Raila is by far more qualified than Ruto; we just can’t compare the two

Azimio la UmojaRaila Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

A series of articles have been written on the differences between Hon Raila Odinga and Dr William Ruto. Their respective demographic, operational and professional characteristics ahead of the August 9, 2022 elections have also been reviewed.

Overall, Raila has been in politics for more than 40 years and hence his credentials as a leader are more predictable than Ruto’s.

In 1982, Raila was charged with the ultimate political offence of treason, but due to lack of evidence, he was detained without trial for six years. In 1988, he was arrested for his involvement in the push for a return to multiparty democracy and re-arrested after release on June 12, 1989.

He returned from exile and joined the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (Ford). After Ford split, he was elected Ford-K’s deputy director of elections in 1992 and in 1994 he joined National Development Party (NDP).

In his first bid for the presidency in 1997, Raila finished third after President Moi and Democratic Party candidate Mwai Kibaki. Raila had been in politics for more than 13 years by the time Ruto joined the fray.

Ruto began his political career as the treasurer of the YK'92, which was lobbying for the re-election of President Moi in 1992.

When President Moi disbanded YK'92, Ruto failed to secure an office in Kanu, before surprisingly dislodging Moi's preferred candidate and Uasin Gishu Kanu chairman Reuben Chesire as Eldoret North MP.

Under ODM, both Raila and Ruto voted “No” in the constitutional referendum of November 21, 2005, where the government lost by a 57-43 per cent margin. A constitutional referendum was held August 4, 2010 and the result was a victory for the "Yes" campaign, with 68.6 per cent of voters approving the Constitution.

Raila, as Prime Minister, supported the referendum while Ruto, as Higher Education minister, did not support the referendum, along with former President Daniel arap Moi.

On matters concerning national unity, Raila and Ruto have operated from different camps.

Under the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) in 2002, Odinga declared "Kibaki tosha", as Ruto supported Moi's choice – Uhuru Kenyatta.

In March 2018, Raila and Uhuru had a political handshake that intended to cool the political temperatures generated by the 2017 elections.

The handshake gave birth to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). Ruto neither supported the Handshake nor the BBI.

In April 2008, Raila became a Prime Minister under the Grand Coalition Government.

On Pan African matters, Raila Odinga was appointed as High Representative for Infrastructure Development at the African Union Commission in 2018.

Raila and his running mate Martha Karua have a proven record of fighting corruption, unlike Ruto, who has had to defend himself in the courts – including the International Criminal Court in The Hague – and on the floor of Parliament. Integrity issues have dogged his personal and public life.

Ruto has no international experience. In 2002, he was appointed Assistant Minister for Home Affairs, and in the same year became the Secretary-General of Kanu.

He was named Agriculture minister in the Grand Coalition Government and later moved to the Higher Education docket. He became Deputy President under Uhuru Kenyatta following the 2013 polls.

Kenyans will have an opportunity on August 9 this year to choose who among these two should lead them after President Kenyatta.

Campaign marathon

Ruto started his campaign marathon years ago, using state resources and the advantage of incumbency as Deputy President. This accorded him unrivalled opportunity to cover a lot of ground to compete against himself. Raila only publicly declared his interest in the presidency in December 2021 at Moi International Sports Complex Kasarani in Nairobi.

Raila’s socio-economic campaign model has been influenced by his long political experience at the forefront of democratic change. No integrity issues have been raised against him or his running mate. He now champions the Azimio-One Kenya ticket, whose manifesto calls for “commitment to transforming the Kenyan society and creating a nation founded on equity, shared prosperity, social justice and cohesion as well as improving the lives of Kenyans and creating a caring society”.

The veteran opposition and protest icon has teamed up with outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Ruto’s socio-economic campaign model, on the other hand, has been influenced by his experience with YK’92 and his fight against the 2010 Constitution. His record as a public servant has been brief compared to Raila’s.

His opposition to Uhuru’s handshake with Raila in 2019 left him in the cold and his opposition to BBI propelled him to oppose the government he has been serving from 2013-2022. He has been protesting against government systems, economic hardships, poll rigging and whipping up resentment between wealthy and poor Kenyans.

He has become a champion of claiming credit for president Uhuru Kenyatta success projects while at the same time threatening to close down the very same projects once in power.

By selecting Karua from a list of 10 competitors, which included former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Raila reinforced his democratic credentials and gave a glimpse of how his government would be run.

Karua comes with her own stellar record in liberation politics. She has experience with FIDA and has worked as MP, minister and party leader.

On the other hand, Gachagua, a former D.O. and first-term MP, was appointed directly by the DP despite his loss to Prof Kithure Kindiki in a competitive process, thereby giving us a glimpse of how Ruto would run his government if elected.

This authoritarian streak in Ruto’s personality regularly comes to the fore in angry outbursts particularly when speaking in his vernacular. His choice of Gachagua has reinforced this trait. Gachagua is said to have a mountain of baggage on ethical issues.

There is also in Raila’s corner some of the stalwarts of the Second Liberation such as Kivutha Kibwana, who led the Citizens Coalition for Constitutional Change, which pushed for the IPPG electoral reforms of 1997, former UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi and Prof Makau Mutua.

There are also Charity Ngilu, Prof Anyang Nyong’o, Kiraitu Murungi and Siaya Senator James Orengo.

Not a single minister from President Kibaki’s experienced team is with Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza. Mr Ruto has assembled many of the ‘leftovers’ from Moi’s Kanu of yore.

There is therefore no room for comparison between the two.


Mr Imanyara, an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, is also a publisher and the founding Secretary-General of the original Ford Kenya. He has also served as MP for Central Imenti and the Pan African Parliament.

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