DAP-K Party Leader Eugene Wamalwa
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Eugene Wamalwa: Day William Ruto wanted Uhuru Kenyatta to sack me from Cabinet

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DAP-K Party Leader Eugene Wamalwa during the interview at his home in Nairobi on Friday, January 12, 2024. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Former Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa has lifted the lid on the reason for his bitter falling-out with President William Ruto in 2018, revealing how then Deputy President confronted him angrily for taking opposition leaders from Western to State House for a political deal with his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta.

In a revealing exclusive interview with the Sunday Nation, Mr Wamalwa said that President Ruto confronted him and demanded that he write a resignation letter, reminding him that the Jubilee administration belonged to him and Mr Kenyatta.

He said he was, however, rescued from the sack by Mr Kenyatta who told him to only take instructions from the appointing authority.

Dr Ruto is said to have felt there was a deliberate plan to isolate him for purposes of 2022 polls by bringing on board then opposition National Super Alliance principals Moses Wetang’ula and Musalia Mudavadi, just after Mr Kenyatta entered the famous handshake with opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Mr Kenyatta managed to hold the opposition leaders together, including in backing the botched Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). But Mr Musalia and Mr Wetang’ula would later bolt out and join hands with Dr Ruto.

Speaking in a wide-ranging interview, the Democratic Action Party (DAP-K) leader and Azimio la Umoja principal also declared his presidential ambition, joining other opposition leaders like Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka who have trained their eyes on the top seat come 2027.

From left: Azimio la Umoja One Kenya leaders Martha Karua, Kalonzo Musyoka and Eugene Wamalwa during the 25th anniversary of the 7th August 1998 bomb blast held at the August 7 Memorial Park  in Nairobi on August 7, 2023.

He described himself as the youngest and freshest among all the opposition politicians seeking the top seat. He, however, clarified that the coalition remains united despite the competing interests, stating they would be able to front one candidate to send President Ruto home.

Mr Wamalwa, the only National Dialogue Committee member who rejected the talks team report, said President Ruto took Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition for a ride in the negotiations by rejecting proposals on bringing down the cost of living. He said the document largely addressed proposals that were contained in President Ruto’s memorandum to Parliament on creation of positions for the political class.

Excerpts of the interview

What do you make of the war on Judiciary by the executive?

We do believe that what is happening in Kenya today is not the emergence of judicial tyranny as the President (William Ruto) has said. Actually what we are seeing is the emergence of a tyrant and a dictator called William Ruto.

This is something that has happened before and we see a sliding back to the Nyayo era where we had an overbearing Executive and the feeble arms of the Judiciary as well as the Parliament.

It is the way (President) Daniel Moi started by capturing Parliament and subduing the Judiciary. Ruto was a student of Nyayo. He was born and bred politically in the Nyayo era and we are saying as lawyers and leaders in this country that we are not going to be taken back to the Nyayo era.

Immediately he was declared President, you remember the first thing he did was he started by buying MPs in the opposition. He started with the UDM Members of Parliament and later targeted Jubilee. He is now going to the members of county assemblies with the same target controlling National Assembly and county assemblies.

The President has said he is not targeting the Judiciary as an institution but bribe-taking judges?

What we are talking about is part of his grand plan. Firstly, he started with the act of seduction of the Judiciary.

He aggressively seduced the Judiciary, like adding more money. He got some judges jobs on his first day in office. He applied the same act of seduction to Parliament and he succeeded.

That is how he created an artificial majority that is now giving him opportunity to churn out any laws, policies through Parliament because it is a House subdued that would do his bidding.

Now the same cannot be done in the Judiciary, because the Judiciary is saying we are independent and if your laws are unconstitutional like the Housing Levy, we will declare them unconstitutional. These are the things that are displeasing him.

So he has turned from seduction to aggression. He is very aggressive in his attacks against the Judiciary. So he has made this a full war attacking the Judiciary. He is now bombing it day and night. We are saying, you cannot do that. If you have any grievances against the Judiciary; if you have a case you are not satisfied with the ruling, you appeal.

If you also have any evidence against any judicial officer you think is corrupt or has been compromised or think is being used to frustrate your policies, then there are channels that you can actually use to submit that evidence.

Just recently we have had Judge (Said Juma) Chitembwe’s case. The law was followed, evidence was given and the judge was convicted. Now that is a country guided by the rule of law. You just don't go and say because there is one person in this village who stole a chicken, you declare the entire village a village of chicken thieves.

That is what he is doing in the Judiciary and in the process he is undermining a key institution. When you go to the village as the President and are preaching the same to the villagers, you are eroding public confidence in a key institution.

This has a painful history for us. You remember in 2007/2008 when we had post-election violence. It was because as a nation we suffered a crisis of confidence in two key institutions; the Judiciary and the Electoral Commission of Kenya at the time.

So we chose to go to the streets because we had no confidence in the Judiciary at that time. We said hii korti ni bandia.

It has been compromised and it would not hear our case. Kenyans died, we almost lost our country. So we are telling Ruto we can't afford to take the country through that treacherous road again.

DAP-K party leader Eugene Wamalwa

DAP-K party leader Eugene Wamalwa. He says President Ruto, then DP, confronted him and demanded that he resigns from the cabinet.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

You refused to sign the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) report. Why?

I felt like we did not do justice to a matter of great importance; the cost of living. I must say the single most important matter to every Kenyan today is cost of living.

We tried to get Kenya Kwanza regime to listen to the cry of Kenyans to lower taxes on fuel, on essential goods but they refused.

The only areas that they were willing to agree to were areas that were of political convenience to them. They were issues that were contained in the memorandum the President submitted to Parliament.

They were willing to go through their issues but when it came to our strong issue on the cost of living they refused. It is just that we never talked about it because every time when it came to the cost of living, they never wanted it.

But matters to do with offices, they played ball. I felt we were taken for a ride because the intention was never to lower the cost of living.

But hasn’t Kenya Kwanza said the issue of the cost of living is their responsibility, not Azimio’s?

When you are talking about socioeconomic rights under article 43, these are not Kenya Kwanza or Azimio manifesto issues; these are human rights and we must take them as such.

There are many Kenyans who cannot make ends meet; there are many parents whose children are still in their homes because they can’t afford to take the children to school.

What do you propose as a way forward on this matter?

My recommendation is that Kenyans must come out and still fight because we have a government that is insensitive.

Our leader Raila Odinga has said that we will go back to the streets as long as the issues that took Kenyans to the streets are not addressed.

Kenyans did not go to the streets to die (during opposition protests last year) because of the office for Musalia Mudavadi or an office for Raila Odinga or Kalonzo (Musyoka) or Wamalwa as a leader of the opposition. It was the matter of cost of living and as long as those issues don't get addressed, as long as the appetite for more taxes continues, Kenyans are going to come out by themselves whether Azimio comes out or not.

There is a point at which Kenyans are going to say enough is enough. That day is coming.

So why did you sit through the deliberations for months only to refuse to sign?

I was very clear on the cost of living issue. We disagreed and my conscience could not allow me to sign the report.

That was the position I took and shared with my leader Raila Odinga. I said to him and I believe would come to bear me out is that, that Nadco might turn out to be a poisoned chalice ultimately.

If it was a football match, we might have scored one goal on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and others but they might have scored three. It is a match that we lost.

Azimio bipartisan talks

Azimio members in the bipartisan talks, from left: DAP-K party leader Eugene Wamalwa, Jubilee Party Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni and National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on September 1, 2023.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

Will you ask your DAP-K and other Azimio MPs to reject the report in Parliament?

It is a matter of conscience. My decision at Bomas was a matter of conscience. I am very proud of my MPs because they have been very clear on matters of the cost of living.

We are telling Kenyans that Azimio is not divided. We are on the same page on this issue. After this Parliamentary process, we are going back to the people to continue with the struggle.

Is former President Uhuru Kenyatta also against the Nadco report?

You can ask him. I have had a lot of people piling insults that it is Uhuru who did not want the report. It’s not true.

Uhuru Kenyatta was never a member of the Bomas talks. In fact, he has kept his peace in spite of Kenya Kwanza making him a punching bag and blaming him for everything.

What political ambitions do you hold going into 2027?

When we started our journey of the grand march, after (Mwai) Kibaki, Raila and Kalonzo grand coalition governments, we were three young ministers: Uhuru Kenyatta Minister of Finance, William Ruto Minister for Agriculture and Eugene Wamalwa was Minister for Justice.

We said time has come for generational change in our country so that we have the post Uhuru (independence) generation to take over the leadership of our country.

I was actually to be Uhuru’s deputy president and as we launched TNA I was proposed as his running mate and changes came later from William Ruto’s side and I lost that position to him and later he became President.

At my age, I still think time is on my side. We were given three spears when we were in Bungoma. Uhuru Kenyatta’s spear went to State House and William Ruto’s is there. I believe a day is coming when my spear will also get there.

Martha Karua

Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua addresses journalists on the alleged abduction of Mr  Maina Njenga at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinda Foundation in Nairobi on September 17, 2023. She is flanked by Eugene Wamalwa (left) and Jeremiah Kioni.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

So will you run for President?

I am prepared and as we speak I have taken over the leadership of DAP-K and I already have the endorsement from the party to be their presidential candidate in the 2027 polls.

We are in the process now of carrying out membership recruitment to strengthen our party at the grassroots. We will have grassroots elections and the national delegates convention to ratify that position.

Will you go it alone or will you seek the support of your colleagues in Azimio?

DAP-K is of course part of the bigger Azimio coalition and you know a lot of people have been saying there’s a fall out in Azimio because of Nadco, there is no fallout.

On the issue of presidency, we are very democratic and we believe that a strong ODM as Raila Odinga re-energises his party, a strong Wiper as Kalonzo energises his party and a strong DAP and other constituent parties will make a stronger Azimio. I believe we will capture the presidency that eluded us.

It seems all Azimio principals want to be President in 2027. Will this make you go separate ways?

We believe there would be a very democratic process to pick the best. I can tell you that if the whole team – because they are all my seniors – say they are going to pick the youngest, their freshest to run, I will be able to beat Ruto.

After four years, Kenyans are going to be looking for a fresh leadership that can end this runaway corruption and tribalism. We must ensure and do everything including uniting to send Ruto home as a one-term President. Kenyans yearn for a fresh leader who has no corruption on his public service record.

What is your relationship with President Ruto; do you talk?

We have not spoken. Remember we started this journey together— the three of us (with Dr Ruto, Mr Kenyatta).

We formed this government together on the platform of generational change and even after we fell out I remained with Uhuru Kenyatta. We have remained friends (with Dr Ruto), I don’t consider him an enemy.

I just consider him as a competitor and I believe he has found new friends in Western Kenya in Musalia and Wetang’ula. I also found my new friend in Raila.

Dr Ruto used derogatory words against you during the campaigns, was your falling-out that bad?

I understand him. He actually wanted me out of the Cabinet in 2018. He used terrible words that I cannot repeat.

We are friends, he has been to my home and I have been to his home. But the levels to which he can go in terms of derogatory language are a sign of desperation. He used bad language against me, Raila, Kalonzo, and Uhuru, his former boss.

Why did he want you fired from the Cabinet?

The reason was that I had brought Moses Wetang'ula and Musalia Mudavadi on board and we had started this Luhya unity issue.

He felt we were going to lock him out of Western because he had his presidential bid in 2022. So we had a very bad confrontation and he said ‘who do you think you are? This is my government with Uhuru if you think you are going to bring these opposition fellows with your Luhya unity, nonsense get out. I want your resignation letter tomorrow.’

So I went to Uhuru Kenyatta and told him; ‘boss, I have been told you have asked for my resignation letter.’ So Uhuru said; ‘who is your appointing authority?’ And that is how my relationship with Ruto ended.

He started planning for his presidential bid way back in 2018 and he feared that consolidating Western was going to work against his interest.

Because ultimately he had wanted Musalia and Wetang’ula on his side which he eventually did. He was actually right in a way because had I taken Musalia and Wetang’ula on our side maybe he would not have succeeded.

Why did he feel that he could fire you? Is he the one who brought you to the Cabinet?

No (he didn’t bring me to the Cabinet). But he felt very strongly that I was undermining him by going directly to bring in the opposition leaders. I took them straight to President Kenyatta.

That really annoyed him and he called for my sacking. He felt I was undermining him. If you look at his game plan he would not have made it without the so-called ‘Earthquake’ (announcement of the defection of Mr Wetang’ula and Mr Mudavadi to his Kenya Kwanza coalition).

He was targeting them for an alliance and by me holding them in my hands which I did all the way to BBI, I was actually blocking his way to the presidency so he saw me as no longer a friend.