What you need to know:
- Mr Ruto wants to return Kenyans to the wheelbarrow, a Stone Age tool.
- Like Mr Trump, Mr Ruto is obsessed with his own cult of personality.
Kenyans need to memorise an old Italian proverb. “He who deceives me once, it’s his fault; but twice, it’s my fault.” Put differently, insanity is doing the same and expecting different results.
Today, the Kenyan political landscape is at a fever pitch. Everywhere you turn in the republic, you see hordes of the hoi polloi listening in the hot sun to tall tales. The politician knows which buttons to push, over and over again.
Kenyan voters are like an abused – traumatised – spouse who keeps going back to the same abuser. Except unlike abused spouses, Kenyan voters are gluttons for punishment. They are free to divorce the politicians, but won’t. They are like Donald Trump and his minions of followers.
In 2013, Kenyans supposedly elected the duo of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. In five years, the duo failed to deliver. In fact, Kenya went backwards. In 2017, Kenyans again supposedly elected the duo after the Supreme Court annulled a bungled election.
Dictators and illiberal presidents
Today, Mr Ruto is asking Kenyans to give him a “third term” this time at the top of the ticket. In The Tempest, author William Shakespeare wrote that “what’s past is prologue.” Our past is the best predictor of our future. In other words, those who can’t remember history are doomed to repeat it. It’s true Kenya is a formal democracy that’s been ruled by either dictators, or illiberal presidents. How could Mr Ruto change that truism?
I study power and statecraft through the lens of the law. I am interested in why certain men and women seek power, and what they do when they capture it. I study their backgrounds to predict what they might do.
Study the early Nelson Mandela and see his political sensibilities. On the opposite side, look at Adolf Hitler’s early life and your answer is right there. I have compared Mr Ruto to Mr Trump and found chilling similarities. No one who has followed Mr Trump’s biography in New York since the 1980s – as I have – could’ve been surprised how his inner monster came out once he reached the White House. I’ve subjected Mr Ruto to the same intellectual rigour.
Wheelbarrows for Kenyans
Mr Ruto and Mr Trump are populist demagogues. They promise grandiosity and exaggerated verbiage to the masses. Mr Trump offered in superlative language his “vision” of America. Nothing described that cruel mirage he named “Make America Great Again.” Except if you know American history you understand that’s code language for the unapologetic re-inscription of White Supremacy.
In both the 2013 and 2017 Jubilee campaigns, Mr Ruto – like Mr Trump – waxed lyrical about the “goods” of development he and Mr Kenyatta would bring. Their followers drank the Kool-Aid. The two knew Kenyans were desperate, and preyed on that desperation with demagogic populist narratives of salvation. Eight years down the pike, Kenyans have sunk deeper into historic poverty and untold privation.
Like Mr Trump, Mr Ruto is asking Kenyans to return to a bygone era. Mr Trump asked White Americans to help him return the United States to racist Jim Crow laws, robber barons, the revival of dirty fuel like coal over green energy, and the utter disregard for the guardrails of decency and rule of law.
Mr Ruto, on the other hand, has promised Kenyans wheelbarrows in the twenty-first century. Imagine that – when the desktop has become virtually obsolete, Mr Ruto wants to return Kenyans to the wheelbarrow, a Stone Age tool. It’s a populist move that fuels his “hustler” narrative. Like all classic demagogues, Mr Ruto hopes the masses will rise up and carry him to State House.
Greed for naked power
Like Mr Trump, Mr Ruto is obsessed with his own cult of personality. There’s nothing Mr Ruto offers except his unbridled greed for naked power. Those around him – like Senator Kipchumba Murkomen or even Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi – are completely submissive to him. They must sing his praises even in their sleep.
Any sign of disloyalty to “dear leader” would result in ex-communication. Everyone around Mr Ruto has learnt to sing like a church choir. Oh yes – praise the lord! That’s why Mr Ruto is a facsimile of Mr Trump. Mr Trump brooked no dissent, or the slightest hint of disagreement. That’s why Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired by tweet while on a trip to Nairobi.
I could go on ad nauseam. Suffice it to note that electors get what they choose. Nairobi voters elected ex-governor Mike Sonko three times – as MP, senator, and governor. Today, the capital city is in ICU.
The Americans got a president who led an insurrection against the state to stay in power. Kenyans are crying about BBI. If Mr Ruto gets the baton to State House, BBI will look like a walk in the park. There’s nothing in Mr Ruto’s history that gives us hope that he will govern in the public good. Let’s see if the voice of the people is the voice of God in 2022.