William Ruto, the fifth president

William Ruto

Deputy President William Ruto.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media London

What you need to know:

  • Today, as matters stand, Mr Ruto is in the so-called pole position. He’s the man to beat.
  • While his opponents wobble or remain comatose, he’s marching ahead collecting weaklings and stalwarts.

My crystal ball tells me there’s a very good chance DP William Ruto, the man who escaped the gallows of the International Criminal Court by a whisker, could become the fifth president of the Republic of Kenya. This isn’t a prognosis I make with the warm cockles of my heart. No. But in this column, facts do indeed matter. And I go wherever facts lead me. Mr Ruto is surging while his opponents – declared and would-be – are in a state of lethargy and catatonic schizophrenia. They’ve become the proverbial watermelons. That’s why I predict today that on election day 2022, Mr Ruto will capture the State House hands down and early. He wants it more than the others.

There’s a caveat. A year and some change is an eternity in politics. We don’t know what might, or could, happen. We don’t even know whether we will be alive then. Perhaps a more virulent mutant of Covid will send us to our maker. I have lived long enough to know that politics can turn on a single dime. Who knew that VP Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania would be president today? The least among us may yet rise to the throne. But today, as matters stand, Mr Ruto is in the so-called pole position. He’s the man to beat. I call them as I see them. Next year, the “capital” of Kenya might be Sugoi. Get your popcorn. 

My views about Mr Ruto aren’t a secret. I believe the man is singularly unqualified for any public office, let alone the pinnacle of power. However, I have only a single vote. That’s why Mr Ruto might easily jog to State House if he bamboozles enough of my compatriots to vote for him. I know that a good number of my civil society colleagues have gone rogue and joined Mr Ruto’s bandwagon. Most of the turncoats don’t surprise me. Proximity to a would-be president is seductive and intoxicating. That’s why many are rubbing their hands and salivating. In Kenya, where the state is the largest source of power and wealth, all pigs are fighting for the trough.

I don’t like people without convictions, or those who will conceal their actual beliefs to cheat their way into your heart. Today they smile, but tomorrow they will bare their fangs at you. Believe people when they show you who they are when they are in power. Don’t trust anyone who feigns Santa Claus when out of power, or favour. 

Anti-thesis of democracy

This is the story of Mr Ruto. At the height of his power during the Moi-Kanu regime, Mr Ruto was the anti-thesis of democracy. A cold-blooded conservative to the bone, Mr Ruto has never seen a progressive or liberal idea he didn’t disdain, or oppose. Conversely, he supported every repressive measure under Kanu. He was Kanu’s enforcer and darling.

I will not regurgitate the ICC debacle. But suffice it to note the prosecutor dropped the cases only after accusing the state and those indicted of sabotage. We don’t know whether the victims will ever get justice, or whether Mr Ruto and those accused with him will ever face the rule of law. That story may still have another chapter yet to be written. There have been claims of scandals involving Mr Ruto, most of them to do with land, projects and public funds. These are serious issues that require Chapter Six inquiries, but I am not holding my breath as investigatory agencies are hopeless.

Perhaps the greatest “sin” Mr Ruto ever committed was leading a crusade against the 2010 Constitution. He led the No Campaign and pulled all stops to derail one of the most progressive national charters in the world. Today, Mr Ruto waxes poetic about the prose in the 2010 Constitution. You’d be forgiven to think that Mr Ruto fathered the Constitution. 

Even more stunning, he’s arguably been the biggest beneficiary of the document. It protects him from being fired by Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta, his boss, who now deeply disdains him. But Mr Ruto, the estranged deputy, has now become the constitution’s loudest “defender”. Only a simpleton would be fooled by this fake Saul-to-Paul Damascus conversion. Leopards don’t change colours.

Now he’s unstoppable

There’s a poverty of leadership in Kenya, and a poverty of philosophy among Kenya’s leaders. That someone like Mr Ruto is within a hair’s breath of the house on the hill speaks volumes about the dearth of leadership. 

I understand why MPs and other political aspirants would flock to his side. They say he’s “generous” with moolah. Perhaps that’s the ticket to power, and Mr Ruto may have the magic wand. 

While his opponents in Nasa or One-Kenya Alliance dither, wobble or remain comatose, he’s marching ahead collecting weaklings and stalwarts. Now he’s unstoppable. In fact, he’s acting as though his only opponent is Mr Kenyatta. He may be right. Or wrong.

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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