Understanding Mt Kenya Love Affair with William Ruto

The Mt. Kenya region’s love affair with Ruto might seem like a mystery to many but in fact it is based on one simple factor.

People from Mt. Kenya take very seriously the Swahili saying that “ahadi ni deni”, (a promise is a debt). The region’s commitment to its promise is not specifically about Ruto himself but rather it’s a promise between the people of Mt Kenya and the people of rift valley. It was a pact made vowing that never again would the two communities be divided by politicians and risk bloodshed as happened in the chaos that followed the 2007 elections. There’s a very strong incentive for that other than for the sake of peace alone, which of course is sufficient incentive in and of itself.

There’s a large community of Kenyans from across the country in the Rift Valley, but the Kikuyu community makes up a majority of the diaspora of Kenyans there. There’s hardly anyone from the Mount without either property or relatives with property there.

These two communities are very sensitive to the fact that they already have as their neighbors, multitudes of tribes both from the Rift as well as from the mount that must live and get along with each other long after the politicians have left.

The fact that Uhuru has reneged on the promise therefore is irrelevant to the people of the mount. As far as they are concerned, theirs is a sacred pact between two communities and the people of the mount have very smartly declared that no politician can break that. This is why they will not follow Uhuru in whichever direction he falls or directs.

Further people at the bottom of the economic ladder have wised-up with recent unfortunate memory that rich powerful elites will retreat to their highly secured private enclaves even if strife were to erupt among the common people.

The people of the mount take so seriously this idea of the sanctity of a promise, that for example, in Kikuyu culture people will often go back to complete the paying of the bride price even for their grandparents in situations where it was never completed.  

Furthermore, while the people of the mount take very seriously the idea of integrity, they also don’t forget and clearly have not forgiven Rao for his actions ever since 2005 where he ran a campaign known as 41 against 1, a blatantly tribalist campaign that set the stage for Kenya’s worst post-election violence (PEV). While Ruto and Raila were on the same side during this time, the people of the mount are very clear that the person at the top pushing the 41 against 1 narrative was Raila.

This has recently been confirmed by none other than President Uhuru’s cousin, Kungu Muigai who is also supporting Ruto in 2022. Mr. Muigai further clarified during a radio interview on Murotwo Radio, that the Councils of elders of the two communities met to make amends and agree a truce. Raila never pursued this path of repentance. The Kikuyu council of elders who oversee the whole entire Mt. Kenya region are therefore firmly behind Ruto bringing along their whole community.

This 41 against 1 slogan later turned into other epithets such as “Mount Kenya mafia” and “Githeri people” among others. These epithets have been used as rallying cries to build an anti-Kikuyu coalition that Raila has long believed is his only path to power to counter the power of the numbers of the Kikuyu population, the largest single tribe in Kenya.

Incredibly, Raila has never stopped attacking either the people of the mount or the Kenyatta family for that matter. He seems to display a deep-seated resentment for both the Kenyatta family as well as the people of the Mount. This dates back to 1969 when he is accused of having organized the stoning of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in Kisumu, an unfortunate incident that led to many deaths.

Quite shockingly however, Raila has finally managed to convince even a section of the mount that not supporting him amounts to an injustice that they must fix by electing him in 2022. This they must do by any means necessary including turning a blind eye to government machinations. Furthermore, they would need to ignore the very effective, people centered, bottom-up campaign of Kenya Kwanza.

The bulk of the Mount Kenya community, however, would never give Raila their vote. In fact, it is quite clear that the power of the tyranny of numbers continues to apply.

It is even stronger for the deputy president on this occasion, given that Raila has lost the hold he had in Western, Coast and Ukambani among other regions where he always had massive support.

In 2022, counties that Raila previously won handily are now genuine battlegrounds. On the other hand, Ruto has mostly held onto his support in the Mount and more than likely grown his followers in the Rift. These two regions almost singe-handedly granted victory to the Jubilee ticket of Uhuru and Ruto in 2013 and 2017. As such merely holding on would have been sufficient for WSR.

Given that there is very little bleeding of support for Ruto in Mount Kenya, Raila has an insurmountable disadvantage, the state’s machinations notwithstanding.

Uhuru’s actions at face value appear to display a callous disregard for integrity, ethics or the rule of law. The bulk of the Kikuyu community find this distasteful and in direct contradiction to Kikuyu custom. His apparently childish, highly un-presidential outbursts in these last days of the elections only widen the chasm between Uhuru and his own Mt. Kenya backyard that can only translate to greater support for Ruto.

The community has refused to follow Uhuru for the sake of the peace pact made after 2007. I trust that the outcome of the August 9th election shall vindicate our thesis on the Mount Kenya support for William Samoei Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza coalition’s bottom-up campaign.

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