Kisauni MP) decamped from his Tanga Tanga camp.

Ruto has managed to rope in renegade ODM MCAs Charles Kitula (Frere Town) and Mohammed Abrari (Kongowea). The two were recently de-whipped from assembly committees for outrightly criticising Governor Hassan Joho and his administration. They will be used to convince youth at the grassroots to join the Hustler Nation, a moniker used to refer to Ruto’s followers, coined from the DP’s reference to himself as a ‘hustler’.

Jubilee politician Abdulsalaam Kassim, who is eyeing the Mombasa senator position for the second time, has also joined the Tangatanga and was given the responsibility to mobilise the youth across the county.

Another Jubilee politician, Ali Mwatsahu, also joined Ruto’s camp. He is eyeing the Mvita MP seat and has been charged with mobilising the youth from the constituency to join Tangatanga. They will all be reporting to Hassan Omar and Mohammed Ali.

The roping in of politicians Haika from Taita Taveta, Rehema and Wario from Tana River and Shariff from Lamu East is seen as a strategy to get footholds in Taita Taveta, Tana River and Lamu counties.

Already, Ruto has a footprint in Kwale, with Mwashetani holding his forte there and Kilifi with Zawadi and Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa already representing his interests. Ruto said he will surprise people in Mombasa and at the Coast region in 2022. “Although we did not get many votes in Mombasa the last time, this time things will be different, Insha Allah,” he said.

In a bid to appease Mombasa and Coast residents, Ruto said the SGR was not meant to impoverish any county. Coast leaders and residents have complained about the negative impact of the SGR, which has had a negative impact on businesses in the region. “We constructed SGR to expand the Mombasa port, improve efficiency and reduce costs. We did not imagine or plan it to be a business opportunity for a few people and have majority impoverished.”

In an apparent response to Jubilee vice chair David Murathe, Ruto said he will not be pushed out of Jubilee using threats and intimidatory tactics. “Those in Jubilee headquarters, who tell us that they are the deciders of things, threatening me should look for another person to threaten and intimidate,” he said.

He said threats against Jubilee members for supporting him must stop. “Uniting Kenyans has no reverse gear. We are going forward. Those trying to take us back to tribal politics have no place in Jubilee.”

He said they are misusing the criminal justice system, including the DCI, KRA and the EACC for their own ‘selfish’ gains. “We formed the party to move the country forward and not take us back to the dark era.

“Some people think we formed the government so that we can leave it to them. How stupid are we to form a government and then leave it to conmen, thugs and foolish people?”

He said those shouting the loudest now were bankrupt but have now stolen from public coffers, including money meant for Covid-19 victims.

“Now they want to lecture us? If there are people to leave (the party) it is not us. It is them,” said Ruto.

“We formed Jubilee because we want to unite the nation and focus on development. We are not going to abandon that course.

“We are on that course come what may, from left or right, in front or from the back, up or down, until we ensure that we will sit on one table no matter who your parents were,” the DP said.