Sugoi Becomes a New Centre of Power
Popes have Castel Gandolfo, US Presidents have Camp David, Former President Moi had Kabarak, Uhuru Kenyatta has Sagana State Lodge and now William Ruto has Sugoi. These are residences, either official or personal, where their occupants have used as retreats at critical times in their power management. It is at Sagana State Lodge where former President Kibaki and Raila Odinga struck the coalition deal after the 2007–2008 election. Kabarak was a Mecca to Moi power and one was never really into his inner sanctum if not granted a visit. Sugoi is slowly emerging as Ruto’s power physical address.
As Ruto continues battle with the Mois, power’s physical address in the Rift Valley becomes a critical issue. Long accustomed to Kabarak, it has become critical for the people of the Rift valley to shift their minds physically to the new place where power now resides. Ruto has successfully managed to do this, bringing a hitherto quintessential Kenyan village into national limelight and giving it a touch of the regal. In the whole country today, it is slowly becoming clear that Rift valley power is now resident in Eldoret, specifically in Sugoi.
There is little information on Sugoi in public; it even doesn’t feature on Google Maps yet. Information available is that Sugoi is situated in Turbo constituency, 10kms off the Eldoret-Malaba Highway, a farmland area that is fast cultivating power for itself. It has been host to not less than five delegations this festive season with the grandest being the December 31st thanksgiving jamboree that had not less than 5,000 people. A visit to Sugoi is a lavish affair more like a high end wedding where rice and stew is usually very plenty for everyone’s fill despite the numbers. It is the kind of place that one would feel like they went to a well to do neighbour’s wedding as you feel the power taking root under your feet.
While Bondo, Gatundu and Kabarak have already acquired the notoriety of power bases, Sugoi’s rise is indeed a welcome addition to the power reference. Its rise is similar to the rise of the Deputy President, humble and unexpected. With all the promise Ruto has, few it seems expected his rise to be as meteoric as it has. Completely unmarked on maps it is slowly but surely taking its place especially on the power map.
While Sugoi has had many visitors, its most remarkable in the lead up to 2017 and 2022 that almost went unreported is that of Kiambu County Governor William Kabogo. The Governor has before unequivocally stated to Ruto that Mt Kenya support will not come on a silver platter come 2022 despite the jubilee power plan. His statement that Ruto would have to work for that support was interpreted to mean that Mt Kenya will not necessarily support Ruto and is more than likely to front one of their own again. At Sugoi, Kabogo had had an epiphany and in wholesale endorsed, on behalf of Mt Kenya, Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid. Kabogo is of course eying the Uhuru succession and should he win re-election in Kiambu County, he’ll definitely be a front runner. Kabogo is Ruto’s surest enforcer in the Mt Kenya region should he still be governor towards 2022. His appearance at Sugoi is a testament to the power Ruto is building and the inroads he’s keen on making into Mt Kenya.
Ruto’s two biggest fights are however against the Mois and Raila Odinga. He stole the birth right of one through the aid of the other. Both had underestimated Ruto’s capacity to actually take up the challenge of Rift Valley supremo and disappear with it. Former president Moi was happy to deploy him as one of the many who were available for his service. In Moi’s mind, Ruto was an errand boy who could never rise to be master. Raila Odinga wanted to use Ruto as a proxy for entry into the Rift valley, a ploy to sidestep the Mois and gain Rift valley direct power for himself. His elevation of Ruto was never thought as a creation of a new leader but simply a bridge to Rift valley power in the way Musalia Mudavadi was in western. Raila’s plan and intention was to retain rift valley power for himself in the same way he has in western, a mistake he held on to all the way to 2013 where he thought he could reach out personally and directly, with Ruto dispensed with.
While Ruto has degrees of success with keeping the Mois away for the moment but always aware they are the alternative should he mess up, Raila continues to be a threat to his power and his biggest obstacle to the 2022 presidency. For these two are Kenya’s most formidable politicians today, their momentum and power is parallel. Ruto of course has time, the money, incumbency and vigour on his side while Raila, though often dismissed, is still Kenya’s alternative power. Raila is not about to step out of the game any time soon even if he lost in 2017. He will still be the alternative in 2022 and will be Ruto’s biggest headache. It is also entirely plausible that Raila will make himself the option for Mt Kenya as he presents himself as the better alternative. Ruto is of course aware of this, an attempt some say had been made to replace him with Raila in this election.
Ruto’s rise is formidable and his politics admirable. Long the Rift valley capital, Eldoret had the position but not the power. Ruto’s strategy of building the physical power base in Eldoret through Sugoi is a testament to the acuity of the real politick in the man. As he prepares for the coming election, he is also building himself the base in people and places. His relocation of Kalenjin power from Kabarak to Sugoi is itself a major fete for which the hustler has shown his understanding of power better than any of his contemporaries.