2024 appears to be the year that will either make or break President William Ruto as he is torn between taming opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka or winning back the trust of Kenyans whom he has overburdened with taxes and myriads of unfulfilled promises.
As his reputation among Kenyans wanes, Ruto is at a crossroads, especially after the opposition hinted at plans to call for nationwide protests in the new year over what Azimio described as the government’s indifference to what Kenyans are going through.
Azimio has also remained coy on its preferred 2027 presidential candidate but Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka, on Sunday, December 31, indicated that he would be on the ballot regardless of the political vehicle which will support his candidature.
During an exclusive interview with Kenyans.co.ke, Dr. Brian Mutie, who is an Advocate of the High Court and a governance expert, remarked that the opposition through Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka had favourable odds to gain favour amongst Kenyans, adding that Ruto, on the other side, had the advantage of the time to win back his popularity amongst the masses.
President William Ruto speaking from State House, Nakuru on December 31, 2023.
One of the ways Kalonzo stated he would use to win the 2027 contest would be launching an early campaign four years before the general election.
In essence, Kalonzo admitted he would pull a trick from Ruto’s playbook, mirroring the Head of State’s strategy where he started campaigning well in advance immediately after the infamous March 2018 handshake following his fallout with his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta.
“I am going to move all over the country in the year 2024. The next contest, if it will be in 2027, must be won in 2024,” Kalonzo had vowed.
Commenting on the issue, Mutie wondered if Kalonzo had enough political and financial muscle to replicate Ruto’s winning formula.
“This is a situation that requires lots of funding and as most analysts would agree, Kalonzo Musyoka is not so much resource-wise endowed. He might have challenges towards mounting a serious campaign,” Mutie remarked, noting that Kalonzo needed to create a framework on how he would attract funders as well as work on how to package himself as the best alternative.
A few hours after Kalonzo declared his nationwide tour, Ruto, in his New Year address to the nation, lamented that the opposition was out to disrupt him from delivering his campaign promises outlined in the Bottom-Up agenda.
His lamentations are similar to those of Uhuru, who accused Ruto of roaming around the country, leading to the birth of the Tanga Tanga movement, which propelled Ruto to power.
“You will agree with me that there is something fundamentally wrong with the opposition without any viable alternative whose only purpose is division, conflict and anarchy,” Ruto disparaged the planned rallies by Kalonzo and other members of the opposition.
Dr Mutie opined that despite Ruto’s warning to Kalonzo and the opposition, the Wiper Leader was in a pole position to sell hope to Kenyans who are struggling with the high cost of living, harsh tax regime and lack of job opportunities.
The seasoned governance expert warned, though, that Ruto could use Kalonzo’s position as co-chair of the National Dialogue Committee to discredit his criticism of the Kenya Kwanza administration.
In his argument, Mutie remarked that with Kalonzo working with the ruling faction to make recommendations on the direction the country should take, he had more or less endorsed the Kenya Kwanza administration.
Despite Ruto trying to scuttle Kalonzo’s plan before its launch, political analysts project that the former Vice President is a formidable opponent whom the President must be wary of, especially since Raila is being pushed to retire.
Additionally, Kalonzo will be boosted by the support he has been receiving from Azimio Leader Raila Odinga. While Raila has stopped shy of proclaiming that he will be endorsing Kalonzo, he has intimated, albeit in coded language, that the Wiper Party Leader, who has been his most loyal ally, remains one of the preferred 2027 flagbearers.
“This man has a heart, he is determined, he is also a Christian. He is a decent human being who loves others.”
“Ruto speaks of Kalonzo as if they are equal. Kalonzo is ten times better than Ruto,” Raila, in November 2023, indicated why Kalonzo would make a better President than Ruto.
Dr Mutie, in his analysis, noted that it was not given that the Azimio Leader was going to offer his support to Kalonzo Musyoka easily.
“I am worried that Raila is not going to let it go that easily owing to the fact that he still feels physically strong and his backers are telling him to go for it,” Mutie explained his reservations.
The lawyer added that should Raila endorse Kalonzo, he would immediately get substantial support from Nyanza and Coast regions as well as parts of Nairobi.
President William Ruto and Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka during a past event
Experts predict that Kalonzo may attempt to make inroads in Mt Kenya, where Raila, in his five unsuccessful attempts to clinch the presidency, has usually performed dismally.
Kalonzo, who has had a working relationship with former Presidents Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta, may also use controversial Mt Kenya politicians, such as Maina Njenga, to penetrate a region that has always proven insurmountable to the former prime minister.
Njenga, who urged the media to cite him as an Azimio politician rather than a former Mungiki leader, has been triggering Kenya Kwanza leaders led by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua with his regionwide tours.
To win the Mt Kenya voting block, which has been problematic to Raila in the past, Dr Brian Mutie advised Kalonzo to work with leaders from the region, singling out outgoing Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and former President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“Mt Kenya is up for grabs since it is one of the biggest voting blocks. He needs to identify key leaders he can work with and give them a promissory note he will work with a running mate from the region,” Mutie advised Kalonzo.
Azimio is also said to be banking on recent surveys by Tifa and Infotrak, which highlighted that President Ruto is increasingly losing popularity, with a majority of Kenyans dissatisfied with his performance.
Infotrak, in its End of Year Poll December 2023, gave Ruto a mean grade of D (47 per cent) and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua a mean grade of E in terms of performance.
Jubilee, led by former President Uhuru Kenyatta, announced plans to tour Mt Kenya to engage locals in a debate on the high cost of living, heaping more pressure on Ruto. In response, Ruto’s allies accused Uhuru of sponsoring the campaign against his successor.
In his interview with Kenyans.co.ke, Dr Brian Mutie noted that while the opposition can easily capitalise on the issues affecting the country, Ruto has the opportunity to turn his fortunes around.
“Kenya Kwanza is performing well at the meta-governance level – at the global level. The country’s rating is performing well at that level and has been touted as one of the most progressive economies.”
“The citizens are not feeling the same at the domestic level. It is a matter of Kenya Kwanza adjusting the few challenges in the country,” Mutie signed off, pointing out Ruto had four years to implement his agenda.
A photo of Dr Brian Mutie, Advocate of the High Court and Governance, Law and Democracy expert.
Dr Brian Mutie