Wycliffe Muga: Moi, Ruto Gear up for Titanic Battle - The Star

My fellow Star columnist Charles Mzee recently wrote that one Maina Njenga, former supreme leader of the 'Mungiki' terror squads and now a born-again Christian, was likely to be one of the key factors in determining the outcome of the 2012 election.

He then presented a historic, as well as a sociological account of why the increasing polarisation of the people of Central Province into a small, selfish and manipulative group of "haves" and a very large, dispossessed, and previously easily manipulated group of "have nots" would reach a point of resolution, one way or another, in the 2012 elections.

And that Njenga, as the undisputed leader of the "have nots", would be the single most important person in that crucial election.

At least, that is what I understood Mzee to say in that column.

While I largely agreed with his detailed assessment of why the "have nots" of Central Province have had a raw deal going back to the Mau Mau insurrection of the 1950s, I will only believe in Njenga's reputed massive political influence after I have seen it in action.

Our short history of multiparty democracy has provided many cases of political leaders who seemed to have irresistible influence, but were later found to be incapable of delivering much in the way of presidential votes cast in the millions, or constituencies swept by the dozen.

My focus for that election is therefore more on the Rift Valley, and on the epic battle shaping up between the Agriculture minister William Ruto and the Moi dynasty as represented by the former President and his son Gideon Moi.

And the seriousness of this battle is shown in that it has so far involved not showcase political rallies with dozens of Cabinet ministers and other VIPs in attendance, but rather steady and systematic grassroots campaigns.

Also in that neither side ever acknowledges the other, nor yet hurls insults at the other, but each just goes about making friends and influencing people with quiet determination.

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this political battle for the former President. It is in its own way just as important as the ba¬tles he fought to remain Vice President in the late 1970s, when it was clear that Jomo Kenyatta could not live very much longer.

I would put it this way: while Ruto could lose this battle to the Moi dynasty and still be around to fight again in 2017 - even if he lost his own Eldoret North Constituency seat - for the Moi dynasty it is do-or-die in this next campaign.

Think about it: for almost half a century, going back to the old pre-independence Legislative Council of colonial times, Moi was the undisputed political leader of the Kalenjin community. Then came the 2007 General Election and of three sons of the former President who tried their luck, none won a parliamentary seat.

If the Moi dynasty is again whitewashed in this manner - and this time specifically by Ruto - what chance is there that they can recover from this devastating blow. How would any Moi son ever dare offer himself again as a candidate for Parliament?

So it is virtually guaranteed that the Moi family is not going to be holding anything back this time. And they have the advantage of being the outsiders at present. They have all the time in the world to go about their work of winning enough support on the ground to ensure that when it really matters, Ruto will find that he actually does not command the unquestioning loyalty of the Kalenjin community as his hangers-on are inclined to claim.

And this, as it happens, is precisely how elections are won in Kenya — and why there is such a huge turnover in parliamentary representation in this country.

The sitting MP, whether serving in the Cabinet or sitting quietly on the back-benches, will usually have all sorts of things to attend to: parliamentary sittings; committee meetings; seminars; tours (both local and international); and the conspiratorial conclaves at which, increasingly, the outcomes of votes in Parliament are determined.

Meantime the challenger has none of these things to worry about: he or she can just quietly go about the business of meeting voters and listening to their problems; coming up with well-timed initiatives to show that he is "development conscious", etc.

So if I was asked to place a bet on the eventual outcome of the political struggle in the Rift Valley, I would bet my few shillings that the Mois will win and Ruto will lose.

Muga comments on topical issues.

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