Will Ruto and Raila keep pace? Young Turks shake up political scene

A wind of change is blowing across the nation’s political landscape, with young and ambitious politicians causing jitters in the camps of President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.The youthful leaders have unsettled the old guard in both the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) as they position themselves in readiness for the 2027 General Election. President Ruto handed the ‘Young Turks’ powerful positions in the National Assembly and the Senate, placing them at the heart of the Kenya Kwanza administration’s legislative agenda. In the opposition Azimio trenches, young MPs and senators are also running the show in Parliament. In the National Assembly, President Ruto settled on Kimani Ichung’wah (Kikuyu) as the Majority Leader and South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro as the Majority Whip.

In the Senate, Kericho’s Aaron Cheruiyot is the Majority Leader while Kakamega’s Boni Khalwale is the Majority Whip.

UDA Secretary-General is Cleophas Malala. In Mr Odinga’s camp, Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina is the Senate Minority Whip while ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna is the Deputy Minority Whip. In the National Assembly, Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi is the Minority Leader while Suna East’s Junet Mohamed is the Minority Whip. But it is the current political trends in the country that have attracted attention with these leaders’ style of politics. Firebrand Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, for instance, has set tongues wagging in Mt Kenya region with his whirlwind tours of the country that seem to have upset Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, who is seen as the region’s supremo by virtue of his position in government. He seems to have teamed up with a section of Rift Valley leaders, including the vocal Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, something that has not gone down well with Mr Gachagua.

Last week, the DP accused some leaders in President Ruto’s backyard of fighting him.

“Some few politicians who are around the President want to meddle with Mt Kenya politics to fight me. Mt Kenya politics are so complicated and what we hate is betrayal,” he charged. Mr Gachagua has also locked horns with Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja, and has rallied behind Embakasi North MP James Gakuya for the County UDA chairmanship post in the coming elections. Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru says that while they respect the office of the Deputy President, and any other office of leadership, “a progressive democracy does not allow us as occupiers of public leadership offices to personalise them to the extent that it becomes taboo for anyone else to nurture and express ambition to occupy them”. “We hold these offices in trust not as owners. Let us recognize the right of all, especially our women and our youth to aspire to high office,” the Council of Governors chairperson said. Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei warned that it was still early to campaign for 2027. “Leadership transcends beyond generational change. It’s about impact that’s meaningful to the ordinary wananchi. As a young leader, we have a lot to learn from our seniors through mentorship,” he said.

In ODM, Mr Odinga – who is eying the chairmanship of the African Union Commission – has said there is need to instill fresh blood in the party going into future elections.

“ODM needs a new army of dedicated and fearless men and women who can imagine a mightier political mass movement. We need a team whose singular focus is to take this party to power. ODM must rule. The party must reign,” Mr Odinga told the party’s National Governing Council in April. Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya, a new entrance in the country’s politics and a member DAP-K party in Azimio, has launched a massive campaign dubbed ‘Tawe Movement’ that seems to have shaken Western region.His movement is slowly taking shape with backing from Mr Malala. The movement wants the old guard in Western, including Cotu boss Francis Atwoli, ODM Deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya, National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula and DAP-K party leader Eugene Wamalwa to pave way for ‘Young Turks’. “I support calls on the need for generational change. Every region is now bringing forth fresh leaders. We say Atwoli, Weta, Oparanya, Eugene Wamalwa Tawe! We say no to Buhkungu Three. No to political brokerage,” said Mr Malala, adding that it’s time to say no to leadership that has existed for over 40 years.

Saboti MP Caleb Amisi, another youthful leader in Mr Odinga’s corner, argues that every generation has had a chance to do what needs to be done.

“In the first generation, we had the anti-colonial freedom fighters who fought for independence, and we gained self-rule. In the second generation, we had multiparty proponents who obliterated one party Kanu rule and in the third generation, we had a new (2010) Constitution. We are in the fourth generation,” Mr Amisi said. He said they are ready to step up the fight for economic freedom and inclusion of all regions fairly into the leadership of the country. “In 2027, there will be a tsunami that will shake off all the Moi scions and political dinosaurs, who have balkanised our politics into tribal region and ethnic parties and destroyed Kenya.

“The only person exempted from this is Raila Odinga, whose impeccable record is known worldwide. Kenya needs a renaissance rebirth renewal in 2027 by new untainted with corruption, less tribal and low propensity to steal national resources, for it to progress,” said the Saboti legislator.Embakasi East MP Babu Owino and former Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho have both kicked off campaigns in ODM for top leadership.

Prof David Monda, lecturer at City University of New York, offered: “It appears Raila’s best days, by even his most ardent supporters, are behind him. A successor is yet to emerge. Ruto will try his level best to poach the finest political talent from Azimio to weaken the opposition threat in 2027. Ruto is gaining in stature and influence regionally and internationally. This is a status he will undoubtedly use to placate, coerce and intimidate his rivals and the opposition to accept his inevitability of a second term. “As usual, Kenyan politics never seems to disappoint. The political sands are treacherous, brutal and unforgiving. DP is experiencing this first hand.” The President surprisingly picked little-known faces to plum government jobs in his attempt to reach out to regions that did not back his presidential bid.

This, analysts say, is aimed at propping up new leaders while dimming luminaries.

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