Jubilee faces turmoil in Uasin Gishu

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto’s campaign tour of Uasin Gishu on Friday may turn out to be a firefighting exercise in the wake of toxic utterances by some of the Jubilee party candidates who have raised the spectre of ethnic tensions.

The DP has also been keen to dispel the notion that he is linked to incendiary ethnic-baiting comments from a clique of politicians who create the impression that they represent his interests.

The President and his deputy will arrive just a day after top security organs warned that Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago and Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi were under investigation and at risk of arrest and prosecution for incitement.

“Governor Mandago made an outrageous statement and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission is investigating. If evidence is adduced and the utterances of the governor and Honourable Sudi are found to be inciting Kenyans against others, then the legal process will take its course,” warned Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery during a ceremony at the Administration Police Training College, Embakasi, honouring police officers who were killed in recent terror attacks.

Speaking at the same forum, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet warned that politicians who break the law during campaigns would be dealt with.

“We will not allow anybody to create trouble in the search for votes … “We will enforce the law as it is and will deal with any lawbreaker irrespective of political affiliation.”

WARNED PEOPLE

The warnings are linked to utterances last Friday in which Mr Mandago, Mr Sudi and Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter reportedly warned members of the Kikuyu community against supporting the governor’s opponent, independent candidate Zedekiah Bundotich, alias Buzeki, in the August 8 elections.

They threatened to mobilise their supporters against President Kenyatta’s re-election bid if the Kikuyu community did not vote for Mr Mandago, who withstood a fierce challenge from Buzeki for the Jubilee nomination before the latter re-entered the race as an independent candidate.

During the campaigns for the Jubilee nominations, Mr Mandago claimed that Buzeki had been sponsored by Mr Ruto.

The prevailing political tensions prompted Mr Ruto to travel to the region on Tuesday night, when he held a meeting with all the Jubilee aspirants from Uasin Gishu, Nandi and Elgeyo-Marakwet.

At the two-hour closed-door meeting at the Boma Hotel in Eldoret town, Mr Ruto warned against utterances that could inflame ethnic tensions in the cosmopolitan region.

He said the reckless utterances could be misconstrued to be coming from him, according to sources present.

Mr Mandago’s supporters have been demanding that Mr Ruto prevail upon Buzeki to stand down in the same fashion that President Kenyatta intervened in Nakuru and persuaded outgoing Governor Kinuthia Mbugua to withdraw his independent candidacy and support the Jubilee candidate, Mr Lee Kinyanjui.

KIKUYU COMMUNITY

The supporters have also been demanding that President Kenyatta dissuade his Kikuyu community in Uasin Gishu from supporting Mr Buzeki. The threats directed at the Kikuyu have rekindled nightmares of the 2007-2008 post-election violence where Uasin Gishu, and particularly Eldoret town and surrounding settlements, were one of the major flashpoints.

The Jubilee Party is built on the foundation of a pact that brought President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto together ahead of the 2013 election.

At the time, both were facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court for their alleged roles in the violence. They were charged alongside radio presenter Joshua Sang.

At the disputed elections, the Kikuyu supported then-President Mwai Kibaki while the Kalenjin supported ODM leader Raila Odinga, who was in the same party as Mr Ruto.

The Uhuru-Ruto pact brought peace to the region, which has a history of ethnic conflicts, as the two communities united to secure Mr Kenyatta’s victory in 2013.

Strong opposition

However, the latest threats have the potential of renewing the ethnic tensions and threatening the Jubilee Party’s political supremacy in the region ahead of the election.

Mr Mandago’s issues stem from the Jubilee Party nominations which saw him weather strong opposition from Mr Buzeki.

However, Mr Mandago has sought to exonerate himself from the accusations.

His director of communications, Mr Silas Tarus, said the statements made by his boss had been taken out of context.

“People are twisting the statement to gain political mileage. What the leaders meant is that those leaders who were nominated on the Jubilee ticket should support leaders on the party’s ticket. Nobody threatened any particular community,” he said.

The nominations fallout is not the first time the governor and his allies have moved to whip up ethnic tensions.

Report by Fred Mukinda, Jeremiah Kiplang’at and Wycliffe Kipsang.

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