Changing Ruto’s guards risky and unnecessary

What you need to know:

  • The level of security accorded to the Deputy President is not a favour from the President or a reward for good behaviour.
  • The timing of the change is wrong and the Deputy President is within his rights when he protests this move as an abuse of State machinery.

The decision this week to change Deputy President William Ruto’s guards from the General Service Unit to the Administration Police is risky, unlawful and unnecessary.

If it is intended to punish the Deputy President’s hypocrisy in making the failings of the government — in which he is an equal partner — a populist platform for his quest for power, then his critics in government are responding to a mosquito with a hammer. Should Mr Ruto’s security or that of his family be breached during this change, the government would find itself in a very difficult place.

The level of security accorded to the Deputy President is not a favour from the President or a reward for good behaviour. It is provided by virtue of his position and as a matter of law. So long as he is the Deputy President, he can’t be stripped of the benefits of that office.

While the government has explained that the change of Mr Ruto’s guards is a routine, procedural matter, the timing is wrong and sends hostile signals, and the Deputy President is within his rights when he protests this move as an abuse of State machinery and an impediment to the privileges of his office.

He said yesterday that he will hold the Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai “personally responsible should any harm befall” him or any member of his family, and that, given that he is elected to perform duties of a constitutional office, “any lapse in his personal security compromises the exercise of the constitutional functions of that office”.

The current political climate calls for sobriety and a deliberate calming of nerves, not an escalation. Also, the State and its officers are mandated to provide sufficient protection to everyone, ranging from the ruling elite to the commoner, from the ruling cohort to those that oppose it. Security should not be a reward for political support.

Accommodation, nay, fostering, of debates at the national level is the foundation on which democracy is built, and this decision by the State runs the risk of seriously eroding the underpinnings of peace and tolerance in society. It is objectionable and unhelpful.

Unfortunately, the government has boxed itself into a corner from which it risks being seen to climb down from its high horse. But it cannot be helped: the government must restore Mr Ruto’s security to its previous levels and desist from interfering with it in future.

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