Ruto – NRM meeting: Is it payback time?

The Sunday Monitor two weeks ago broke news that Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto summoned NRM primaries poll losers from Sebei sub-region to his home town, Eldoret in Kenya. It also emerged that on November 18, Mr Ruto had met the NRM flag bearers in various positions in Sebei at his offices in Nairobi.

A report on the meetings in Nairobi and Eldoret prepared by Mr Anthony Kuka Cherotich, the PS political affairs at Uganda’s State House – a copy of which this newspaper has seen – indicates that the agenda of the two meetings weaved around the state of NRM in Sebei sub-region, the roads and other social services.

“Leadership is about service and should not be abused. Unity among Sabaot (including Sabiny in Uganda) is key for development of the region and supporting Museveni is very vital if Sebei is to develop,” the report quotes Ruto to have told the meetings.

Mr Kuka, when asked about the authenticity of the minutes of the two meetings, was quick to respond.

“The major issue was the road. Both delegations asked Mr Ruto to lobby the Ugandan government to construct the Kapchorwa-Suam Road, which is in a sorry state.

He also agreed to help improve border security, and improve school standards in Kapkoros in Bukwo, Ngenge in Kween and Tumbaboi in Kapchorwa,” Mr Kuka, who was part of the two meetings, said. However, he did not commit himself on what the source of the finances would be.

‘Join NRM presidential candidate’

The report also said the teams asked Mr Ruto to join NRM presidential candidate Museveni when he goes to Sebei to ask for the vote this week to which Ruto promised to attend.

Reports from other members of the delegation who are reluctant to be associated with the meeting also indicate that the politicians were given an inducement of more than Ksh4m (about Shs140 million) to grease their campaigns. This newspaper could not, however, independently verify this.

But the revelation that leaders from the sub-region were in Nairobi sparked off debate of what role the Jubilee principal is playing in the Ugandan politics.

On October 8, Mr Ruto was in Kampala for the National Prayer breakfast. While at the prayer breakfast, Mr Museveni, in passing, opened doors for the astute politician when he asked Ruto to work with the people of Sebei. Later that evening, the Sabiny community in Kampala hosted the Kenyan Number Two to a dinner at Silver Springs in Bugolobi.

During the meeting, Mr Ruto pledged to promote cordial relationship between his country and Uganda.

But the bigger news came the next day when he accompanied President Museveni to the Independence Day celebrations in Gulu. Mr Ruto’s posture towards the political climate in Kampala was telling.

“Mr Museveni’s competitors were recently in Kenya trying to get a formula to unite, but they instead met up with people who have problems with unity and have failed to win elections,” he said of claims that Ugandan Opposition leaders had trooped to Nairobi to consult opposition kingpin Odinga.

Mr Ruto also said the Jubilee government was willing to promote trade relations with Uganda.

“We commit to you and people of Uganda that the projects and programmes you agreed upon with your brother Uhuru will be fulfilled, ranging from railway lines, pipelines, infrastructure and energy projects,” he said.

So was the Sabiny community in Nairobi and Eldoret to lobby for better service delivery in their sub-region or for political gains in their country?

Members of the team that accompanied the flag bearers to Nairobi for the meeting with Ruto have told this newspaper that for Sebei sub-region to attain independence from Bugisu in 1961, a delegation from the sub-region took the matter to Moi’s doorstep in Nairobi and the influential Moi – then not even in power – urged the Ugandan colonial government to grant Sebei a district.

“It is because of Moi that Sebei got a district status. It is because of Moi that the Mbale-Kapchorwa road was tarmacked under the East African Community initiative and during his reign he would meet Sabiny in Kampala to discuss development issues.

It is because of this reason that we continue to enjoy the cordial relationship with Kenya,” one of the members said, adding that the ashes of 2011 have now turned into firewood for the 2016 polls and the road to Bukwo will determine the political undertones.

Mr Kuka, however, says the regime he represented in Nairobi plans to tarmac the road in April and that irrigation scheme, resettlement, health services and other social services are the priority.

But why would a whole sub-region carry all their grievances more than 530km away yet their solutions could be solved just less than 300km in the capital Kampala?

The politicians were busy in nomination rallies and mobilisation, but some of the Nairobi meeting delegation that Sunday Monitor met pointed to frustration.

They claimed they are using the neighbouring country to force Uganda to help them in provision of services.

This newspaper has also established that after the first meeting in Nairobi, the NRM flag bearers asked Mr Ruto to meet their rivals on the pretext that the yellow party should be kept intact and consolidate President Museveni’s support in the sub-region.

However, the political relationship between the two countries is not new.

In the run-up to the March 2013 general election in Kenya, politicians hoping to succeed then president Mwai Kibaki had separately found their way to Kampala, Uganda.

Then prime minister Raila Odinga, vice president Kalonzo Musyoka, deputy prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Eldoret north MP William Samoei Ruto, and Justice and constitutional affairs minister Eugene Wamalwa were among the notable leaders to head to Kampala.

The other deputy prime minister and Local Government minister Musalia Mudavadi was also reported to have made the trip to President Museveni’s offices in Kampala.

The media in the two countries was lyrical about the role President Museveni was trying to play in the succession politics in Kenya.

At one point President Museveni visited Kisumu during the inauguration of the Great Lakes University Education Fund and he is reported to have had a secret 20-minute chat with opposition principal Raila Odinga.

The event also resulted in Mr Museveni being installed an elder of the Luo community and subsequently given the name Ogolla. However, Raila has recently been one of the critics of Mr Museveni’s involvement in the Nairobi regime – frothing at the trade deals between presidents Uhuru and Museveni.

Yet that was neither the first nor the last love-hate relationship between the Ugandan leader and the Kenyan politicians.

Save for the 1987 icy relationship between Kenya and Uganda, Kenya’s former president Daniel Torotich arap Moi, the man from the Kalenjin ethnic group, which Mr Ruto and the Sabiny from Sebei in eastern Uganda belong to, and Mr Museveni largely enjoyed their relationship.

Private guest

During celebrations to mark 25 years of NRM in power, Moi, who was invited as a private guest of President Museveni, asked Ugandans to embrace the idea of a fourth term.

“When leadership of one person is good why should people complain,” Mr Moi said to thunderous hand claps and shouting from the crowd of NRM supporters some of whom carried placards urging Museveni to stay on for a fourth term and chanted “abeewo” (he should stay).

And when the professor of politics retired, two proteges in Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto staggered onto the big stage. Mr Museveni has equally embraced them.

The involvement of Ruto in Sebei affairs is a double aged sword it plays for both the blood relationship he and Moi have in that region and for the regime in Kampala.



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