Of fake political debts and Ruto’s pity party

Deputy President William Ruto (fourth left) and leaders of the 12 parties that formally joined Kenya Kwanza alliance leaders after signing a coalition agreement on in Nairobi on April 12, 2022.

It’s the silly season, and so we can expect a lot of political skullduggery. In other words, anything goes. Expect a lie, or half-truth, most times when a politician, or their minion, open their mouths.

Most educated voters will recognise an outright fib, or snake oil. But others won’t. That’s partly why democracy, as Winston Churchill famously said, is the worst form of government, except for all others. He also contemptuously opined that a five-minute conversation with the average voter is the best argument against democracy. We are stuck with those truths unless we want a dictatorship, or rule by murder. Let’s at least parse the hypocritical cries of political debts. It’s an art perfected by DP William Ruto.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’I  – and I wholly agree with the one-time State University of New York employee, for which I work – that Mr Ruto is a shameless sympathy addict. I’d like to be a fly on the wall if, and when, he woos the opposite gender. The man must be a skilled pity beggar.

You think he would be granted his heart’s desires because of the mercy of his target. That’s how Mr Ruto has approached his pleas to Kenyans for the presidency. He’s all but said that Kenyans should elect him the fifth president because they should pity him. That’s because, he says, he’s sacrificed for others who must now return the favour. Don’t shake your head.

Retinue of perks

Mr Ruto is a child of the system. He’s always suckled at the breast of the state. Even when he wasn’t in the inner sanctum of the state, he was an MP, which is part of the state. So, the man from Sugoi doesn’t know how to be out of government. The thought of being out of the state altogether completely terrifies him.

What would he, for example, do without state protection and the retinue of perks like bodyguards, free houses and cars that come with fleecing the taxpayer? Nor would he have the ability to “eat” from public coffers. One must wonder whether he would’ve amassed his reputedly unexplained gargantuan riches without access to the state trough.

Mr Ruto’s dependence on the state fully explains why he can’t resign as DP because he would lose all the free moolah. He would be defrocked and required to explain how he acquired it all. He doesn’t know how to live like an ordinary human being, as the rest of us do. He fakes a “hustler” tag – and a roadside chicken seller – when in actual fact he’s a political scion of the late President Daniel arap Moi. It doesn’t get any more “dynasty” than that. As the late President Mwai Kibaki would hilariously say, “Bure kabisa” [totally useless]. But Mr Ruto is a shameless political animal. He will say, or do, anything to be elected. I ain’t kidding.

Which brings me back to Mr Ruto’s pity party. First, Mr Ruto says, without batting an eyelid, that Mr Odinga shouldn’t run against him. Instead, the right-wing conservative argues that he “made” Mr Odinga Prime Minister and, as such, the latter must endorse him for the presidency. As they say with consternation, “Awuoro!” [Mamma mia!].

The highest office in the land isn’t a gift served on a silver platter. Only the electors can grant it, not a single person, no matter how powerful. That’s how democracy works, with all its imperfections. Mr Ruto is kvetching because of his outsized sense of entitlement. He didn’t make Mr Odinga PM, and Mr Odinga owes him zilch. His gall is appalling.

Evidence of panic

Mr Ruto should be grateful to Mr Odinga, who schooled him on a few political moves. Mr Ruto is but a political toddler to Mr Odinga. The calumny that he’s heaped on Mr Odinga – whom he must believe will eat his lunch on August 9 – is simply evidence of panic. He fears the political maestro will cannibalise him. The other person Mr Ruto seems hates with a passion is Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta, his boss. Like a broken record, he and his acolytes have clung to “my 10, your 10”. This is a roadside throwaway line by Mr Kenyatta during the duo’s campaign that Mr Kenyatta would serve 10 years and pass the baton to Mr Ruto for “his 10”.

If only wishes were horses. But they aren’t. Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped Mr Ruto from guilt-tripping Gema with the “ten-ten” so-called community promise. Hello! What happened to democracy? Where did Mr Kenyatta get the power to auction Gema votes to Mr Ruto? And who told Mr Ruto that he could ransom Gema votes?

This extortionist conduct is beyond the pale. Mr Odinga said “Kibaki Tosha” just as his father Jaramogi had said “Mzee Kenyatta Tosha”. Yet Mr Odinga has never claimed any debt from Gema. Mr Ruto’s hypocrisy knows no limits. I urge him to campaign without taking Gema hostage. He must stop denying individual citizens their democratic agency.

Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Margaret W. Wong Professor at Buffalo Law School. He’s Chair of KHRC. @makaumutua.


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