In Summary
  • After ethnic alliances, religion ranks high up as a potent tool for mass-mobilisation the DP is betting big on to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.

  • As such, he is investing in an elaborate network that has seen him strike direct rapport with at least a religious leader in each of the country’s 1,450 wards.

  • Every Wednesday set aside to meet religious leaders from across the country and call others in various parts of the country.

Deputy President (DP) William Ruto is secretly building a religion centred political constituency through his near weekly harambees in churches and lately, in mosques, Sunday Nation can reveal.

The DP, close associates reveal, is persuaded that religion could be the key to his State House ambition in a country deeply polarised along tribal lines.

His strategists say that after ethnic alliances, religion ranks high up as a potent tool for mass-mobilisation the DP is betting big on to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta.

DIRECT RAPPORT

As such, he is investing in an elaborate network that has seen him strike direct rapport with at least a religious leader in each of the country’s 1,450 wards, dedicating a day every week to personally connect with them.

Every Wednesday, the DP and his staff at Harambee House Annex and Karen offices observe a day of fasting from dawn to dusk. It is a day set aside to meet religious leaders from across the country and call others in various parts of the country.

His press secretary Emmanuel Talam said the staff has had to adjust to the new way of doing things.

“It is a personal-family Christian ritual. As staff we respect it. It also strengthens those of us who join in the fast,” he said.

Majority Whip in the National Assembly Ben Washiali, a staunch Ruto ally, says they plan to visit every church in the country before the 2022 General Election.

 “We will continue visiting to pray with them for the task ahead of us is not easy except if God goes with us. We have built many churches and mosques in the process,” the lawmaker from Mumias East said Saturday.

CAUSING RIPPLES

Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter, a key cog in the DP’s strategy team once told this publication that the DP fasts every Wednesday as he believes that the journey he has embarked on not only requires physical and financial commitment but also divine intervention.

“Leadership comes from God and even as you go convincing people to elect you, you want to find favour in his eyes as well. They (Wednesdays) remain days of prayer and reflection,” Mr Washiali said.

With it, the DP hopes to achieve political mobilisation through religion, a first one in this part of the world.

A hitherto untested strategy, the DP is already causing ripples not only in the church but also among his political rivals. His close dalliance with religious leaders has seen him attend up to three church services on a given Sunday and sometimes holding Harambee on Saturdays for the churches.

It is now said that bishops, priests and pastors have the DP on a speed dial, a feat most have never achieved with an elected leader in their years in the ministry.

 

And as a signal that he is not campaigning the traditional way, Mr Ruto has configured his diary such that he is in Nairobi on week days and ventures out of the city during weekends.

Despite the harambees he attends every weekend, Mr Ruto has been using the pulpit to unleash tirade against his political opponents. And for a man who drops Bible verses effortlessly, he conveniently picks lines to drive his message home, a strategy aimed at going to the hearts and minds of Christians.

Prof Joseph Galgalo the Vice Chancellor of St Paul’s University that trains pastors admits that religion has throughout history been used to endear the masses and has sometimes been (mis) used by politicians to ascend to power.

“Unfortunately this falls under utilitarian uses of religion. The religion gives the scheming political class a platform to lure the faithful into electing them,” he said.

PERSONAL DONATION

But Prof Galgalo downplays religion as a strong political constituency.

“It may be true that we (Kenya) are 83 per cent Christians but less than 20 per cent of this is ready to commit to the moral choice. It therefore follows that if in the unfortunate event a pastor were to use the pulpit to shepherd the believers to a particular political direction, they would easily obey the ethnic voice especially if the ethnic call is not in tandem with what the pastor wants. That is the reality,” the administrator who is also an ordained Anglican priest said.

Last weekend alone, the DP helped raise some Sh10 million for churches in Uasin Gishu, Vihiga and West Pokot counties with a personal donation of Sh3 million. The same weekend saw him give Sh2 million at Sekerr Catholic Church in West Pokot.

Speaking at Kapseret, the DP said he would continue to work with churches as a way of connecting with his maker.

“I am happy to be associated with churches. That is why I ensure that I come so that we raise money for the work of God,” he said.

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